Egypt: The Amarna Period

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Egypt: The Amarna Period

<p>In the late 2nd millennium BC Egypt was the most opulent country of the day, with an empire stretching from the Sudan to the Euphrates river. Although the Egyptian state and society may have seen

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In the late 2nd millennium BC Egypt was the most opulent country of the day, with an empire stretching from the Sudan to the Euphrates river. Although the Egyptian state and society may have seen monolithic and largely unvarying, the king Akhenaten undertook sweeping changes. He instituted religious reforms, suppressing traditional religion and elevating the god Aten to prominence, moving the capital, and enabling a flowering of the arts. Using primary textual sources, we will investigate this so-called Amarna period, looking at the reign of Akhenaten and the place of Egypt in the international world of the day.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • The New Kingdom was the period of Ancient Egyptian history when the pharaohs marched forth from the Nile Valley and conquered an empire. Egypt was at its zenith, ruled by a succession of powerful pharaohs who commanded respect from the surrounding states. Goods obtained via trade, together with tribute and booty, flowed into Egypt, leading to an increase in wealth of both the pharaoh and temples. However, as might be expected, tensions existed within this seemingly mighty edifice, at least partially reflected in the Amarna period, a tumultuous period dominated by the enigmatic pharaoh Akhenaten.
  • The Amarna period will be discussed, focusing in particular on its differences with preceding (and indeed later) epochs of ancient Egyptian history, and how our knowledge of both this period and the international world of the day has been enlightened by cuneiform tablets excavated both from Tell el Amarna in Egypt and outside Egypt. Further, we will investigate how recently scientific techniques, such as the extraction and analysis of DNA from surviving mummies, has been used (with some controversy) to reconstruct family relations.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Appreciate the importance of written sources in the reconstruction of history.
  2. Discover how the chronology of ancient Egypt has been established.
  3. Learn important points and controversies surrounding the Amarna period in ancient Egyptian history.
  4. Learn of the use of scientific techniques to throw light on the Amarna period.
  5. Learn of the international world of the mid 2nd millennium, as illustrated by written correspondence between countries.
  6. Learn of the Dahamunzu affair (an attempt by an ancient Egyptian queen to find a new spouse from outside Egypt).
  7. Learn of attempts by later ancient Egyptians to erase the memory of the Amarna period.