The drivers arrange the chariots of the royal entourage—two to one side, two to the other side, of the royal chariot, which is distinguished by the great ostrich plumes of its span of stallions. While the horses neigh, the accompanying bodyguard, winded by their jog alongside the rattling royal conveyances, turn and bow towards the royal family and the front of the temple. Followed by two men holding tall semi-circular ostrich-feather fans, and six women holding thin, elegant single-feathered fans, the king and queen head toward the temple, the princesses in their wake. Greeted by the temple staff, and passing by offering tables, heaped with the food that Aten and then his human worshippers will consume, the group make their way to the sanctuary.
Talatat with offerings in the Temple (ca. 1353–1336 BC) New Kingdom, Amarna Period. Metropolitan Museum ( Public Domain )
Today, Akhenaten and Nefertiti will elevate to the Aten jeweled examples of the god’s own name. Standing before an altar piled high with breads and all manner of cuts of beef, ringed around by jars of wine, and topped with burning dishes of incense, the king raises an object with two miniature versions of himself adoring the twin cartouches of Aten. Each figure wears the side-lock of youth—the daughters had more than once that morning laughed at the depiction of their father as a child—and bears multiple ostrich feathers atop his head, appropriate for the god Shu, son of the creator god. Behind him, Nefertiti raises a slightly smaller version of the same. The object she offers has but one figure adoring the Aten cartouches, a squatting version of the queen, in the pose of a child, her Tefnut to her husband’s Shu. Behind them, stand their own daughters, Meritaten, Meketaten, and Ankhesenpaaten, in diminishing size and age.
Of course, Meketaten insists on taking up Ankhesenpaaten’s small sistrum, as usual teasing her young sister, with the inevitable results, today bordering on a true tantrum. Nefertiti has to sort out the sistra, allotting each to its proper owner. Finally, each of the girls has her own instrument and shakes it, the rattling sound accompanying and giving rhythm to the proceedings. As small as the daughters were, and as much trouble as the young Ankhesenpaaten sometimes had in keeping time with her older sisters, their tinkling accompaniment is a key part of the ritual in the Estate of Aten. As a family, they ensure that the solar orb in heaven remains in a constant state of jubilee.
For the price of a cup of coffee, you get this and all the other great benefits at Ancient Origins Premium. And – each time you support AO Premium, you support independent thought and writing.
Extract from Egypt’s Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on Earth by John and Colleen Darnell , published by The History Press. @TheHistoryPress
John and Colleen Darnell are a husband-and-wife Egyptologist team. John is Professor of Egyptology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University. Colleen teaches art history at Naugatuck Valley Community College. They are the authors of: Egypt’s Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on Earth
Top Image : Depiction of parchment of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and their children with Aten shining on them as found on the Stela of Akhenaten and his family, Egyptian Museum, Cairo ( ppicasso / Adobe Stock )
By: John and Colleen Darnell