Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 1
Khaemwaset

Did Children Build Akhetaten?

57 posts in this topic

The Guardian has this article posted today, raising the possibility that children were conscripted to build the city of Akhetaten by the government of the Pharaoh Akhenaten: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/06/did-children-build-the-ancient-egyptian-city-of-armana-

I am no Amarna scholar, but I believe this brings a different angle to the story of the city and the controversial reign that was invalidated after the king had died and was struck from the records of Ancient Egypt by the powers he had suppressed and by his own family members, only for it to be pieced together (somewhat) by later historians and archaeologists.  The 'story' has intrigued many, but does the grim reality of recent excavations cause us to see Akhenaten and his methods differently?  How does the employment of such a work force differ from other building projects of Ancient Egypt?  Are there any parallels, or was this unique, as so many other issues concerning this Pharaoh's reign were?

I hope this thread is not narrowly focused only on the report of the excavation, but can take on some of the larger issues that might apply.  

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How do they conclude 25 year olds are children? I probably was not much older than 7 when I first started "working" on actual job sites carrying tools, running messages, dragging brush, sweeping up, etc. 

I know I was grafting fruit trees and pruning grape vines by the time I was 8 because I still have the Felco bypass shears with leather belt holster my grandfather gave me for my birthday that year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Jarocal.  It is helpful to read the link. 

You did not die from your endeavors as a young person, as these did.  Also, as you indicated, you were not entirely separated from your family, and these reportedly were.

I (perhaps foolishly) used the word 'children' in the title of this thread; I was mirroring the title of the article referenced.  I will grant you that they were not all children, but they had  all died young.  There were no infants nor older adults in the cemetery, and they were buried together in sparse graves with no funerary goods.   That would be uncommon, I believe, for the New Kingdom.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read a paper on the same material a year or two ago and tacked it to the bulletin board in our lounge at the museum. I thought it fascinating. Evidently someone else did, too, because the paper I tacked up there is now long gone. Did you take it, Khaemwaset? Jarocal?

It's an interesting case study for Amarna. One of the things that originally struck me is the sheer number of human remains they found in those cemeteries. Remember that Akhenaten reigned for only seventeen years, and he built and occupied his city of Akhetaten for less than that. So that's a lot of dead people, in my way of thinking, for a relatively short time. Several thousand people in only seventeen years, plus the short period of time leading up to Tut's reign when we know some activity was still occurring at Akhetaten. We can't blame the heretic king for all of those deaths, so I wonder if it was an epidemic.

But the ages and pathologies of the remains in the North Cemetery is disturbing. While a lot of them were around the age of 25, a great many were only around 15 years old. Now to me this is a child, although in Akhenaten's time the average boy that age probably already had a number of years of work and apprenticeship under his belt. Or kilt. If he wore anything. Still, the remains in the North Cemetery are different. The pathologies show hard, unhealthy, short lives. These young folks were not treated well or properly cared for. It speaks of a compulsory, conscripted workforce comprising many young people who were taken by the state, similar to Sparta and its boys ripped from their homes at seven years of age.

Many modern hippy-types have this bizarre idea that Akhenaten was some peace-loving religious visionary. I've seen it on other message boards to which I've belonged. The truth can't be that simple. Don't get me wrong, I've studied Akhenaten and the Amarna Period in significant detail and will always continue to do so, because it fascinates, challenges, and entertains me. But in the harsh light of day, personally, I believe Akhenaten was a brutal despot who forced his form of zealotry and ideology on his own people, much as modern unforgiving dictators do.

Quote

I hope this thread is not narrowly focused only on the report of the excavation, but can take on some of the larger issues that might apply.  

I hope so too. But don't worry too much about a narrow focus. You've seen my own threads. I'm a pedantic bore, so this one is right up my alley.

5 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its an interesting contrast to other places , like  the 'workman's villages '    ( whatever the real name is for what I am thinking of  :huh: )

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, kmt_sesh said:

I read a paper on the same material a year or two ago and tacked it to the bulletin board in our lounge at the museum. I thought it fascinating. Evidently someone else did, too, because the paper I tacked up there is now long gone. Did you take it, Khaemwaset? Jarocal?

My copy is calligraphy with illumination on vellum using iron gall ink. Looking for someone who can bind it in a fine Corinthian leather cover inscribed with gold leaf.

Sadly in this world of mass produced paperbacks it is getting difficult to find a well crafted tome.

Edited by Jarocal
Ramps have been debunked
2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, back to earth said:

Its an interesting contrast to other places , like  the 'workman's villages '    ( whatever the real name is for what I am thinking of  :huh: )

The real workmen's village you're thinking of was called Chicago. It moved long ago from a place called Göbekli Tepe, but was originally Atlantis.

Don't believe me? Well, why would you? Mummies aren't always reliable, but we're always cool. In reality, "workmen's village" is a good name for it, but it would depend on which one you're thinking of. Such villages could be found at Gia, Kahun, Thebes, and elsewhere. It's the last one (Thebes) most people think of, on the west bank of the Nile. It's modern Arabic name is Deir el Medina. The ancient Egyptian name was Set-Maat ("Place of Truth"). This is all from memory—thus proving beyond dispute how packed full of useless trivia I truly am.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Jarocal said:

My copy is calligraphy with illumination on vellum using iron gall ink. Looking for someone who can bind it in a fine Corinthian leather cover inscribed with gold leaf.

Sadly in this world of mass produced paperbacks it is getting difficult to find a well crafted tome.

Okay, wasn't you. The copy I put on the bulletin board was originally an academic article I downloaded in English, and then transcribed into hieroglyphs on papyrus, polychromatically. You're off the hook.

To be honest I'm not sure if "polychromatically" is even a proper adverb but I needed it. Please don't send the language police after me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How fortuitous. Today a friend from the museum sent me the link I will post below. It' not really about the Amarna graves in the OP but is a quite decent summation of the JAMA report on the royal Amarna mummies that the SCA analyzed some years back. As with the author I do not agree with all conclusions (one can surely read Hawass's hand in the JAMA report) but the information is interesting and convenient. See below:

>>The Mummies Gallery<<

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, kmt_sesh said:

How fortuitous. Today a friend from the museum sent me the link I will post below. It' not really about the Amarna graves in the OP but is a quite decent summation of the JAMA report on the royal Amarna mummies that the SCA analyzed some years back. As with the author I do not agree with all conclusions (one can surely read Hawass's hand in the JAMA report) but the information is interesting and convenient. See below:

>>The Mummies Gallery<<

SCA? Does that stand for secret cabalistic academics or scientists confirming aliens?

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Barry Kemp and Gerome Rose for the University of Arkansas and the Amarna Project (2005 - 2013 digs).  Southern cemetery.   their site: http://www.amarnaproject.com/pages/recent_projects/excavation/south_tombs_cemetery/2008.shtml

I'm linking to the 2008 report because it is quoted elsewhere.  The findings are similar to the recent report on the north cemetery as far as pathology and grave goods etc., though there are differences too. 

I'm curious about what led to the employment of this work force.  The city was built quickly, but was extremely grand, so I would think that some sort of skilled stonemasonry was required; I wonder who did that work?  These conscripted youngsters, separated from their clans/families?  Did the transfer from Thebes mean that the traditional builders there were still under the control of others (Amun priesthood?) and not available to the new Pharaoh?  I know that after the death of Crown Prince Thutmose, the high priest of Amun was given authority of the Temples of Ptah and its holdings, so perhaps Akhenaten could not draw on those builders' skills and teams either?  I'm working on the implications of what the cemeteries tell us.  

Sesh: Is there any evidence of famine late in Amenhotep III's reign, or early in Amenhotep IV/Akenaten's to otherwise explain the details of the cemeteries' dead? 

 

Edited by Khaemwaset
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Jarocal said:

SCA? Does that stand for secret cabalistic academics or scientists confirming aliens?

You're close with the first term for SCA, but due to non-disclosure agreements with the Cabal, I cannot release the exact meaning of SCA to the unwashed. Um, I mean non-members.

There really is no group that goes by your second term, but you're really close. Given that it's merely a sub-group of the Cabal, I can share its name: Scientific Confirmation of Alien Transvestites (SCAT).

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, Khaemwaset said:

Barry Kemp and Gerome Rose for the University of Arkansas and the Amarna tombs project (2005 - 2013 digs).  Southern cemetery.   their site: http://www.amarnaproject.com/pages/recent_projects/excavation/south_tombs_cemetery/2008.shtml

I'm linking to the 2008 report because it is quoted elsewhere.  The findings are similar to the recent report on the north cemetery as far as pathology and grave goods etc., though there are differences too. 

I'm curious about what led to the employment of this work force.  The city was built quickly, but was extremely grand, so I would think that some sort of skilled stonemasonry was required; I wonder who did that work?  These conscripted youngsters, separated from their clans/families?  Did the transfer from Thebes mean that the traditional builders there were still under the control of others (Amun priesthood?) and not available to the new Pharaoh?  I know that after the death of Crown Prince Thutmose, the high priest of Amun was given authority of the Temples of Ptah and its holdings, so perhaps Akhenaten could not draw on those builders' skills and teams either?  I'm working on the implications of what the cemeteries tell us.  

Sesh: Is there any evidence of famine late in Amenhotep III's reign, or early in Amenhotep IV/Akenaten's to otherwise explain the details of the cemeteries' dead? 

 

Heh, the article in your link is the same that I had tacked up at the museum (except it was for 2007). Great minds and all that. Since accusing you and/or Jarocal of swiping it, I was able to find the digital file in my archives.

Pertaining to your question about famine, I haven't heard about that, per se. But in my first post in this thread I was wondering about epidemic. The disturbing body count and prevalence of youthful interments makes me wonder that. But it's also true that for a long time Egyptologists have speculated that this very period was ripe with disease. It would explain why Amunhotep III commissioned so many colossal Sekhmet statues: to try to appease her, but nothing seems to have appeased Sekhmet (except beer and blood, or beer-based blood). There's also the theory that Akhenaten went all zealous and loony because of epidemic, and that's why he abolished so many of the traditional deities and moved his purpose-built capital to virgin territory; he was trying to "cleanse" Egypt and start over. It's just a theory but it would explain the large number of condensed deaths, up to and possibly including several of Akhenaten's own family and children.

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Aliens, levitation, Atlantis, giants, geysers, advanced technology, beer, cocaine mummies—there, I included some popular terms that hopefully will lead some keyword searches to your worthy thread.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Judging from the mummies gallery link KMT posted Malaria seems to pop up a lot in the research. Lesser nourished young people toiling away at manual labor would have been even more susceptible than the better fed nobles living in more hygienic conditions.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, Jarocal said:

Judging from the mummies gallery link KMT posted Malaria seems to pop up a lot in the research. Lesser nourished young people toiling away at manual labor would have been even more susceptible than the better fed nobles living in more hygienic conditions.

Definitely a good point. That malaria has been found in ancient Egypt doesn't surprise me; it's always been present in Africa. Malaria is a nasty disease. It's certainly not always fatal but disrupts the body's production of red blood cells, which then systematically affects the body and its organs and tissues. It would definitely make the victim weaker and more susceptible to numerous other serious ailments.

Malaria Fact Sheet

Thank goodness for modern medicine.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Indeed, plague and illness could well explain it.   I wonder if it was regional, or in the case of Akhetaten, local?  I can't imagine they'd have chosen a marshy site for the magnificent new city.  )Though standing water in irrigation canals and ditches could supply plenty of bugs no doubt.) Do we see similar pathologies in the Theban or Memphite mummies of that era, I wonder? 

Edited by Khaemwaset

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Khaemwaset said:

Indeed, plague and illness could well explain it.   I wonder if it was regional, or in the case of Akhetaten, local?  I can't imagine they'd have chosen a marshy site for the magnificent new city.  Do we see similar pathologies in the Theban or Memphite mummies of that era, I wonder? 

That I don't know. The average plague isn't going to leave much if any evidence on a 3,000-year-old mummy, unless it's something scarring like smallpox. And mummies don't cough much. There's an interesting article my boss at the museum sent me in which Lithuanian remains were found below a church, and they found smallpox in the body of a child (hundreds of years old, well preserved). >>Source<< So if the body and its tissues are preserved well enough, paleopathology might be able to find evidence.

I do recall in the theory that it's plausible the epidemic came from the Levant or Mesopotamia, but I can't recall the thinking behind it. A little later on in the New Kingdom the opposite has been believed: Egyptian prisoners of war brought an epidemic to Hatti. Poor Hittites.

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Smallpox is particularly vile. Again, thank goodness for modern medicine. The mummy of Ramesses V is believed to show facial scarring from the disease, although whether it's actually smallpox is not universally agreed:

King-Ramses-KLS-edited1.jpg

A much more recent case of smallpox:

70353ff6522cd0f69482f3e9562084ab.jpg

This is why we have vaccines, people. We live in the year 2017. Everyone catch up! A pox on anti-vaxxers.

(Ha! "A pox"...get it?)

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

A 2015 article in USA Today about the Amarna commoners' cemeteries' skeletons, noting some bore the scars of execution, and also the prevalent presence of malnutrition and its related diseases such as scurvy:https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/10/13/egypt-cemetery-punishment-lashes-wounds/73688038/ 

Sorry about the source, but it's pertinent and is actually okay I think.  

Sesh: I remember reading somewhere that the mummification process itself will destroy evidence of disease, except that, as you say, of surface scarring, or skeletal affect etc.  Is that your understanding?  It seems to me it would be so.

And is it true, about mummies not coughing?  I was so sure they did, somehow...  :D

Edited by Khaemwaset
2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Could the Bible`s  Moses be metaphor of Akhenaten at Armarna?  The plagues that kill so many children and all his family, in letting his people go and himself leaving , they never have found his mummy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
26 minutes ago, Khaemwaset said:

A 2015 article in USA Today about the Amarna commoners' cemeteries' skeletons, noting some bore the scars of execution, and also the prevalent presence of malnutrition and its related diseases such as scurvy:https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/10/13/egypt-cemetery-punishment-lashes-wounds/73688038/ 

Sorry about the source, but it's pertinent and is actually okay I think.  

Sesh: I remember reading somewhere that the mummification process itself will destroy evidence of disease, except that, as you say, of surface scarring, or skeletal affect etc.  Is that your understanding?

And is it true, about mummies not coughing?  I was so sure they did, somehow...  :D

A very good article, actually, I don't recall reading about the wounds to the shoulder blades. Ouch! I'm glad my boss just gets grouchy when I goof up. But that's never, right? You keep finding good material.

About mummification, yes, the process tends to erase a lot of evidence unless it's quite obvious. It's fairly simple to tell when a bone has been fractured but has healed (poorly or well), and things like trepanning leave plentiful evidence. Some mummies are found with clear battle wounds, such as Senebkay, Seqenenre, and those Middle Kingdom burials of soldiers at Thebes. But this all describes trauma, and most people do not die from trauma but from disease. We have forty mummies in our own collection at the Field and with most of them we really don't know cause of death.

Disease is a lot more stealthy. Again, unless it's something like smallpox, cause of death often is not evident. Evidence might be more available in the organs, but that's only if they're well preserved (which they often aren't). I recall one case study from Manchester in which well-preserved intestines showed the prevalence of flukes, worms, and parasites that many Egyptians probably had through their lives. Thank goodness for clean drinking water today. Places like Manchester are on the cutting edge of advanced paleopathology in Egyptian mummies, but I'm seeing more and more of it around the world now. Science is reaching the point where mummies can be studied unlike ever before, including their genetics.

And yes, sometimes mummies cough, especially when it's dusty. I hear it sometimes in our exhibit—a bit disconcerting. Actually, if I'm in a playful mood and am with some fun-loving kids, I will burp and blame it on the nearest mummy.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, docyabut2 said:

 Could the Bible`s  Moses be metaphor of Akhenaten at Armarna?  The plagues that kill so many children and all his family, in letting his people go and himself leaving , they never have found his mummy

To be honest they haven't found most of the possible royal mummies, but they found Akhenaten's tomb and numerous grave goods decades ago. In all likelihood his mummy was deliberately destroyed in the early Ramesside period, if not even earlier.

But it might be interesting to speculate how much, if at all, Akhenaten's legacy influenced the early Hebrews. The problem is, the earliest Hebrews would've been looking back on several centuries of history already, to recall Akhenaten. That's assuming they even knew of him. In all likelihood, by the time the Hebrews were becoming their own culture and rising from the dusts of the highlands of Judea, Akhenaten was already long forgotten.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anyone remember this guy?

AkhenaBinks_zpsfnn0rwv6.jpg

If you looked like this, you'd be a crazy, loony zealot too.

I have to admit I was reading too fast the first time I saw the title of this thread and had thought it said: "Did Children Build Akhenaten?" I was thinking this would explain it all. Akhenaten, the bizarre heretic king, was the failed science project of a bunch of ancient Egyptian schoolchildren.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, kmt_sesh said:

Anyone remember this guy?

AkhenaBinks_zpsfnn0rwv6.jpg

 

The pic of this guy brings to mind the best quote we can use against all those woo woo fringies....

Qui Gon Jinn to Jar Jar Binks "The ability to speak does not make you intelligent."

 

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Khaemwaset said:

I'm curious about what led to the employment of this work force.  The city was built quickly, but was extremely grand, so I would think that some sort of skilled stonemasonry was required; I wonder who did that work?  These conscripted youngsters, separated from their clans/families? 

Corvee labor was the standard way that pharaohs got their projects done for thousands of years.  The "bosses" would go to villages and tell them how many they needed.  The workers (who went during the Flood Season) did the building and so forth; stonemasons and quarrymen worked year around.  They were compensated and (usually) got better food if they went.

 

IMHO, the king selected younger people there because the place is really rather difficult to get to.  I'm sure that if he brought in the older workers, they would have not been able to get the city built as quickly as he'd like.

Quote

Did the transfer from Thebes mean that the traditional builders there were still under the control of others (Amun priesthood?) and not available to the new Pharaoh?

No, the king kept the royal workshops and so forth... that much is evident by the quality of grave goods and other things.

Quote

Sesh: Is there any evidence of famine late in Amenhotep III's reign, or early in Amenhotep IV/Akenaten's to otherwise explain the details of the cemeteries' dead? 

As I understand it, these seem to be from accidents and other job related conditions.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 1

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.