Name: Neferneferuaten (Smenkhkare) (Neferkheperura) (Djeserkheperu Ankhkheperure) (Waenre Akhenate)
Given Name: (Smenkhkare) (Neferkheperura) (Djeserkheperu Ankhkheperure) (Waenre Akhenate)
Birth: in Egypt
Death: 1337 BC
Reign from 1341 BC to 1337 1
Change Date: 23 Mar 2014 at 01:00:00|
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Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu Ankhkheperure
by Megaera Lorenz
Perhaps the most mysterious figure to come out of the Amarna period was a character know n to us now as Smenkhkare, or sometimes Neferneferuaten. Smenkhkare apparently reigned for ab out three years, and spent some uncertain length of time as Akhenaten's coregent. The evidenc e concerning Smenkhkare is sparse and patchy, and theories about Smenkhkare are built on ver y unstable foundations. Some people have even questioned whether he existed at all -- at leas t, as a single individual. In the following essay I will try to present what little is know n about this enigmatic figure and try to piece it together to form a somewhat coherent pictur e.
It was during the late part of Akhenaten's reign that references to a second king began t o appear. A box from the tomb of Tutankhamun, apparently dating to Akhenaten's reign, bears t he following titulary: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Ankhkheperure B eloved of Neferkheperure [=Akhenaten]; Son of Re, Lord of Crowns, Neferneferuaten Beloved o f Waenre." Alongside this name are written the names and titles of Akhenaten, and the text "K ing's Chief Wife Meritaten, may she live forever." (Murnane, 1995).
It is apparent from this inscription that Akhenaten and Ankhkheperure were ruling togethe r, and that Ankhkheperure was married to Akhenaten's eldest daughter, Meritaten. But the mos t curious thing about this inscription is that one of Ankhkheperure's names is Neferneferuate n, also one of the names of Akhenaten's Chief Wife, Nefertiti. Because of this, some people h ave come to the conclusion that Akhenaten's coregent was none other than Nefertiti herself, r uling under a different name in the guise of a man. This seems extraordinarily unlikely -- wo uld Nefertiti impersonate a man and take on her own daughter as a spouse? And yet, the thron e name of King Ankhkheperure is occasionally written in the feminine -- i. e., Ankhetkheperur e, with the feminine "t". William Murnane speculates that this indicates that King Ankhkheper ure Neferneferuaten was indeed Nefertiti, and a separate individual from King Ankhkheperure S menkhkare (see below).
A fragmentary stela from Amarna, now known as the "Coregency Stela," contains another puz zling bit of evidence. Originally, the stela depicted three figures, identified as Akhenaten , Nefertiti, and princess Meritaten. In later years, however, the name of Nefertiti had bee n excised and replaced with the name of King Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten, and the name of t he princess had been replaced with that of Akhenaten and Nefertiti's third daughter, Ankhesen paaten. First, it is curious that Nefertiti's figure -- clearly that of a female -- would b e relabled with the name of the king. Second, the erasure of Meritaten's name and the usurpat ion by Ankhesenpaaten suggests that Meritaten died before the end of Akhenaten's reign, and t hat King Ankhkheperure then married Ankhesenpaaten.
Little is known about the actual reign of King Ankhkheperure. Ankhkheperure Neferneferuat en reigned for at least three years, although it is not known how much of this time was spen t in coregency with Akhenaten. A fascinating stela dating from the third year of his (her?) r eign bears the following inscription:
Regnal year 3, third month of Inundation, day 10. The King of Upper
and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands Ankhkheperure Beloved of
Aten, the Son of Re Neferneferuaten Beloved of Waenre.
Giving worship to Amun, kissing the ground to Wenennefer by
the lay priest, scribe of the divine offerings of Amun in the Mansion of
Ankhkheperure in Thebes, Pawah, born to Yotefseneb. He says:
"My wish is to see you, O lord of persea trees! May your throat
take the north wind, that you may give satiety without eating and
drunkenness without drinking. My wish is to look at you, that my
heart might rejoice, O Amun, protector of the poor man: you are the
father of the one who has no mother and the husband of the widow.
Pleasant is the utterance of your name: it is like the taste of life . . . [etc.]
"Come back to us, O lord of continuity. You were here before
anything had come into being, and you will be here when they are
gone. As you caused me to see the darkness that is yours to give, make
light for me so that I can see you . . .
"O Amun, O great lord who can be found by seeking him, may
you drive off fear! Set rejoicing in people's heart(s). Joyful is the one
who sees you, O Amun: he is in festival every day!"
For the Ka of the lay priest and scribe of the temple of Amun in
the Mansion of Ankhkheperure, Pawah, born to Yotefseneb: "For your
Ka! Spend a nice day amongst your townsmen." His brother, the
outline draftsman Batchay of the Mansion of Ankhkheperure. (Murnane, 1995).
Superficially, this stela is part of a popular genre from the late part of the 18th dynas ty in which a sick person asks a god to cure a disease, in this case some sort of eye disease . But more significantly, it suggests that some time during the reign of Ankhkheperure ther e was an effort to return to the pre-Amarna era religion. Pawah is referred to as "the lay pr iest and scribe of the temple of Amun in the Mansion of Ankhkheperure." It would seem, theref ore, that the Amun cult was officially sanctioned under the rule of King Ankhkheperure.
However, Akhenaten's monotheism survived until approximately the third year of Tutankhamu n's reign, and Akhetaten/Amarna remained the center of Egypt's administration until that time . Did Tutankhamun temporarily reverse an attempt to return to the old religion that took plac e during the reign of his predecessor? Is there any significance in the fact that this appare nt return to the Amun cult took place in the same year of the reign of Ankhkheperure? Is it p ossible that Tutankhamun and Ankhkheperure were both names for the same person? Until furthe r evidence surfaces, these possibilities will have to remain in the realm of wild speculation .
We also find references to King Ankhkheperure under another, better known name: Smenkhkar e. In the tomb of Meryre II is a roughly painted scene depicting a king and queen. The king' s titulary is as follows: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ankhkheperure, Son of Re, Smenkhkar e, Holy-of-Manifestations [=Djeserkheperu], given life forever continually." The queen is Mer itaten, Akhenaten's eldest daughter. A calcite jar from Thebes lists the names of both Akhena ten and Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu. (Murnane, 1995). The name Smenkhkare is apparently never as sociated with the name Neferneferuaten. Does this mean that they were two different individua ls, both of whom married Meritaten? William Murnane speculates that the two were indeed diffe rent:
This ruler's throne-name, Ankhkheperure, resembles his predecessor's so closely that they wer e once believed to be identical. Missing, however, is the variety of epithets which mark hi s predecessor's praenomen . . . Moreover, the same regularity is also seen with the distincti ve personal name("Smenkhkare "Holy-of-Manifestations") attached to this figure.
So what are we to make of Smenkhkare? Was he even a real person? Who was he, and how wa s he related to Akhenaten? Some of the answers to these questions may lie in some human remai ns discovered in 1907 by Theodore Davis in the Theban Valley tomb KV-55.
In 1907, an amateur Egyptologist named Theodore Davis led an expedition in the Valley o f the Kings which uncovered a small tomb, now classified as King's Valley Tomb No. 55 (KV-55) .
The tomb had been badly damaged by water and robbers, and contained a confusing jumble o f funerary equipment, including part of a small golden shrine belonging to queen Tiye, some m agic bricks bearing the name of Akhenaten, a set of fine alabaster canopic jars which have be en identified with numerous members of the Amarna family, and a beautiful multi-colored rish i (feathered)-type coffin with a badly damaged gold face. The names had been hacked out of th e coffin. Inside the coffin was a poorly preserved mummy, encased in gold foil, which fell ap art when it was unwrapped. (Aldred, 1988; Davis et al., 1910)
The gold shrine, the apparently female heads on the canopic jars, and the fact that the c offin seemed to depict a female figure, convinced Davis and his team that they had found th e body of Queen Tiye, the mother of Akhenaten.
Davis and his team sent the bones to G. Elliot Smith, the Professor of Anatomy at Cairo S chool of Medicine. According to Smith, the gold mummy-bands that had encircled the mummy bor e the name of Akhenaten (1912). However, according to Cyril Aldred, Arthur Weigall, one of th e excavators of the tomb, reported that all the names that had once been on the bands had bee n hacked out (1988). The bands were stolen by Smith's laboratory assistants shortly after the y were sent to him, so it is difficult to judge which account is correct.
Elliot Smith's analysis revealed that the bones belonged to a man rather than a woman. H e concluded that the man was no older than 25 when he died, based on the level of closure a t the epiphyses of the long-bones and the level of dental wear (Smith, 1912). Subsequent anal yses, the most recent of which was conducted by R. G. Harrison of Liverpool in 1966, have con firmed Smith's conclusion -- the skeleton is that of a man who died in his early twenties.
For this reason, many have dismissed the idea that the KV-55 mummy could possibly be tha t of Akhenaten. Akhenaten reigned for 17 years and had already fathered at least one child b y the first year of his reign, so it seems impossible that he could have died before the ag e of 28, at the very least. According to Dr. George Milner, Professor of Osteology at Penn St ate, the appearance of the pubic symphysis of the KV-55 remains confirms that the skeleton wa s that of a man of about 21, certainly no older than 22 (personal communication, 2000). There fore, Smenkhkare seems to be the only other logical candidate.
Blood-type analyses and comparisons of the skull dimensions of the KV-55 mummy with thos e of Tutankhamun have revealed that the two men were either father and son or brothers. But h ow are they related to Akhenaten?
Both mummies have the broad, flat, elongated skull that is characteristic of the Amarna f amily, and the KV-55 mummy has the downward-slanting jaw and prominent chin seen in portrait s of Akhenaten. If they were brothers, were they both sons of Akhenaten? If so, who was the m other? Since neither Smenkhkare nor Tutankhamun was featured in artwork and texts from Akhena ten's reign the way Akhenaten's and Nefertiti's daughters were, it seems unlikely that they w ere children of Akhenaten by Nefertiti herself. However, Tutankhamun is unambiguously referre d to as a "King's Son" in one inscription. Some have theorized that they were Akhenaten's chi ldren by a minor wife, such as Kiya. At this point, we still do not have enough information t o come up with a clear verdict.
The KV-55 Mummy: (Photograph from G. E. Smith's The Royal Mummies, 1912)
(Reconstruction of the head of the mummy from King's Valley Tomb No. 55, thought to be that o f Smenkhkare. Drawing by Megaera Lorenz.)