CHW: Who is Akhenaten?

House Altar wih Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Three Daughters, detail with Akhenaten Holding Daughter by Steven Zucker, via Flickr

House Altar wih Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Three Daughters, detail with Akhenaten Holding Daughter by Steven Zucker, via Flickr

Today, you will  investigate Akhenaten, a very unusual Egyptian pharaoh. You goal is to answer the following question:

What does Akhenaten’s rule demonstrate about religion, power, and culture in ancient Egypt?

  • You will form small groups (say, 3-4 students each)
  • You may use your textbook, my books at the back of the room, the portable laptops, and your PEDs.
  • You may ask me questions, but I will not answer you directly. In fact, I will not speak to you at all. Instead, I will periodically post comments in this blog entry that may help (or hinder) your progress. Keep your eye on the big screen, ladies and gents…
  • Someone in your group must conduct a simple google search for Akhenaten

This activity requires collaboration, analysis, and a little “I will not give up no matter what”-edness.  Let’s see what you can do, Cens…

  • Have you formed your groups?
  • His name is pronounced Ak-eh-na-ten (variations in spelling don’t matter)
  • I wonder what will happen when you search for Akhenaten and Moses?
  • They are the same person?!?!?! How do you know?
  • You found it on the internet? Then it must be true.
  • How can we test this theory?

So…what do we know?

  • he led a religious revolution, switching Egypt from a polytheistic society to a monotheistic society
  • respected historians dismiss the “Moses/Akehnaten” connection; no evidence!
  • he focused all of the Kingdom’s resources on this new religion
  • at first, he was successful. Built a new capital, etc
  • art depicts him warts and all: pot-bellied, weak, etc.
  • eventually, he fell out of favour
  • his reign signals the end of Egypt’s golden age

What does Akhenaten’s rule demonstrate about religion, power, and culture in ancient Egypt?

  • The Egyptian way of life was steeped in tradition; change was extremely unlikely
  • Egyptians still needed to obey the Pharaoh. A problematic scenario: “We need to listen to our Pharaoh because, according to our old religion, he is a god. Oh, wait; he has just changed our faith. Is he still a god?
  • Interesting that the man who rejected one of the key principles of Egyptian society–its faith–actually contributed to the society’s downfall.

 

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