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
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)
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).
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.
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
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
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 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.
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,
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.
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