Ancient Egyptian relief. Design by Anand Balaji.

Amarna Era Chronological Conundrum: Dating Akhenaten’s Death and the Length of Horemheb’s Reign–Part I

(Read the article on one page)

When the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Menmaatre Seti I drew up the famed King List at his mortuary temple in the holy city of Abydos, he was confident that he had struck the final nail in the coffin of one of Egypt’s most turbulent periods—the Amarna interlude. The name of every late New Kingdom ruler who was associated with this Age of Heresy was omitted. But our understanding of the final years of the period has been tossed into confusion as a result.

This rare ostracon sketch depicts a king wearing the blue crown, a collar, and two strings of gold beads. His stubble beard is a sign of mourning. The features make it likely that Seti I is represented, but it is also speculated to show Ramesses II. Walters Art Museum. Baltimore, Maryland.

This rare ostracon sketch depicts a king wearing the blue crown, a collar, and two strings of gold beads. His stubble beard is a sign of mourning. The features make it likely that Seti I is represented, but it is also speculated to show Ramesses II. Walters Art Museum. Baltimore, Maryland.  (Public Domain )

The Mystery of Many Years

To close the yawning gap of missing years between the last recognized orthodox ruler, Nebmaatre Amenhotep III, and the final king of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Djeserkheperure Setepenre Horemheb – whom the Ramessides hailed as their spiritual benefactor – Seti I formulated a plan. Accordingly, the collective years of reign of the Amarna Kings were added to that of Horemheb; effectively excising the names of Akhenaten, Smenkhkare/Neferneferuaten, Tutankhamun, and Aye.

After all, the erstwhile Generalissimo, Horemheb, hadn’t initiated a mere backlash against the “heresy”, but a concerted effort was made to establish his legitimacy to occupy the throne; especially because Kheperkheperure Aye had turned the tables on him, even though he had been the designated Crown Prince under Nebkheperure Tutankhamun Hekaiunushema for a decade. It must be noted that Horemheb became king around 17 years after Akhenaten’s death: Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten Smenkhkare-Djeser-Kheperu (three years), Tutankhamun (ten years) and Aye (four years).

This limestone sculpture, from the Temple of Amun in Thebes, depicts Horemheb standing beside the state god whose worship he further restored after Tutankhamun; and followed it up with a thorough backlash on the Amarna Period. Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy.

This limestone sculpture, from the Temple of Amun in Thebes, depicts Horemheb standing beside the state god whose worship he further restored after Tutankhamun; and followed it up with a thorough backlash on the Amarna Period. Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy.

But, as he died without producing an heir despite being married twice – first to Queen Amenia and then to Mutnodjmet (or Mutbeneret) – he chose his trusted Vizier and friend, Paramesse, as his successor, who, Egyptologists point out had both a son and grandson to step into his shoes, securing the country’s line of succession. Paramesse adopted the name Ramesses I when he became the ruler and founded the Nineteenth Dynasty.

The early Ramessides bequeathed Horemheb a total reign of 59 years as Pharaoh—this included 27 years of his own reign as attested in a graffiti on a statue in his mortuary temple. How could this have been possible? Based on the calculations cited here, we are still left with an accounted period of 15 years. As there is no debate on Tutankhamun’s age at coronation, there can only be two possible reasons for this chronological conundrum: One, the reign of unknown Amarna kings whose records were successfully expunged; or else, Akhenaten reigned for a longer period than the regnal years attested to him.

The Abydos King List of Pharaoh Seti I shows the cartouches of Amenhotep III and Horemheb beside each other, with no record of the Amarna Kings who reigned in between—including Tutankhamun.

The Abydos King List of Pharaoh Seti I shows the cartouches of Amenhotep III and Horemheb beside each other, with no record of the Amarna Kings who reigned in between—including Tutankhamun.

The Inscription of Mes, records that a court case decision was rendered in favor of a rival branch of his family in Year 59 of Pharaoh Horemheb. As this text dated to the reign of Ramesses II and the obliteration of the names of Amarna-era kings, it is postulated that Horemheb would have ruled for between 26–27 years. However, it is not as clear-cut as it seems. For decades, experts have debated Horemheb’s number of years on the throne; as the highest dates which are a certainty are a pair of Year 13 and Year 14 wine labels from this king's wine estates which were found in his tomb (KV57) in the Valley of the Kings.

READ MORE…

Like this Preview and want to read on? You can! JOIN US THERE  with easy, instant access  ) and see what you’re missing!! All Premium articles are available in full, with immediate access.

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.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Myths & Legends

Human Origins

Photo of Zecharia Sitchin (left)(CC0)Akkadian cylinder seal dating to circa 2300 BC depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, and Enki, three members of the Anunnaki.(right)
In a previous 2-part article (1), the authors wrote about the faulty associations of the Sumerian deities known as the Anunnaki as they are portrayed in the books, television series, and other media, which promotes Ancient Astronaut Theory (hereafter “A.A.T.”).

Ancient Technology

Roman glass (not the legendary flexible glass). Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.
Imagine a glass you can bend and then watch it return to its original form. A glass that you drop but it doesn’t break. Stories say that an ancient Roman glassmaker had the technology to create a flexible glass, ‘vitrium flexile’, but a certain emperor decided the invention should not be.

Opinion

Hopewell mounds from the Mound City Group in Ohio. Representative image
During the Early Woodland Period (1000—200 BC), the Adena people constructed extensive burial mounds and earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Many of the skeletal remains found in these mounds by early antiquarians and 20th-Century archaeologists were of powerfully-built individuals reaching between 6.5 and eight feet in height (198 cm – 244 cm).

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article