An Analysis of Akhenaten's Familial Relationships

by Megaera Lorenz
    At Akhetaten, Akhenaten lived with his wife Nefertiti, their six daughters, his mother, Tiye, his concubine, Kiya, and two mysterious characters by the names of Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten (later Tutankhamen).
    Who were Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten? They seemingly appeared out of nowhere. It is almost certain that they were relatives of Akhenaten, but how they were related to him remains a mystery. This paper examines some of the theories that have become popular concerning this subject.


    (drawing of Smenkhkare by Megaera Lorenz)
drawing of Smenkhkare by Megaera Lorenz    In the fourteenth year of Akhenaten's reign, several major events took place. First, four of Akhenaten's daughters and his concubine, Kiya, died, probably as a result of a plague. At around the same time, Nefertiti mysteriously vanished from the scene. Nefertiti's disappearance coincided with the sudden appearance of a young man named Smenkhkare. Smenkhkare, who was given the same title (Neferneferuaten) as the now vanished Nefertiti, was crowned co-regent to Akhenaten when he (Smenkhkare) was about sixteen. He was married to Akhenaten's eldest daughter, Merytaten (Aldred 287).
    It is a matter of great controversy as to whether or not Smenkhkare continued to reign after Akhenaten died. According to Dr. Donald Redford, a professor of Egyptology and the director of the Akhenaten Temple Project, Smenkhkare may have succeeded Akhenaten by a short while, during which he made half-hearted attempts at going back to the old religion (something which probably wouldn't have happened while Akhenaten was alive). Another thing that suggests that he outlived Akhenaten are references to him made in certain tombs. He was also buried in the old capital (pp. 188-189).

Smenkhkare's origins

    Nearly the biggest mystery associated with Smenkhkare was where he came from. The first thing that everyone jumps to suggest is that he was Akhenaten's son (Dodson 105).
    But here one has to consider the way Akhenaten behaved concerning those people who were known to be his children. Every one of his six daughters, whenever referred to in writings from the period, was repeatedly called "the king's daughter, of his loins, (daughter's name)." In Egypt, as with any other kingdom of the ancient or not so ancient world, male heirs were much desired. If Akhenaten had had a son, he almost certainly would have repeatedly said so.
    Cyril Aldred, a prominent Egyptologist who has written several books about Akhenaten, uses the argument that Smenkhkare must have been born three years before Akhenaten's reign began, thereby reducing the likelihood of his being Akhenaten's child (291).
    Yet another possibility is that one of Akhenaten's many sisters was the mother of Smenkhkare (Redford 192).
Because Smenkhkare appeared at the same time that Nefertiti seemingly vanished from view, and because he shared the title "Beloved of Akhenaten" with Nefertiti, some scholars believe that Nefertiti and Smenkhkare were one and the same (Reeves 22-23). Nefertiti did have more power than many of the other queens in Egypt, and is often depicted wearing certain crowns that were normally reserved for kings (Robins 53-54). Thus, it is perhaps not too out of line to think that she might have disguised herself as a man and shared kingship with Akhenaten. However, Redford notes that, for one thing, it would be odd even for the Amarna family to have Nefertiti posing as a man and marrying her own daughter (192). Not only that, but to deny the existence of Smenkhkare, one would have to ignore one major finding: the body in Tomb 55.

Tomb 55

    In 1907, a tomb was discovered by Arthur Weigall and Theodore Davis in the valley of the kings. The tomb was associated with a most confusing jumble of names. The door bore the name of Tutankhamen, but inside was a piece of a large gilded shrine which was supposed to have belonged to queen Tiye, an alabaster jar lid that portrayed a woman who is thought to be Akhenaten's lesser wife Kiya, and a coffin, which had been made for a woman, that contained some poorly preserved human remains. The investigators of the tomb at first thought that the remains were Tiye's, but a closer examination revealed that they belonged to a young man, about twenty years old (Mahdy 46-47; Redford 189).
    Immediately, people latched onto the idea that the body of Akhenaten had finally been discovered. But Akhenaten had reigned for 17 years and had already fathered a child in the first year of his reign, so it would seem that this body was of someone too young to be Akhenaten (Redford 189; Mahdy 46-47; Aldred 201). Although some people claimed that the body may have seemed younger than it actually was because of some illness (Aldred 201), it would seem more likely that the body was Smenkhkare's.
    Anatomical examinations of the body in Tomb 55 showed that the young man in the tomb bore a strong resemblance to Tutankhaten, and had the same blood type as Tutankhaten, making it clear that this person was either the father or brother of Tutankhaten (Aldred 201-202).

Drawing of Akhenaten's daughters by Megaera Lorenz.Drawing of two of Akhenaten's daughters, by Megaera Lorenz


    Tutankhaten came to the throne when he was about eight years old and became known as "The boy king" by modern people. He became quite famous when his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in the 1920s.
Tutankhaten succeeded Akhenaten and Smenkhkare and was married to Akhenaten's daughter Ankhesenpaaten. The couple soon changed their names to Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun, moved away from Akhetaten, and reestablished the old religion. Tutankhaten reigned until he was about eighteen (Reeves 24-25).

Tutankhaten's origins

    Tutankhaten's origins are just as hazy as Smenkhkare's. Some would claim that he was Kiya's son by Akhenaten (Reeves 9). However, if Tutankhaten and Smenkhkare were really brothers, as the bodies of the two suggest, then this would again bring up the question of the likelihood of Smenkhkare being Akhenaten's son.
    One theory is that Tutankhaten was Akhenaten's brother. That would lead to the conclusion that both Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten were sons of queen Tiye. They both bear a strong resemblance to certain portraits of Tiye, but Tiye may have been too old to have children by the time Tutankhaten was born (Aldred 293-294). Another problem is that Amenhotep III was, in all probability, well dead by this time, although there is much speculation about a co-regency between Akhenaten and his father (Aldred 169-182; Clayton 120-121).
    One extremely intriguing discovery is an inscription which calls Tutankhaten "The king's son, of his loins" (Aldred 287). This could be interpreted in a number of ways. One is that Tutankhaten really was Akhenaten's child. However, this possibility has already been mostly ruled out. Another possibility is that Amenhotep III remained virile and active even in his last years and was able to father Tutankhaten just before he died (assuming that there was a co-regency). Yet a third possibility is that Tutankhaten was Smenkhkare's son. If Smenkhkare fathered Tutankhaten the same year that he married Merytaten, and then went on to outlive Akhenaten by about three years, then that would make Tutankhaten just barely seven when he came to the throne of Egypt (Tutankhaten was thought to have come to the throne when he was eight or nine).


    Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten are not the only mysterious figures from Akhenaten's reign. Nefertiti is also a puzzle.
Although some historians have wondered whether she might have been a foreign princess, Dr. Redford points out that Nefertiti is an Egyptian name, and that there is no reason to think that she might have been a foreigner. He comments that she had a high-ranking Egyptian wet-nurse, and therefore was probably of noble birth (78).
    One suggestion is that Nefertiti was Akhenaten's cousin. Her wet nurse was the wife of the vizier Ay, who could have been Tiye's brother. Ay sometimes called himself "the God's father," suggesting that he might have been Akhenaten's father-in-law (Redford 78, 151; Dodson 96-97). Redford also notes, however, that Ay never specifically refers to himself as the father of Nefertiti (151), although Aldred mentions that Nefertiti's sister, Mutnojme, is featured prominently in the decorations of the tomb of Ay (222).
    Unfortunately, whether because of lack of funds or some other problem, very little has been done in the way of genetic testing on the mummies of the Amarna period. Egyptologists and archaeologists have now discovered the bodies of Smenkhkare, Tutankhaten, a young boy who is possibly Akhenaten's older brother, Tuthmose, Akhenaten's grandparents, Yuya and Thuya, a woman who is thought to be Tiye, Akhenaten's father, and an unidentified burnt man found lying outside of Akhenaten's tomb. However, until more scientific investigation has been carried out on these people, many of the questions surrounding them will remain unanswered.

Works Cited

Sketch of Akhenaten dancing by Megaera Lorenz.Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten: King of Egypt . New York: Thames and Hudson, 1988
Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1994
Dodson, Aidan. Monarchs of the Nile. Great Britain: Rubicon, 1995
Mahdy, Christine E. Mummies, Myth and Magic. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1989
Redford, Donald B. Akhenaten: The Heretic KIng. U. S.: Princeton University, 1984
Reeves, Nicholas. The Complete Tutankhamen. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1990

Published 8/15/98. Updated 1/15/00.

Return to the Akhenaten page.
Proceed to The Mystery of Akhenaten: Genetics or Aesthetics?
Proceed to Webpage-en-Aten!
Proceed to The Art of the Amarna Period.
Proceed to The Amarna Royal Family: Biographies of the Amarna Royalty

View the Survey!Slambook homepageTake the Survey!

Would you like to be informed by e-mail when materials are added to our pages? If so, sign up for our mailing list below:
Join our mailing list! 
Enter your email address below, 
then click the 'Join List' button:
Powered by ListBot


More great stuff from Heptune:

Akhenaten's Family
Akhenaten's Affliction
The Amarna Webring
Amarna Art
Amarna Royal Family
 Megaera's Amarna Art Gallery
Jazz Page
Jazz and Blues Lyrics
Jazz and Blues Webring
Works of Cab Calloway
Works of Blanche Calloway
 Jazz Names
Star Tricked: the Next Perpetration
Ralph and Beulah's Cuisine
Sizzling Organic Chemistry Dramas
Facts on Farts
Science Jokes and Humor
Food and Drink Humor Webring
 Toho Light Opera
Scoop on Poop
What's It Like on Guam?
 Critters of Guam
More Tales of Guam
Even More Tales of Guam
Baby Names of Asia and the Pacific
 Microscopic Critters of Guam
A Tragedy Told in Names
 Rocks and Minerals of Guam
The Names and Naming Webring
Baby Names of Asia and the Pacific
A Tragedy Told in Names
 Jazz Names
Baby Names Central
Names of the Month
 Name Polls
Malachi's Movie Reviews
Betty Boop Cartoons
Betty Boop and the Hays Act
 Star Tricked: the Next Perpetration
Megaera's Actor Reviews
 Malachi's Monster Interviews
 Lost in Space
Link Encyclopedia
Homeschooling FAQs
Recommended Reading
 Dealing With Tantrums
US Presidential Lists
Cuttlefish, the Sentient Cephalopod
Critters of Guam
Microscopic Critters of Guam
Invertebrate Ring
 Komodo Dragons
 Fruit Bats
Art Gallery I
Art Gallery II
Which of the Following ?
 Amarna Art
Megaera's Amarna Art Gallery
Pagan Volcano
Science Jokes and Humor
 Volcano Photos
 How to Pass Chemistry
Sizzling Organic Chemistry Dramas
Microscopic Critters of Guam
The Lorenz-Pulte Home Page
About us!
 Journal of Lore and Levity
E-mail us!

Visitors since 8/15/98: 
FastCounter by LinkExchange


Sign My GuestbookGet your own FREE Guestbook from htmlGEARView My Guestbook

Mail me!