News from the Trenches

John Romer

  • Akhenaten: The Heretic King by Donald Redford
    Princeton, 255 pp, £29.60, August 1984, ISBN 0 691 03567 9

For some twenty years a group of Egyptologists has been studying and excavating the remains of a strange group of buildings erected during the reign of the outrageous so-called ‘heretic pharaoh’ Akhenaten, amongst the temples of Karnak in Upper Egypt. Professor Redford, who has long led this work, brings to this new study of Akhenaten and his age a mass of fresh fact to aid our understanding of this remarkable period of ancient history. His most practical approach sends a reviving breeze through a field of study more than usually bedevilled by interminably circuitous debates. Egyptologists can recognise the signs of Akhenaten’s brief challenge to ancient orthodoxy in almost every hieroglyph and drawing of his reign, but such high dramas are not always immediately apparent to laymen. After all, this so-called Amarnan art still shares a basic ‘Egyptianess’ with the more orthodox manners of that civilisation. So whilst the records of Akhenaten’s times show a vivid alternative to the usual ancient Egyptian style, they also help us to understand something of the essence of ancient Egypt – heresy and orthodoxy alike.

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