Tut-ankh-Aten (Episode 119)

A Royal Son

Akhenaten (Part 9)

Every pharaoh of ancient Egypt desired an heir, to continue the lineage of Horus and perpetuate the rule of their family bloodline. Akhenaten, we presume, was no different; and the king certainly seems to have been a doting husband and father. Art from the city of Akhet-Aten (Amarna) shows the King in affectionate and close company with his Queen, Nefertiti and his three eldest daughters. We also see him sharing the pleasures of life with his second queen, an oft-forgotten woman named Kiya.

In this episode, we explore the royal family of Amarna (between years 5 and 10) and tackle the questions which surround Akhenaten’s wives and, eventually, the birth of his son Tutankhaten…

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The head of Kiya, later recarved to depict Meritaten (Copenhagen, via Nile Scribes)
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Kiya, with water streaming over her head poured by Akhenaten (MMA).
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Two blocks which link up, showing Akhenaten holding a dead duck before Kiya.
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A work-in-progress image of Nefertiti, showing the marks for future chiselling and modelling the Queen’s face (Berlin).
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A travertine/alabaster goblet, bearing the names of Aten, Akhenaten and Nefertiti (MMA).
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Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their three eldest daughters (left to right: Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankh-es-en-pa-Aten) (Cairo).
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The royal family: Akhenaten gives a jewelled earring to Meritaten (Cairo).
119. Meryra Procession Princesses and Fanbearers (Davies 1 plate XIX)
The princesses (right) follow their parents in a parade, from the tomb of Meryre (Davies 1903).
An ivory writing palette, bearing the names and epithets of princess Meketaten (MMA).
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Tut-ankh-Aten’s wetnurse, Maia, in her tomb at Saqqara (Zivie 1998).
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A head, perhaps of Nefertiti (photo Chris Ward 2019).

Special Thanks to My Patrons!

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Patrons October 2019


Aidan Dodson, Amarna Sunrise, 2012.

Green, “The Royal Women of Amarna: Who Was Who,” in Dorothea Arnold (ed.) The Royal Women of Amarna: Images of Beauty from Ancient Egypt (1996): 7-17. Free download.

Nozomu Kawai, Studies in the Reign of Tutankhamun, PhD Diss., 2006. Preview.

Barry Kemp, City of Akhenaten and Nefertiti: Amarna and Its People, 2012.

Arris Kramer, “Enigmatic Kiya,” in A.K. Eyma and C.J. Bennett (eds.), A Delta-Man in Yebu: Occasional Volume of the Egyptologists’ Electronic Forum, Volume I (2003): 48-64. Google Books preview.

Norman de Garis Davies, The Rock Tombs of el-Amarna, Vol. I: The Tomb of Meryre, 1903. Archive.org.

William J. Murnane, Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt, 1995.

William J. Murnane and Cornel van Siclen III, The Boundary Stelae of Akhenaten, 1993.

Alain Zivie, “La nourrice royale Maïa et ses voisins: cinq tombeaux du Nouvel Empire récemment découverts à Saqqara” Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres  (1998): 33-54. Online edition.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Ben says:

    I wish we could hear your thoughts on the reported DNA identification of the mummy The Younger Lady as the mother of Tutankhamun and the full sister of his father, presumably Akhenaten. Doesn’t this make Nefertiti less likely? Also the mummy’s facial injuries


    1. DominicPerry says:

      Hi Ben, I will cover the 2012 DNA study and associated questions in a dedicated episode, in future.

  2. Dror says:

    Hi Dominic,
    Don’t worry, it’d not another rant about “Palestine” again.
    Having listened to all of your public episodes to date (02/12/2020) I am using this episode as a platform for a LONG list of questions I had regarding the entire podcast (not only ep119), that I really wish for your knowledge and info on:

    1. In a culture that put so much emphasis on burial as a whole, the afterlife, and for being buried IN Egyptian soil for a good journey to the west, what was done with casualties of war on faraway lands such as Nubia or Syria? Do we have any knowledge of how they treated their wounded? Are there Egyptian military burial sites for soldiers on those lands?
    2. Where the ancient Egyptians aware of hard currency? are there coins from pre-Ptolemaic Egypt? If not, was everything done in direct exchange of goods? where there any specific goods that were used instead as pre-currency (like salaries) like the Cocoa bean was used in the pre-Colombian American cultures? Was there any central regulation for state-level trade? for any other level trade? What about trading with neighboring powers?
    3. When you say that there was a vast migration of people to construction sites such as Pyramids or Armanah, do we have any knowledge as for how exactly it was done? Did they sell their lands? Did the crown give them or sold them lands and properties near the sites? Were the workers on a site expected to live within walking distance from it, or did the sleep some of the nights on the site itself?
    4. What can we tell of ancient Egypt Western border? Was that “somewhere in the Western desert” kinda like it is today? Or was the desert itself, it’s vast depth and barrenness a kind of border? Was there an actual border line? Did they use geographical maps? How did they control that border? Did they keep some kind of military force on the borders? If so, how did they maintain it?
    5. What can we tell of the shift in the Nile during the Old, Middle and New kingdoms time? Did the Egyptians themselves keep a record of it? Did it influence the locations of new construction projects?
    6. Speaking of construction projects (I’m an architect myself), do we know anything about the design process? Did they us scaled down methods? 3D models? Elevations? Sections? Was the architect also the structural and plumbing engineer and interior designer?
    7. From listening to you reading the Ancient sources, it seems like the sound Eh was very prominent in this language. Any reason for that?
    8. Speaking of language and sound, I could not escape the feeling that there are SO many words that sound suspiciously familiar. For example: “Desharet” is it the origin of the English word desert? Is the name Rah, or Reh, the origin of the English word Ray (of light)? What about the name Atum, is it the origin of the Greek word Atom as in Nucleolus? And there are also Two Hebrew words I just couldn’t help wondering about: The Egyptian word for “South” is “Reshit” or “Resheet” right? Well, there is an identical word in Hebrew, but it means “beginning”. Can that be a reference to “the origin of the Nile” (which is in the South)?
    Furthermore (and this is a bit on the conspiracy theory side, but bear with me), the Hebrew bible (the old testament) opens in the following line: “Bereshit Bara Elohim Et Hashamaim Ve-Et Ha’aretz” (in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth). What if it DOESN’T mean “in the beginning” but “in the South”, and for a story told in Canaan/Israel, “in the South” means… in Egypt!
    This brings me to yet ANOTHER question regarding similarities between Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew: The word “Ra”, or “Rah”, means “bad” or even “Evil” in Hebrew, could that be an attempt to distance the (new) monotheistic Abrahamic religion from the (dominant for the time) Egyptian pantheon?…

    If you got this far, it means that I didn’t bore you to death with my questions.
    I hope you didn’t already give answers to them that I missed. If you did, please direct me where I can find them.

    Thanks you so much!

    1. DominicPerry says:

      Hi Dror,
      Apologies for not getting to your questions promptly. I am recovering from dental surgery and haven’t been attending to the website.
      Briefly, the answers might be as follows:
      1. We don’t know, but tales like Sinuhe reference the wish to have a body returned to egypt if they die elsewhere. Soldiers…unknown.
      2. No coins or hard currency pre-Ptolemaic age. The closest equivalents would be bread, beer and linen.
      3. I’ll answer this in an episode, as others may be interested.
      4. No maps, and “borders” are a loose term at best. They were probably more concerned that certain *people* e.g. nomads stay away from their farms and settlements unless they were trading.
      5. We can tell a lot but there is no evidence for Egyptians consciously recording it.
      6. The architects mostly worked on the sand. Very few drawings survive; they mostly seem to have worked on the building site directly. Very little evidence for planning.
      7. This is an Egyptologist convention. Its partly derived from Coptic (which is the direct descendant of ancient Egyptian), which uses aspirated and extended e’s a lot in its word constructed.
      8. Too many to answer here but Egyptian shares a lot of words with the later Hebrew (they are part of the same general language cluster along with Arabic and Coptic). So possibly yes, there may be some connections. But words shift their meaning over time so it’s difficult to say if an Egyptian word has the same equivalence in another language. However I’m not a linguistics scholar so this is well beyond my expertise.

      Hope this helps

      1. Dror says:

        Oh my… Sorry to hear. Having gone thru a few of those myself I can tell you; I feel your pain. Literally.
        I hope you are all better now or will be very soon.
        Thanks for your answers, and keep up the wonderful work you do.


  3. Dror says:

    Anything? ^

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