Has anyone else run into a wall of conspiracy theories when trying to find legit stuff on ancient Egypt?

Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#41
IIRC, the bust was scanned extensively some years ago and it was found to have a limestone core. These are not the first claims that the bust is a fake. As for whether it's actually fake, I couldn't say but, when it comes to Egyptian antiquities, I guess you can't ever rule that out unless an artifact has excellent documentation for its chain of custody...and the bust of Nefertiti definitely does not. Stylistically, the bust is consistent with other depictions of Nefertiti which are still in Egypt. Although, none are comparable in terms of paint as far as I know...but, when I went to Egypt, I did see other artworks from Amarna which still retain brightly colored paint. When it comes to materials, the AEs often used things like plaster or stucco. In particular, the quality of the limestone around Amarna is very poor and, as I recall, that type of thing was used heavily in the tombs, so much so that much of the tomb decorations have simply crumbled away over time. Something else I'd note about the bust is that I've seen numerous claims that it was a portrait study intended for use as a model for producing other statues...and there are extant statues which, to me, seem close enough that it could very well have been a model for them. Hence, that could explain its unfinished state and there may have been no intention to give it to Nefertiti. So, I don't know that the evidence is strong either way...



In most cases, yes. For most of Egyptian history, the pharaoh was generally depicted in a canonical form as a strong & healthy young man regardless of his actual age. However, the art of the Amarna period was quite different. There is a particular statue of Nefertiti where she is definitely not shown at her best. The Amarna style is more realistic than the typical Egyptian style so perhaps she was depicted with some age on her after some years.



I seem to recall that dozens of other statues and busts were found in the workshop of Thutmose along with that of Nefertiti so it's not like it was an isolated find or anything. But, then again, it was an early 20th century find and it's not like we have highly detailed excavation reports from that period so we don't have good contemporaneous information about the actual find. Much of the city was dismantled and hauled off for use elsewhere. For instance, a huge cache of talatat blocks were recovered by modern archaeologists after being used by a later pharaoh as debris fill in one of the pylons at Karnak. The city was definitely destroyed but it wasn't exactly wiped away entirely. Heck, they're still finding stuff.



The suckiest part is when you find a blurb about something and you desperately want more information on it only to find that the only source is written in a language you don't know how to read! Hint: learn French, German & Italian lol
Fantastic post! Thank you, especially for the information about the poor quality of limestone and the facts that stucco was commonly used.And that there were a were a significant number of finds at Amarna. Seems to me that a lot of 'experts' have not done their homework.

Sadly, although I can read French better than speak it, It's not good enough to read say the book claiming the book is a fake. Italian good enough for emergencies, German almost non existent. Best language was Bahasa Malayou, but it's a very long time since I learnt it, so it's pretty, well gone. Quite a bit came when I visited Malaysia in 2000, but I think it's gone for good now.

I've read the the Amarna style was more real than traditional styles. There's a statue Akhenaten which looks rather strange with his long face, jaw, and pot belly. Considering Egyptian incest (not just the royal family) family, I initially assumed it was life-like. I've read that some scholars have argued that the depictions of Akhenaten and Nefertiti are in fact highly stylised.

OT; since your knowledge seems a lot deeper than mine, a question: Do you think Akhenaten was a' true' monotheist? From what I've read, it's unclear to me whether he claimed the Aten was the only god, or did he simply ban the worship of all other gods? There could have bee a practical reason; to get his hands on the extreme wealth of the cult of Amun. I read that the priest of Amun were almost as wealthy as Pharaoh.

This is simply for information, not to refute the rather silly,. stubborn claim that Moses got monotheism from Akhenaten.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,591
Crows nest
#42
^
I'll just paste this post of mine from the Box 001K thread

They would be One as Three, as all devolves from a singularity. The trinity of Atum, Shu and Tefnut can appear in coffin texts where a deceased man is Shu, but not literally and not in the sense I have used about Akhenaten, but in that there is a self continuation, replication, of the singularity. So the coffin text references to that trinity show a desire for eternal life in that no matter how many manifestations appear, the original is present in all and continues for eternity.

On your question about the nature of Akhenaten's monotheism. It is of course disputed that he was a monotheist, often, but not always, by those with a self interest due to their own beliefs. I would ask a different question to answer this one, and that is to ask if Egypt was in fact polytheistic in the usually accepted sense that many gods are worshipped by many people. We see all these gods and just assume we are looking at polytheism, and it's not difficult to see why and the term polytheism can correctly be applied to Egypt as a whole. However, the people did not seem to worship many gods at all, only one per person at a time. They certainly believed in all the gods, but only worshipped one, and that was at home and was often a god such as Bes or Bastet. So at the level of the individual what we see is in fact monolatry. This is often what Akhenaten's religion is said to be, which makes it no different to what was happening in Egypt anyway. This I believe is the wrong position because I believe that Akhenaten had at some point rejected the individual existence of all gods except the Aten. It's there written in stone that he calls the Aten the "Sole God", period, not the sole god to be worshipped, and thus no different to the commandment by the Hebrew god. So Akhenaten only believed in the existence of one god, and this is somewhat clouded by the seeming continuance of other gods well into his reign, such as Shu and Tefnut and Ra-Horakhty. But this continuance of other gods is incorrectly used to try and say he was a monolatrist due to an incorrect understanding of the precise nature of these specific gods.
That's just my opinion, and as it's such a convoluted subject, I doubt it will be my final opinion, and many others have different opinions on this.

There are nuances in the use of the term "Sole God", which Akhenaten uses in his hymn, because the same term is often used about each of the other gods, without any doubt that the utterer of the phrase believes in the existence of multiple gods. The crucial point about Akhenaten's use of the term is that he of course banned the worship of the other gods and closed down their temples. This, as I mentioned before, has the same effect as the Hebrew god saying, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me", and nobody is saying that Judaism is not monotheist, but it's argued against Akhenaten, why? personal religious bias I guess.

As for Akhenaten supposedly banishing Amun and the other gods just for the wealth, well, that view is commonplace, but misplaced. He already had the wealth of all the temples as that was the wealth of the state, and he was the head of state, and more importantly in this context, the chief and only priest of all the gods. The high priest of Amun at Thebes, no matter how high and mighty, was simply a stand in for the king, who cannot be officiating in every temple in Egypt. It is a few hundred years later towards the end of the New Kingdom that the Amun priesthood gained political power.
 
Feb 2013
4,282
Coastal Florida
#43
On the Nefertiti bust and the chain of documentation. It's probably a little harsh on Borchardt to retrospectively critizise him for not using modern techniques when excavating, as has occurred outside this forum, and there were far worse than him, for instance the treatment of KV55, the fault of Davis, not Ayrton. However, he did in fact keep a proper record of his excavations. Doubt has been cast on whether the bust even existed until put on display in 1924, the reason put forward being that it was created in response to the discovery of KV62 in 1922, and so cash in. But it's location from discovery in 1912 to being displayed in 1924 is documented. The reasons for it not being shown publicly before 1924 are that, surprising to us today that major finds were not routinely displayed to the public as soon as coming out of the ground, Tutankhamun's treasures being a notable exception, and there were other considerations concerning how it got out of Egypt and wanting to keep a low profile. However, the bust was shown privately, not least to the Kaiser, and sketches of the bust were also distributed. The war then intervened. But a major, the major reason, for it not being displayed publicly until 1924 was that it's home in a new gallery in the Neues Museum was not finished until 1924, when the bust was put on public display flanked by two statues of Sekhmet.
I don't mean to be excessively harsh on Borchardt about his reporting. Earlier archaeologists simply didn't know what they didn't know and it took time for standards to develop. Excavations and reports became far more systematically detailed as the discipline developed. As for the doubt about the bust's provenance, they could have avoided all of it had they been up front about the find from the beginning instead of trying to keep it on the low so they could take it for themselves. Producing records afterwards is great but, because we had the cloud of subterfuge from the beginning, it can make people question those as well. By creating a smokescreen to hide its discovery, they caused all of this doubt. And that's something they're certainly on the hook for.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,591
Crows nest
#44
^

Oh I entirely agree that a self inflicted wound was caused by the subterfuge engaged in to get the bust out of Egypt. I think if it had left Egypt in a fully open and legal manner, then there would probably be no doubts about it's authenticity, or least not to the level there is. But it is unfortunately a fact of life than one misstep will open the door to the mob with their flashing mirrors and swirling smoke, and in modern times their cynical trash videos on Youtube.
 
Feb 2013
4,282
Coastal Florida
#45
A Lot of Egyptian stuff has no provenance --looting, etc.
This is true...and the reason you never can tell with a lot of artifacts. In regard to the bust, I agree with you about it stylistically...it's definitely a match with other pieces from the period.

Ahhh ... Zahi ... losses it :D
That clip is from Chasing Mummies, isn't it? That show made me laugh.

I've read the the Amarna style was more real than traditional styles. There's a statue Akhenaten which looks rather strange with his long face, jaw, and pot belly. Considering Egyptian incest (not just the royal family) family, I initially assumed it was life-like. I've read that some scholars have argued that the depictions of Akhenaten and Nefertiti are in fact highly stylised.
There's a great deal of controversy about that. People have suggested all sorts of things. For instance, some people think Akhenaten was depicted that way because he had a disease called Marfan's syndrome (I think that's the name). Other people simply think it's stylized. Aside from the way his statues look, the art from this period is far more realistic in the types of scenes which were shown. For instance, the royal couple are shown holding and playing with their small children. I tend to think the statues of Akhnaten are simply stylized but I guess it's just hard to tell for sure.

OT; since your knowledge seems a lot deeper than mine, a question: Do you think Akhenaten was a' true' monotheist? From what I've read, it's unclear to me whether he claimed the Aten was the only god, or did he simply ban the worship of all other gods? There could have bee a practical reason; to get his hands on the extreme wealth of the cult of Amun. I read that the priest of Amun were almost as wealthy as Pharaoh.
There was actually a progression. He didn't just ban everything from the moment he took the throne. In the beginning, there was basically continuity with the existing system. As time went on, however, the changes became far more extreme. I think it initially progressed to henotheism and then later, Akhenaten took a very hard line with something like monotheism. However, it's important to understand he was not successful with this as the archaeology shows he wasn't even able to completely stamp out the worship of other gods within his own capital city.

As for what caused this, I think it could have been a combination of things. On the political front, you know, I've heard a lot about friction with the religious apparatus as well. However, there could also have been personal religious reasons. Something I'd note is that NASA has a website where they calculate the paths of like thousands of historical solar eclipses. Total solar eclipses are very rare in a particular location but I find it highly interesting that a total solar eclipse is calculated to have occurred at Amarna pretty close to the dates typically attributed to Akhenaten's reign. When you read the texts from Amarna's boundary stelae, Akhenaten is emphatic that the Aten itself told him to build the city there and he insists quite strongly that no other person in the land of Egypt was in any way involved in that decision. One of the tombs at Amarna also includes a unique depiction of a solar event...nothing else like it has ever been found. It's not clear from the figures what's going on and people have interpreted it different ways but I think it could have been their way of visually interpreting this eclipse. So, my own little theory (untestable! haha) is that he may have had a religious experience associated with this eclipse and that may have led to his extreme religious overhaul.

I'd also like to add to what Corvidius said above. He's right in that everyday worship would be centered around different gods for different people. And you can see this if you examine the major sites along the Nile. I took a trip down the Nile from Cairo to the Great Temple of Abu Simbel near the border with Sudan so I saw this in person but you can also read up on each major site along the Nile. Each had it's own triad of gods and there was usually a major temple dedicated to a single god (except the one at Kom Ombo, i think, which is dedicated to 2 gods). This is how the pantheon was created. Although many of the extant temples are Graeco-Roman examples, they generally continued the existing traditions. It wasn't every god in every place. I would compare it to a sports league. You've got your local team that you support but you're aware of all the other teams in the league and you might support a few of those on occasion too.

This is simply for information, not to refute the rather silly,. stubborn claim that Moses got monotheism from Akhenaten.
It's interesting you would ask me that because I have some other ideas about it which are well outside the mainstream, I think. I'm going to be brief, though. I don't know that I'd go totally Velikovsky but, if there is any grain of truth to be found in the story of Exodus at all, I believe Egypt's 18th Dynasty must be part of the puzzle. In actuality, I think both the story of Joseph from the end of Genesis and the story of Moses in the Exodus have Egyptian parallels which can possibly be interpreted from the archaeology. Whether that is actually the case, I'm not sure. However, if any evidence exists in Egypt, it must be related to the period spanning from the collapse of the Middle Kingdom, the rise of the Hyksos and concluding with the Amarna period. It's either there or it's not there at all. I don't know how one would be able to verify one way or the other but I find it interesting to think about.
 
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AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,861
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#46
To be fair, a part Flinders Petrie [who substantially begun to develop the modern standards of Egyptology] and a few other researchers, early Egyptology was a world of pioneers and real raiders looking for something to sell to rich Europeans and Americans. With not a great national pride I can remind Giovanni Battista Belzoni who entered tombs and pyramids using explosive, to save time ... he was interested in what there was in a tomb, not in what they engraved on its walls ... so he destroyed them without a great concern.

Among the good ones, we can add Pendlebury and Garis & Davies, also Peet ... and some good French.

Then there are objective problems: I personally had occasion to note that Lepsius made great drawings of what he saw, but regarding some details he hasn't been perfect and when the original is lost ... this can be a problem.

This leaves room for alternative historians: not a few early explorers of Egypt hadn't academic preparation and they wrote some curious comments, expressing this or that persuasion, interpreting hieroglyphics in a not correct way ... usually these [today we say "not peer reviewed"] works are a nice base for the works of alternative historians who present these researchers as great Egyptologists [counting on the impact of the XIX century ... if they were Egyptologists in the XIX century they had to be great Egyptologists ... usually it's the other way round ...], basing their new reading of the past on their not proved assumptions.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,591
Crows nest
#47
As for what caused this, I think it could have been a combination of things. On the political front, you know, I've heard a lot about friction with the religious apparatus as well. However, there could also have been personal religious regions. Something I'd note is that NASA has a website where they calculate the paths of like thousands of historical solar eclipses. Total solar eclipses are very rare in a particular location but I find it highly interesting that a total solar eclipse is calculated to have occurred at Amarna pretty close to the dates typically attributed to Akhenaten's reign. When you read the texts from Amarna's boundary stelae, Akhenaten is emphatic that the Aten itself told him to build the city there and that no other person in the land of Egypt was in any way involved in that decision. One of the tombs at Amarna also includes a unique depiction of a solar event...nothing else like it has ever been found. It's not clear from the figures what's going on and people have interpreted it different ways but I think it could have been their way of visually interpreting this eclipse. So, my own little theory (untestable! haha) is that he may have had a religious experience associated with this eclipse and that may have led to his extreme religious overhaul.
On the box 001K thread Alpin Luke has done some original research and made a number of posts about these eclipses.

I have tentatively suggested that an eclipse during the reign of Amunhotep III, perhaps combined with some undefined "bad things", possibly the demise of crown prince Thutmose, has triggered the "mania" for creating the army of Sekhmets. I suggest a link to an eclipse and Sekhmet as I think it possible that an eclipse deep in Egypt's past may have formed the basis for the myth of the original Distant Goddess, Sekhmet. If these statues were a response to "bad things", and I think that a reasonable assumption, and they then failed, as they must as they are lumps of rock and not the manifestation of a goddess, this failure may have had an impact on the future Akhenaten. Or, as you suggest, perhaps the eclipse itself had a profound impact on Akhenaten. It would interesting to know if the eclipse was total in Egypt. Probably needs a thread of it's own to discuss the potential origins of "Atenism" and what was going on during the reign of Amunhotep III.
 
Feb 2013
4,282
Coastal Florida
#48
On the box 001K thread Alpin Luke has done some original research and made a number of posts about these eclipses.

I have tentatively suggested that an eclipse during the reign of Amunhotep III, perhaps combined with some undefined "bad things", possibly the demise of crown prince Thutmose, has triggered the "mania" for creating the army of Sekhmets. I suggest a link to an eclipse and Sekhmet as I think it possible that an eclipse deep in Egypt's past may have formed the basis for the myth of the original Distant Goddess, Sekhmet. If these statues were a response to "bad things", and I think that a reasonable assumption, and they then failed, as they must as they are lumps of rock and not the manifestation of a goddess, this failure may have had an impact on the future Akhenaten. Or, as you suggest, perhaps the eclipse itself had a profound impact on Akhenaten. It would interesting to know if the eclipse was total in Egypt. Probably needs a thread of it's own to discuss the potential origins of "Atenism" and what was going on during the reign of Amunhotep III.
I've been looking at this for many years myself. The particular eclipse I'm referring to was total and Amarna falls within the calculated path of totality. The date calculated by NASA is May 14, 1337BC. The NASA eclipse page has the path plotted on Googlemaps. You can zoom in and find Dayr Mawas between Minya & Asyut...Amarna is directly on the other side of the river from Dayr Mawas. Note that the red line is the center of the path and the eclipse was total everywhere between the blue lines. Osirisnet has an image of the tomb decoration I referred to. From one of the proclamations on the boundary stelae:
‘As the Aten is beheld, the Aten desires that there be made for him [...] as a monument with an eternal and everlasting name. Now, it is the Aten, my father, who advised me concerning it, [namely] Akhetaten. No official has ever advised me concerning it, not any of the people who are in the entire land has ever advised me concerning it, to suggest making Akhetaten in this distant place. It was the Aten, my fath[er, who advised me] concerning it, so that it might be made for Him as Akhetaten... Behold, it is Pharaoh who has discovered it: not being the property of a god, not being the property of a goddess, not being the property of a ruler, not being the property of a female ruler, not being the property of any people to lay claim to it....’

‘I shall make Akhetaten for the Aten, my father, in this place. I shall not make Akhetaten for him to the south of it, to the north of it, to the west of it, to the east of it. I shall not expand beyond the southern stela of Akhetaten toward the south, nor shall I expand beyond the northern stela of Akhetaten toward the north, in order to make Akhetaten for him there. Nor shall I make (it) for him on the western side of Akhetaten, but I shall make Akhetaten for the Aten, my father, on the east of Akhetaten, the place which He Himself made to be enclosed for Him by the mountain...’
I posted a lot more about this and some other associated things a number of years ago, maybe in 2014.

And an interesting thing to note...I plan to travel back to Egypt in 2027 to view a total eclipse. The point of greatest eclipse will be very close to Luxor and it will last over 6 minutes, the longest eclipse I'm liable to see in my lifetime. Hopefully, Karnak will be open and I can view the eclipse from the temple of Amun-Re. That would be so awesome!
 
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Feb 2013
4,282
Coastal Florida
#50
Which of course puts us into year 16, well, the exact correlation of his reign dates to a BC date is not precise, and the dissapearence of Kiya, Nefertiti and Neferneferuaten-Tasherit, and the emergence of Smenkhare, hm...
Sure but both the calculations for the eclipse as well as the regnal dates are subject to some degree of error. This could easily have occurred at a different point in relation to his reign. Unfortunately, we can't pinpoint this with any greater precision so it's impossible to know the exact moment when it occurred in relation to the Egyptian timeline, except that it seems very close to or during Akhenaten's reign. I suppose it could even have happened afterwards from that perspective but I tend to think a significant solar phenomenon was probably the catalyst for the Amarna heresy and this would seem a likely candidate.
 
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