Ay II.

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Ay II.

Ay II., whose throne name was Kheperkheperure, was the last but one Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty and he ruled in 1,339 - 1,335 BC. Ay's coming to the throne was very difficult and long, he had to wait through the reign of several kings before him, who all died under strange circumstances.

Ay II. and his long career

Ay's career began under Amenhotep III. rule; he served him faithfully as an advisor and scribe. Later he helped Akhenaten, who devoted to a religious reform and neglected the state affairs. Akhenaten also left the royal city Waset and founded a new one – Akhetaten. Ay followed him there.

Amun's priests didn't agree with the reform and eliminated the heretic king. Ay's widsom and knowledge about state governance suited the new young king Smenkhkare. Smenkhkare didn't rule for long and similarly to Akhenaten he died under weird circumstances. Excluding general Horemheb, the army commandant, Ay was the most powerful man in Egypt at that time.

After the death of Smenkhkare, Ay became a guardian of famous underage Pharaoh Tutankhamun, whose original name was Tutankhaten. It was just Ay who led the king to the name change and the cult of Aten was totally rejected. Ay wasn't only a guardian of young Tutankhamun, he was also a viceroy, co-ruler and so he exceeded his enemy Horemheb.

Ay finally a Pharaoh

AyAy married a beautiful widow Ankhesenamun after Tutankhamun's sudden death and he ruled the Egypt. He let buried Tutankhamun into a small tomb, because the tomb built for Tutankhamun hadn't been finished yet - nobody expected that Tutankhamun would die at such a young age. Ay made the whole ceremony (who else?) – from choosing the funeral equipment to mouth opening and tomb sealing.

But it wasn't that easy with Ankhesenamun, who refused Ay's proposal and she even proposed the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I for one of his sons. Suppiluliuma I checked her request out and really sent his son to her. But Horemheb let murder the Hittite prince at the moment he entered the Egyptian colonies. That didn't improve the tensed situation between these powerful countries.

Ay and his career was very successful and he got many titles through this period. Except „God's Father“ he was also appointed as „Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King“ and „Overseer of All the Horses of His Majesty“, then „Acting Scribe of the King, beloved by him“ and many other significant appreciations. The following sign confirmed that he was more than fine: he got „thousand of thousands loads of gold and many other things“ from the king .

Tomb in the Monkey Valley

The Ay's place of the last rest is situated on the west from the Valley of the Kings near the tomb of Amenhotep III. This place is disreputably called „Monkey Valley“. The tomb of Ay is also called without dignity – it is called „Monkey tomb“ according to preserved part of wall decoration with paintings of twelve sitting monkeys.

The successor of Ay, Horemheb, actes as bad as possible – he let devastated the tomb of Ay. Despite this several reliefs were preserved, where was Ay depicted as a Nile God. Fragment of these reliefs is placed in Museum of Fine Arts in Boston today. Another depiction of Ay is his head without a crown, which is placed in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo and Ay's picture is on wall painting in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Akhenaten's religious reform

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The rule of Amenhotep III. was calm, peaceful and prospering. The land had never flourished like this before and Thebes (Waset) became an enviable capital. So how could it happen that Amenhotep IV. (Akhenaten) arrived at a decision to change the religious principles so radically?

Causes of religious reform

The first cause could be the mutual enmity between the young king and the priesthood of Amun's temple in Karnak. The young king considered them as too self-confident group of conspirators, because his predecessors showered this priesthood with wealth and privileges. It is just the temple in Karnak that is the symbol of their wealth and influence. Amenhotep IV. decided to end this domination, when he became the Pharaoh. Also Nefertiti, his wife, had a great share in this decision.

The second cause could be the god Aten himself. Aten was the god of Heliopolis, which was situated to the north from today's Cairo. Actually this sun god without face was a solar version of the god Amun and his connection Amun-Ra. The cult of god Aten "became fashionable" already in the Middle Kingdom period and it was discovered later by Amenhotep III – he even gave a ship named "Aten's beauty" to his wife Tiye.

The cult of Aten

The cult of Aten celebrated only the life and freedom and didn't take in the death in contrary to the previous religion. The main principle of its teachings was simplicity. Akhenaten introduced Aten as a solar disc to people which was an understandable symbol for all.

The cult of Aten was worshipped in temples and outdoors as well. Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti were the main servants of this cult. The ceremony included prayers and hymns celebrating the Sun and they were accompanied with music.

Akhenaten and Nefertiti with children

Akhenaten and Nefertiti with children

Akhetaten - a new capital

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Amenhotep IV. - Akhenaten let build a new capita to the north-east from Thebes (Waset), in area of today's Amarna. He named the city Akhetaten and it existence was very passing, but the Pharaoh paid special attention to it.

The rise and fall of Akhetaten 

Akhenaten decided to build Akhetaten on eastern bank of the Nile in a large natural amphitheatre. It was bounded by a massif from the eastern side, whose both northern and southern ends went almost up to the river with an arch. Akhenaten let delineate the area of Akhetaten with 14 boundary steles, where main principles of the new Aten cult were inscribed.

There are a description of city foundation in the first three steles, which Akhenaten let erect. It is so-called northern stele and two so-called southern steles. There is a date in steles as well - year four, the fourth month of Peret period (planting period), the fourth day. Eleven steles, which were erected in the thirteen day of the fourth month of Peret period in the sixth year of reign, defined the outlines of the city more accurately. Three of the steles were placed on the western bank of the Nile and the others were sculpted into a massif in the eastern part.

Akhenaten personally with his architects designed the ground plan of Akhetaten and decided, where his palace, his tomb, tomb of his "respectable royal wife" Nefertiti and tomb of his daughter Meritaten would be placed. Akhenaten placed his palace along the main boulevard of Akhetaten, but only its foundations preserved to these days. Ceremonies took place in the palace, but it was also home of Akhenaten's family. The palace was 270 meters long and the entrace was through a courtyard, which walls was 170 high and was surrounded by statues made of quartzite and granite. These statues represented the Pharaoh and his wife Nefertiti.

There was a huge building behind the official part of the palace, with several pillar halls. One of them (it was undoubtedly the crowning hall) was buttressed by 544 pillars of a rectangular ground plan, which carried the ceiling. The ceiling was coated with yellow paint that symbolized eternal life and the Sun.

Palace of Akhenaten 

The Pharaoh's private residence was built in a design of Amarna dignitaries. Pharaoh and his wife entered their private residence from the official palace over a bridge, which arched over the main boulevard and descended slightly to the royal chambers. The end of the bridge led into a large garden with many trees, flowers, ponds and fountains.

The houses of courtiers and various royal dignitaries were built in the same design. However, some houses stood out among others because of their rich decoration and proportions. It was a house of Thutmose - the main royal sculptor - or vizier Nakht. His house extended in an area of more than 880 m2. These houses were characterized by unparalleled luxury. The most favourite materials were granite, alabaster, quartzite, faience, gold and silver. Floors and walls were covered with paints and there were large gardens with ponds at the house.

Akhetaten

Akhetaten

Nefertiti

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There are arguments about the origin of beautiful Queen Nefertiti. Etymology of the name is derived from feminine deity celebration and it belongs to known Egyptian family names. Anelder theory says that Nefertiti was a Mitanni princess Gilukhepa, who changed her name to Nefertiti ("The beauty has come") after coming in Egypt. The Mitanni Kingdom was situated between the Euphrates and Tigris River in Upper Mesopotamia. The newer theory says that Nefertiti came from a powerful clerical family, which was close to the court of Amenhotep III.

The name Nefertiti became a synonym for beauty. Without regard to her origin she is still famous thanks to her beautiful face and unusually gentle features, which contrasted with features of her husband. There isn't much information how she became the wife of Amenhotep IV and Egyptian Queen. According to reliefs fragments we can say for sure that she played a significant role in god Aten cult.

Nefertiti as a mother

NefertitiNefertiti was depicted on reliefs standing behind her husband Akhenaten with her eldest daughter Meritaten and holding sistrum in her hands - a sacred symbol of goddess Hathor.

Probably other two daughters were born to the royal pair still in Thebes (Waset) - Meketaten and Ankhesenpaaten. Princess Ankhesenpaaten was likely born just before leaving Thebes (Waset), because she is depicted only three times on reliefs.

The royal pair moved to Akhetaten, a new founded capital, around fifth or sixth years of the reign. There were princesses Neferneferuaten Tasherit, Neferneferure and Meketaten born, but some of them died at children's age.

Nefertiti as a royal wife

The share of Nefertiti in Akhenaten's reign is a big question. There aren't any mentions about Nefertiti in diplomatic correspondence, but the mother of the king is mentioned there - the Queen Tiye. The power of Nefertiti likely was in decline after moving to Akhetaten and her eldest daughter Meritaten was depicted more often in reliefs.

The royal family is depicted together for the last time in the 12th year of Akhenaten's reign. THen the second born princess Meketaten died and afterwards mother of the king Tiye and three youngest daughters disappeared from the relief decoration. It is supposed that there were several deaths in the ruler's family and it could weakened the cult of Aten.

Princess Meritaten was depicted accompanied by a male person since the 15th year of Akhenaten's rule. The man was probably her husband Smenkhkare, who became a Pharaoh later. Smenkhkare likely ruled together with Akhenaten for some time.

We don't know much about last years of Queen Nefertiti. Her titles are associated with grandchildren - princess Meritaten gave birth to a daughter and daughter Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit was born to princess Ankhesenpaaten (wife of later Pharaoh Tutankhamun). We don't know for sure when Nefertiti died - there are only questionable evidences that she lived several years longer than her husband and died in first years of Tutankhamun's reign.

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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