Monday, January 21, 2008
Akhenaten is probably the most interesting of Egyptian pharoahs. He was strange in a number of ways, an oddity that upsets the normal course of Ancient Egyptian history and gives rise to theories that are still being argued about amongst archaeologists. It is not for me to enter this great debate; I merely suggest a scenario that fits as well as any other to the known facts.
Akhenaten’s reign (about 1353 BC - 1336 BC) was a hiccup in the great tradition of the pharoahs. For centuries before and after him, little changed in the style of Egyptian art and their beliefs; tradition dictated and the pharoahs followed. Only Akhenaten dared to be different. In his reign art became suddenly more realistic and family-centered. The stiff and formalized depictions that we are so used to in Egyptian art loosened up and we are allowed a glimpse into a more human and natural world.
It is for this reason that we can be fairly certain that the pharoah and his wife, Nefertiti, are accurately portrayed by their artists. And Akhenaton looked weird, to say the least. His body was pear-shaped and his limbs thin and elongated; his face too was long and narrow. There has been much speculation on the cause of these apparent deformities, most settling for Marfan’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder that fits closely with what we observe.