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Akhenaten

AkhenatenAkhenaten (reigned around 1364–1348 BC) was a pharaoh of the 18th dynasty during Egypt’s New Kingdom, and the father of Tutankhamun. He was the son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, and succeeded his father as Amenhotep IV. Early in his reign, Akhenaten decided to change the religion of Egypt, which at the time was based on the worship of many gods. He declared that Aten, the sun in the sky, was the only god and that no other should be worshipped. He changed his name to Akhenaten in honour of this god. Ruling Egypt together with his wife Nefertiti, Akhenaten established a new capital of Egypt further north from the old one at Thebes. This was at a place he called Akhetaten, later known as Amarna. The worshipping of many gods was a centuries-old practice in Egypt and Akhenaten's changes were almost certainly deeply unpopular.



Pharaoh Akhenaten and his family worshipping the Aten, the disc of the sun in ancient Egyptian mythology

Aten

Akhenaten’s name meant “living spirit of Aten” to reflect his belief in a single god, the disc of the sun, known as Aten. The Egyptians traditionally believed in many gods, including Amun, Osiris, Isis and Hathor, who influenced every aspect of their daily lives. The priests of Amun, the god of Thebes, in particular had become almost as powerful as the pharaoh himself. Akhenaten and his queen, Nefertiti, banned these beliefs and established a new religion based upon worship of Aten alone. Akhenaten ordered the name Amun to be hacked off temples. His reforms effectively removed power from the priests.

Although Akhenaten's tomb in the Valley of the Kings was found in 1970, it was not known for many years whether the mummy found there was his. The results of tests published in 2010 confirmed that the mummy was that of a man who was both the son of Amenhotep III and the father of Tutankhamun—thus making it almost certain that it was Akhenaten's body.

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