Saturday, 26 January 2013

Character Interview - Ronalda Bauxneitner from the Interplanetary Daily Gossip Talks With Druitt

Ronalda Bauxneitner reporting from the Interplanetary Daily Gossip

Modern Gurneh and the Ramesseum - own image
Modern Gurneh and the Ramesseum

“Stulfano, can you adjust the lighting over here?  I think we need to get a better angle, all that linen is just getting in the way?”

“Best we can do Ronalda.  Ready to roll in 3,2,1.....”

“Hi, this is Ronalda Bauxneitner from the Interplanetary Daily Gossip broadcasting from Planet Earth as part of our remote worlds and alien diversity programme. We have come here today as we have received a tip off that a member of the First Families is currently sojourning here.  Does this mean that after millennia in isolation and obscurity that Earth is finally to be opened up to inter dimensional tourism? Or is this an unauthorised visit that is, in fact, a breach of Galactic Protocols?”

“I am currently standing outside a charming rustic villa in Ancient Egypt, where I have been lucky enough to secure an interview with one of the entourage of First Family member Aten, who will hopefully be able to give us the inside scoop on why he is here, the purpose of his visit and whether or not he was given special authorization by his father’s High Council to visit a designated ‘primitive’ world.”

“Ah, here he is now.  Say hello to our millions of viewers Mr Montague.”

(Camera pans on to large bulky figure with its face and head covered by a linen shawl.)

“Druitt, my name is Druitt.”

“Oh, well welcome Mr Druitt Montague.”

“No, no Montague Druitt.”

“Mr Druitt, I am having trouble hearing you.  Do you think that you could take that linen shawl off your face?”

“I would prefer not to Miss Bauxneitner, as I would not like to alarm your viewers.”

“Come, come, I am sure that you are a very handsome man.”

“Well, mother always used to tell me that I had inherited all the looks in the family, but that was before.”

“Before what?”

“Before I met Aten!”

“You are intriguing me?  I have come across many different responses to having met Aten in my time, but having to cover their face afterwards was not one of them?”

“Well it was the spell that went wrong.....then not changing me back...Oh I’m not sure I should be telling you any of this!”

“You can tell me Mr Uittmon. Everything that you say on the Interplanetary Daily Gossip is totally confidential.”

“But I thought you said that you had millions of viewers?”

“Yes, but as they are all at least eighty six light years away they don’t really count do they?  So tell me some more about this spell that went wrong?”

“It’s all a bit embarrassing, so I would rather not.”

“Come, come Mr Montru, we are all friends here. It helps to talk you know.”

“Well, his intentions were good, you know.  He wanted to catch that murderer, but it just all went a bit wrong. Maybe the fog and the police whistles distracted him or something?”

“I am going to take a wild guess that you are not from this time frame?”

“Eer yes, I think. This was in London in 1888. You know London in England?”

“I have just been told through my ear piece that this was in a time period called ‘Victorian, is that correct ?”

“I think so, from things I have read from a later date.  Certainly Queen Victoria was ruling our mighty empire at that time.”

“So what was Aten doing there and how did you meet him?”

“Well we didn’t meet as such; it was just an unfortunate coincidence that I got in the path of that spell.  All very irregular of course, not having been formally introduced or anything. Deuced awkward in fact.  I have never forgiven myself for not being able to say farewell and explain to mother.”

“But you still haven’t told us what Aten was doing in Victorian England and why he is now here in Ancient Egypt?  Where is Aten, by the way?  We would really like to talk with him.”

“Aten is out, paying calls. And I really don’t feel that it my place to disclose his social arrangements to a complete stranger.”

“Well, I think you’ll find that Aten and I go back a long way Mr Montague. I’m sure that he remembers me fondly.”

“Mr Druitt.  My name is Druitt!  I can’t recall him ever having mentioned you. But it is all so strange here, that it might have slipped my memory.”

“But this looks like such a charming old villa. So very quaint!  How does living here differ from your lifestyle in Victorian London?”

“Oh it is dreadful!  You can get none of the little necessities that you need in order to live like a civilised gentleman.  There is no running water, the dust gets everywhere and don’t get me started on the food!  The food is nothing like what I used to enjoy at home.  Mother understood my delicate constitution so perfectly and would have cook prepare just the right kind of little delicacies that my poor stomach could tolerate.  Here all I get is bread, onions and that filthy cloudy stuff that they call beer. Can you imagine what it is like to have to start the day without even a decent cup of tea inside you?  At least when we lived on the ship, the computer would always have a pot of Earl Grey, a lightly coddled egg and two slices of white toast ready for me when I arose.”

“So Mr Montuitt, why has Aten moved you here into the villa and away from the home comforts of the ship? After all, it can’t be particularly comfortable for him either?”

“Druitt, woman!  My name is Montague Druitt. Well he lives in a completely different style to the rest of us you know.  Waited on hand and foot by that Tuy woman, servants to pour water for his baths, all the best foods and wine.”

“You sound a bit bitter there Mr Dr.... oh never mind.  Do you feel that Aten is not treating you well?  Would you like to give us a full exposé?”

“Well, no, I mean, I wouldn’t go that far!”

“So why are you living in the villa exactly?”

“Oh it is all too embarrassing and I don’t think that Aten would be best pleased if I told you anything?”

“Well Mr....., whatever your name is, we have millions of viewers here who are just dying to hear the full story about what Aten is doing on this planet.  Did he get a special dispensation to visit do you know?  Can you show us the certificate?  And why is he staying so long?  Is he putting together a plan to open up Earth to inter dimensional tourism?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.  It’s nothing like that.  But I don’t feel that it is my place to discuss Aten’s circumstances.”

“Are you scared of him Mr Drumont?”

“No, no of course not.  But he can get very tetchy, you know.”

“Well you seem to be very tense.  Are you feeling tense? You are scared of him aren’t you?”

“Look I don’t have to tell you anything. Please go away.”

“Oh but you do.  When we arrived you signed a full disclosure contract, which includes full access to seeing your face.  Failure to comply can lead to prosecution and nine years hard labour in the titanium mines of Sthundalor. So who are you most frightened of now?”

“You can’t do that?  You never said that all those funny alien squiggles meant that?  You said that it was just a formality, something to satisfy your producers?”

“You should never sign anything without reading it and having it checked out by your own lawyers Mr Monty.  If you had read down a few pages you will have seen that The Interplanetary Daily Gossip is legally obliged to provide you with a translator and a lawyer, but by signing you have waived any rights that you had.  We have translators in over twenty six million languages and dialects you know, quite the most comprehensive translating service in this quadrant of the universe.”

“Does nobody speak English anymore?”

“Quite frankly Mr Monuitt, you are exceedingly lucky that we have a translator that does speak English and who was able to programme my earpiece.  It is not designated a ‘rare, obscure archaic language’ for nothing you know.  Only a handful of scholars in any given millennium choose to major in it.”

“Druitt, the name is Druitt.  If you are going to prosecute me, you can at least get my name right.”

“Come, come Mr Druitt did you say?  Things have taken an unpleasant turn. All you have to do is tell us why Aten is here on planet Earth and show us your face.  Then we will go away and leave you in peace. Promise!”

“You really mean that?”

“Sure and would it help you make your mind if I told you a little secret?  Bread and onions would be regarded as luxury gourmet cuisine in the titanium mines. You would also never see sunlight for nine years and would be working back to back, non-stop shifts.  I hear that they find the whip to be very useful in encouraging lazy workers.  Why you are trembling, are you feeling alright?”

“If I tell you will you promise not to let Aten know that I told?”

“Of course, as I said before, everything you tell us is just between us and my millions of viewers.  But first, let us have a look at your face?  Stulfano, take that cloth away with the long tongs.  You don’t want to be touching it, it looks filthy and in this backwater could even be lousy.”

“I say, that’s a bit rude.  Owww, you’ve got my ear with those things. Please let it go, you are hurting me. I’m going to howl.”

My, my you really don’t look much like a Victorian gentleman, do you?  More like some kind of dog?”

“A basset hound, there I said it, I now have the features of a basset hound.  Good solid breed.  Could have been much worse.”

“So to all our viewers who are just tuning in, we are here on planet Earth interviewing a member of First Family Aten’s entourage, who has just very kindly just exposed his face to us.  Shockingly, this human has the features, fur and claws of some kind of dog.  Should this kind a thing be allowed in a modern galaxy?  Please vote now on the poll that you will see flashing up on your screen.”

“I’m not sure it was allowed exactly.”

“So have you always looked like that Mr Drumont?”

“Of course not, I told you before; people used to think me rather handsome, especially the young ladies I have been told.  Can I please cover up again, this is rather too embarrassing.”

“So Aten got a change spell wrong again?”

“No, yes, I mean....  I mean I’m sure he never meant it to happen. Please give me my shawl back?

“Not until you tell us what Aten is doing here?”

“Oh give me that, stop dangling it just within reach and then jerking it back.  I’m sure that your viewers are not enjoying the sight of my face or my obvious discomfort.”

“I think that you will find that our viewers are a broad-minded crowd. Just tell us what he is doing here and it will all be over.”

“He’s stuck.  There, I told you. He’s stuck!”

“Stuck?  How very curious.  And how exactly did such a prominent member of galaxy society get stuck on a rock like this?”

“I have already told you too much.  Please go away?”

“Just answer this question and I promise that we will leave you in peace.”

“And never come back?”

“Never. We promise.”

“Well if you promise.  He ran out of fuel.  He forgot to fill up at the last inter galactic filling station and so he is stuck here until he can get more fuel.”

“For our viewers just tuning in, this is possibly the scoop of the century.  First Family member Aten has fluffed yet another change spell, leaving this poor human looking like a dog.  Will he finally be censured this time by the High Council?  But most shockingly, he is here on Earth because he is stuck.  That’s right folks, you heard it here first.  The great Aten is stuck on Earth.”

“Oh I say, that’s a bit harsh.”

“We now have to be moving on  to our next segment, bringing you the interplanetary gossip that you crave every minute of every day. But before I go I would like to thank Mr Drutly for his kind co-operation and for giving us this amazing scoop.  How will the news that Aten is stuck go down on his home planet?  Stay tuned as I try and track down a family member to interview. And as a gesture of our appreciation Mr Truitgue, I would like to give you this complimentary flask of fuel.  I think that you will find that it is just enough to get you some hot water to bathe in and make yourself a cup of tea.  You will really have to improve hygiene around here if you want to pull the tourists in you know, people expect decent amenities these days.  You can’t just rely on the back to primitive crowd to turn a profit.  Stulfano, get us out of here.

(Low sobs coming from Druitt can be heard and then the rattle of chariot wheels turning into the courtyard.)

“Druitt, why are you standing out in the sun like an idiot?  Are you crying?  And what’s that you’re holding?”

“It’s a complimentary flask of ship’s fuel.”

“Where the devil did you get that?”

“Some reporter, Ronalda something or other from the Interplanetary Daily Gossip gave it to me.”

“Ronalda Bauxneitner was here?  What did you tell her?  How did she know I was here?”

“I told here as little as I could, but she threatened me.”

“She beat you or hold your paws over hot coals?”

“No, no she threatened to prosecute me and send me to some titanium mines where they wouldn’t feed me for years.”

“And you believed her?”

“Well she said it was in the thing she made me sign.”

“Give me strength. Druitt what did you say?”

“Only that you were stuck and she guessed about the change spell when she saw my face.”

“You told Ronalda Bauxneitner that I was stuck?  You told Ronalda Bauxneitner that I got the change spell wrong?  So the whole universe including Uncle Lucie and my father now know I’m stuck on this sorry planet with a loser like you? How do you think that makes me look? And did another teensy little thing not occur to you?”

“Like what?”

“Like that to get here she would have had to have come in a ship that had fuel in it? Those roving reporter vessels never carry less than five spare canisters. If you had had the sense to keep her here until I got back, we could all be on our way home by now?”

“But I thought that you just would have wanted her to be gone as soon as possible.”

“Please don’t think Druitt, just do as you are told occasionally.  Give me that flask before you do something stupid with it.  Do I have to do everything around here?  What have I done to deserve being stuck here with a bunch of losers like you?”

“But she said that I could use the fuel to heat water for a bath.”

“In your dreams, Druitt I have much better uses for this!”

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You can follow Aten and Druitt’s adventures in Pharaoh's Gold - Aten Sequence 1.  You can get it on Amazon: or from the itunes bookstore, Sony, Kobo, Barnes&Noble, Copia, eBookPie, Gardener’s and eSentral. You don't even need a Kindle because you can download an app for free from Amazon.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Nefertiti – Where Did She Come From and Where Did She Go?

When Aten gets stuck on Earth, he goes to Ancient Egypt at the beginning of the Amarna period so that he can steal the gold kept in the vaults of the great temple of Amen at Karnak. He manages to drag most of the Egyptian royal family into his adventures and this includes possibly the most beautiful queen to ever reign in Egypt, Nefertiti.  Although in the Aten Sequence books Nefertiti’s exploits are all fictional, there is a real mystery surrounding the historical queen as her origins are shadowy and we don’t know how or when she died. So who was this charismatic, glamorous Egyptian queen, whose name was ‘a beautiful woman has come’?  Where did she come from and what happened to her?

Queen Nefertiti - Berlin Museum
Queen Nefertiti

There are many theories about the origins of Nefertiti.  She is first documented historically after the accession to the throne of her husband Amenophis IV, who later became known as Akhenaten.  She was his Great Royal Wife, and unlike earlier Egyptian consorts, who were shadowy figures, was depicted on temple and tomb walls and in statuary in equal size to her husband.  She is also shown engaging in some unusual activities for a queen, such as driving her own chariot and even smiting the enemies of Egypt, imagery that is normally reserved for kings.  The precedent had been set in the earlier reign of her husband’s father Amenophis III, when his Great Royal Wife Tiye was given prominence on many of his monuments. Also unusual in Egyptian art, were the images of the royal couple kissing and embracing and showing affection to their daughters.  Either they really were a devoted couple in love; or that putting emphasis on or depicting the love and closeness of the royal family was important in some way to the new cult of the Aten.

It is very unlikely that Nefertiti was a daughter of Amenophis III, as her titles do not include ‘King’s Daughter’, ‘King’s Daughter Whom He Loves’ or ‘King’s Daughter of His Body’.  She is referred to as ‘Heiress’, ‘Lady of the Two Lands’, ‘Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt’ and ‘Great Royal Wife’, but none of these titles imply in any way that she came from a royal background.

It has been postulated that Nefertiti was a foreign princess; sent from the court of either the Hittites or the Mitanni to be married to pharaoh and cement alliances between the two countries.  However, there is no evidence to either support this or refute it.   Several princesses from foreign courts are on record as arriving in the harem of Amenophis III.  Tadukhipa, the daughter of Tushratta King of Mitanni arrived at court in Year 36, and has been identified both with Nefertiti and a lesser wife of Akhenaten called Kiya.

If Nefertiti was, indeed, of Egyptian descent; then who were her parents?  Her only known relative is her sister, or half-sister, Mutnodjmet, whose name means ‘Sweet One of Mut’.  She is referred to in inscriptions in tombs at Amarna as ‘sister of the King’s Great Wife, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti’ and is often portrayed with the elder three of Nefertiti’s own daughters. Mutnodjmet is also frequently depicted being accompanied by two dwarfs.  She is believed to have been a daughter of Ay and Tey, as she features prominently in their tomb at Amarna
Ay was a prominent courtier of Akhenaten’s, holding the title ‘Overseer of All the Horses of His Majesty’.  He is thought to have been the son of Yuya and Thuya,who originated from the regional town of Akhmin, therefore making him a brother to Tiye, the Great Royal Wife of Amenophis III.  Therefore, if Ay was also the father of Nefertiti, this would explain how she was close enough to the Royal Family to marry one of the princes.  However, there is no indication that Ay’s wife Tey was Nefertiti’s birth mother, as nowhere does she claim the title of Queen’s mother, only that of nurse.  Neither does Ay claim the title of ‘Queen’s Father’; but he did claim the title ‘God’s Father’ which had been held by his father Yuya before him.  Yuya was a fairly uncommon name in Ancient Egypt, which has led to a belief that he, too, was of foreign origin.

Nefertiti was influential in Akhenaten’s breaking away from the old god’s of Egypt and the adopting of the worship of the Aten.  By year 5, Amenophis IV had changed his name to Akhenaten and by Year 7 the royal couple with their daughters had moved to the new capital they had built at Akhetaten, modern day Amarna.  The couple had six daughters, Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Neferneferuaten, Neferneferure and Setepenre.  There is no evidence that they had any sons; but Amenophis III in the previous reign had never mentioned any of his sons on his monuments, so there could have been princes that we have no evidence for.  Amenophis III also paved the way to the prominence of the Amarna princesses on their father’s monuments, as he portrayed his daughter’s with their names and titles on his statues and temples.  Indeed, several of them were also given the title ‘King’s Wife’, indicating that they were married to their father, although we do not know whether these marriages were actual or purely symbolic.

The cracks seem to have started appearing at Akhetaten around Year 12.  Princess Meketaten appears to have died at that time.  There are theories that she died in childbirth, or that she died of a plague that was sweeping through the Middle East during this period.  The two younger princesses’, Neferneferure and Setepenre also seem to disappear from the records around that time, also possibly victims of the plague.

Nefertiti herself disappears from history around Year 14 of her husband’s reign.  The question is did she die, did she fall from grace in some way, or did she change her name and rule briefly as co-regent and as pharaoh after her husband’s death?  There are no historical records of her death and there is no evidence of her being buried in the royal tomb at Amarna, although some jewellery bearing her cartouche was discovered outside.

Royal Chariot at Amarna
Royal Chariot at Amarna

In the tomb of Amenophis II in the Valley of the Kings, three mummies were found in a side chamber.  One of these, known as the ‘Younger Woman’ was put forward as being the mummy of Nefertiti.  The style of mummification points to the late 18th dynasty, there was a distinctive wig in the ‘Nubian’ style known to be worn by Nefertiti found nearby, the mummy has double piercing in her ears as Nefertiti is depicted as having, the lower half of the face is mutilated, and a snapped off arm in the bent position reserved for royal women of the period was believed to have belonged to the body.  However, other women of the royal court are depicted wearing similar wigs and with double pierced ears.  It was believed that the mutilation of the face was a deliberate act to destroy the identity of the mummy after embalming had taken place, as an act of vengeance against the wife of the ‘heretic’ king.

However, it has been argued that if the wound had been inflicted post-embalming there would be fragments of bone and dried flesh in it.  Indeed, it was pointed out that there were very few pieces of the relevant bones found in the sinus cavity and therefore it was most likely that the wound was inflicted before death.  It was also found that the bent arm did not actually belong to the mummy; but it was rather a straight arm also found in the vicinity that was the correct one.  However, when the DNA of the ‘Younger Woman’ mummy was analysed during the ‘Tutankhamun Family Project’ in 2010, it was shown that this royal lady was, in fact, one of the daughters of Amenophis III and Queen Tiye and the mother of the famous boy king Tutankhamun. Which daughter is not certain, but although Amenophis III married several of his daughters, there is no evidence that he married either Nebetah or Baketaten, so they could have married their brother and given birth to Tutankhamun.

So the mummy of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti has still not been found. Positively identifying her remains may have given us valuable evidence about how she was related to the royal family, her health during her life and, possibly. give us the cause of her death.  So what was her eventual fate?  The ‘fall from grace’ theory comes from the fact that some cartouches and titles of Nefertiti were thought to have been removed from monuments and replaced by those of her daughter Meritaten’s.  It is now believed, however, that it was one of Akhenaten’s other queens, Kiya, whose name and titles were replaced.

Nefertiti as an older woman
Nefertiti as an older woman

The theory that seems to be gaining popularity is the one that Nefertiti lived on for several years under a different name, either as a Co-Regent with Akhenaten or as pharaoh on her own.  It is believed by some that she first changed her name to Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten as Co-regent and then to Ankhkheperure Smenkhare, as she ruled briefly alone.  Some of the evidence for this comes from the Co-Regency Stela in the Petrie Museum in London, which depicts Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Meritaten.  At some time later Nefertiti’s name was chiselled out and replaced with Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten, and Meritaten’s replaced with that of her sister Ankhesenpaaten.  The two names have also been associated with the ephemeral pharaoh Smenkhare, who is thought to have ruled for approximately three years after the death of Akhenaten, and who was believed to be married to the royal couple’s eldest daughter Meritaten.  It has been suggested that Nefertiti assumed the crown as Smenkhare, and that Meritaten acted as her queen consort after the death of Akhenaten.

It may be that we will never really know what happened in those shadowy years at the court at Akhetaten.  Is the truth still buried under the shifting sands of Egypt, or has all the evidence been lost forever?  There is undoubtedly a lot still to be found, and new discoveries, such as the new tomb KV 63 in the Valley of the Kings, will hopefully fill in some of the missing details of the this fascinating period in Egypt’s ancient past.

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Queen Nefertiti image Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
Older Nefertiti image Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
Amarna Chariot Image Kurohito Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

KV55 - Mystery Tomb of the Valley of the Kings

In the Aten Sequence books, Aten needs gold and he is not particularly scrupulous as to where he gets it from, so he sets up a little tomb robbing with Piy on the side.  During this period of Egypt’s history Pharaohs were buried in rock cut tombs in a remote, arid valley on the west bank of the Nile called the Valley of the Kings and then, during the reign of Akhenaten, tombs were dug at Akhetaten.  But so much of the history of the Amarna period is still not clear and there is a tomb in the Valley of the Kings that has raised at least as many questions as it has answered – the mysterious KV55.

So when did the first pharaoh get buried in the royal valley and why was this remote valley chosen?  Early in the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom one of pharaoh’s architects, a government official called Ineni, broke away from hundreds of years of royal tradition and dug the first royal rock cut tomb in a remote, lonely valley  ‘alone, no one seeing and no one hearing’.  Before this time the pharaohs had been buried in above-ground structures, initially in mastabas and then in pyramids and the larger and more visible they were the better.

Sarcophagus from KV55
Sarcophagus from KV55

We will never know for sure what led to this breaking away from tradition, but it may have been due to the fact that it did not matter how big or solid the structure was, these above-ground tombs were almost inevitably penetrated by tomb robbers and the rich contents of the burial chamber stolen and the mummy of the king ripped apart and destroyed to find the precious amulets and jewellery that were hidden in the wrappings.

To date sixty four tombs have been found in the Valley of the Kings, although many Egyptologists believe that there are more waiting to be discovered.  These are the tombs of pharaohs, queens, royal children and favoured officials and are labelled numerically from KV1 to KV64.  Some of these tombs are huge constructions reaching deep into the cliffs, elaborately carved and painted, and some are little more than shallow pits scratched out of the rock.

The Valley of the Kings has been a tourist attraction since Roman times, as is attested by the graffiti found in some of the tombs, and since the 19th century has attracted visitors from all over the world.  The spectacular discovery of the undisturbed tomb of Tutankhamun in 1921 increased the flood of visitors and it has been declared that there is nothing left to find in the royal valley.

This has been refuted in recent years by the discovery of KV63 and now KV64, but with all the wealth of knowledge that we have about the royal valley, there is still a lot that we do not know and mysteries abound.

KV55 – the mysterious ‘Amarna’ Cache

In 1907 Edward R Ayrton, working on the behest of Theodore M Davis, uncovered a set of steps and the entrance to a previously unknown tomb. There was excitement when the sloping passage was found to be filled with clean loose chippings and they encountered two blocking walls, one a wall plastered and bearing the unbroken seal of the Royal Valley – the impression of a seated jackal, the god Anubis on a shrine and the crouching figures of nine bound captives.

When the walls were demolished they found two side panels of a wooden shrine covered in fine gold leaf and richly inscribed. They were in very poor condition but the hieroglyphs could still be read; they had belonged to Queen Tiye, the Great Royal Wife of Amenophis III and the mother of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten.  The end of the sloping passage led to a large, undecorated chamber containing further parts of the shrines, a battered mummy case and other objects apparently randomly strewn across the floor of the room.

All of these objects were also in very poor condition and the gold leaf fell to the floor as the air was disturbed.  Four alabaster canopic jars with exquisitely carved portrait heads were found in a niche in the far wall, but the name of the owner had been deliberately destroyed.

Canopic Jar From KV55 - Kiya
Canopic Jar From KV55 

On examination, they found that the golden coffin was collapsing onto the floor and contained a poorly preserved, albeit obviously royal, mummy with its left arm crossed over its chest and the right arm extended.  A gold vulture pectoral had been placed on the head of the mummy.  The mummy was unwrapped and examined in the tomb and sheets of gold removed, one with a cartouche on it thought to be that of Akhenaten.

There were also a couple of wooden boxes whose contents had been strewn across the floor, four magic bricks, some seals bearing the name of Tutankhamun and other fragments of furniture.  The wooden objects had all been damaged by water entering the tomb.

Some of the confusion surrounding the tomb concerns the poor documentation of the objects in situ, the lack of work done on preserving the objects and the rapid clearing of the tomb.  But who had the tomb been prepared for?  Who was the decaying mummy in the battered coffin?  Theodore Davis was convinced that he had found the burial of the great queen Tiye and the once magnificent golden shrine had indeed been made for her by her son Akhenaten.  With one exception, the name of Akhenaten had been deliberately erased and the images decorating the panels show Akhenaten and Tiye worshipping the sun disc.  The way that the parts of the shrine have been stacked in the tomb, indicate that it might have once been erected in the chamber and then later dismantled, probably in antiquity.

There is also evidence that the coffin had been made for a female occupant and then later adapted for a male; there was a false beard, a crook and a flail added and the inscriptions were altered.  The titles of Akhenaten have been found on the coffin and it is now thought that the coffin was originally made, along with the four canopic jars, for a lesser wife of his, Kiya, and then later adapted for him.

However, is the mummy really that of Akhenaten?  Davis had the bones pronounced as those of a woman, but later examinations showed the bones belonging to a young male aged between twenty and thirty.  The skull was found to be platycephalic and very similar to the skull of Tutankhamun.  In addition, specialised blood tests showed that the mummy discovered in KV55 was either the father or brother of Tutankhamun.  The age of the mummy is much too young to have been that of the heretic Pharaoh and so the body has been identified by many as that of Smenkhkare.

Smenkhkare was a shadowy figure who ruled Egypt for a scant three years after the death of Akhenaten.  There are arguments that he was co-ruler with Akhenaten for a while and even that Smenkhkare was a name assumed by Akhenaten’s wife Nefertiti, so that she could rule as pharaoh in her own right.  He is generally believed to be the elder brother of Tutankhamun and was married to Akhenaten’s eldest daughter Meritaten.
In 2010 Dr Hawass released a paper on the recent DNA testing of the royal mummies which suggests that the KV55 mummy is that of Akhenaten.  However, this has stirred up even more debate with some experts rejecting this identification.

So what really happened in this tomb?  Was KV55 a cache of miscellaneous funerary objects from the Amarna period that had been brought back from the royal necropolis at Akhetaten for safe keeping?  Was the tomb the original burial of Queen Tiye, the tomb being opened in antiquity and the remains of the burial of Akhenaten placed in the tomb, with at some later stage the burial of Tiye being removed elsewhere and the funerary objects of Akhenaten defaced and his name removed?  Were the burials of Tiye, Akhenaten and Smenkhkare all in the tomb together at some stage?

Skull from KV55
Skull from KV55

Unless some new evidence is uncovered, we might never know.  It is perhaps worth remembering that several of the funerary items, including one of the coffins, found in the burial of Tutankhamun are believed to have previously belonged to Smenkhkare.  They were referred to as ‘heirlooms’ by Howard Carter, but would such costly items really have been excluded from Smenkhkare’s burial?  Maybe they were not unused ‘heirlooms’ that had been put into storage at all, maybe they had once been part of Smenkhkare’s grave goods and had either been taken from KV55 directly or brought from a another location and briefly stored in KV55 before being used in the burial of Tutankhamun?

There is so much more evidence and knowledge still to emerge from the shifting sands of Egypt; hopefully some of it will help to shed more light on the riddle that is KV55.

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Get Twitter Buttons KV55 sarcophagus image Hans Ollermann Wikimedia Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution 2.0 Generic
Canopic jar image Captmondo Wikimedia Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution 2.5 Generic
KV55 Skull Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Don’t Be a Desperate Newbie Author

Please buy my book, please buy my book, please, please buy my book!

Now this could be called, if you were in a generous mood, a call to action. But then again it might just come across as being a little bit desperate. The unfortunate thing about this is that during the times when we are most in need we are also our most unattractive. Like those long ago times at the school disco when you stood frantically checking out the boys on the other side of the room, hoping against hope that one of them would dare to break rank and come and ask you to dance, while you pretended to be so cool and uncaring.  It didn’t happen because despite your best efforts, despite the false giggles and talking to your mates, you reeked of desperation.

Now, like me, you may have just self published your very first book or even have been lucky enough to have landed a traditional publishing deal.   You have probably been thinking about this book, writing this book, editing this book and procrastinating over this book for years. But all of a sudden, you now have a tangible product in your hands or on your e-reader. And you have to sell it, because these days nobody is going to do it for you.

So what do you do when you run out of obliging friends and family that can be persuaded, sweet talked or bribed to download your pride and joy? When you realise that all of your loved ones have started leaving the room when you enter or are discreetly taking the battery out of their hearing aids rather than listen to any more of your pitiful begging? To be quite honest, I don’t really know.  So far I have managed to rein in my impulse to run down the road and accost total strangers, but for how much longer?

But the one thing I have learned is that is fatal to come over as desperate, under confident and generally like a typical newbie. To be like one of those kids with their faces eternally pressed up against the window of the sweet shop that never gets to go in and choose their candy. One of the problems, oddly enough, is not that there is too little information out there about how to sell and promote your book. In fact there is probably way too much. There is blog after blog, website after website, free download after free download all trying to tell you that they have the secrets that you are looking for, the tips that will get you results, and the only wisdom that you will ever need in your journey to becoming a best-selling author. Now I was very surprised to find that I should have started promoting my book at least a year before I published it, but unfortunately for me that is a boat that has already sailed. But at some point you are going to have to put your toes in the water and starting pushing your work in order to gain an audience.

Now whether you choose to blog, tweet, Facebook, Pin or do combinations of lots of things is up to you, but here are some general things to bear in mind:

1)      Although you are a brand new author, with maybe just one title or an unfinished manuscript under your belt, you are still an writer and should be proud of what you do.  Being a good writer means learning all the time, and often the people we can learn the most from are established authors who have garnered a lot of skill and experience over the years. But just because someone has written a raft of best-sellers and is a household name, does not mean that you have to abase yourself before them and go to the extremes of follower behaviour. Always speak and communicate with your writing peers as an equal, and while acknowledging that other authors deserve respect for their achievements, remember that you too have experience, skills and a lot to offer.

2)      Criticism is always hard to take and as writers we are inevitably going to get some bad reviews and criticism of our work.  However, it looks so much better to the world if we learn to deal with these bad reviews graciously and, if the criticism is constructive, take on board what was said and use it to improve our writing in the future.  After all, we are always learning right? But one of the sad facts of the world today is that the internet is infested with trolls, nut jobs and people with nothing better to do than judge other people’s work.  The trick is to discern genuine constructive criticism that you can learn from, and which reviews are just attacks or nastiness.  Also, it is important to remember that reviewers are talking about your book and not you as a person.  If a troll does start attacking you personally, blank them and they will generally get bored and go away.  Or hit the report button of whatever social media site you are on if you are sure that they are really having a go at you and not just expressing an opinion that you do not like.

3)      Another important thing to remember is that while we may be trembling jellies, unsure of ourselves and how our books will be received by the world, there are plenty of people out there, especially on the internet that are mighty sure of themselves.  Unfortunately, just because they come across well and have a shiny, slick looking website doesn’t mean that they are experts or know what they are talking about.  If you do a lot of research and reading you will come to work out those writers and bloggers who really do know their stuff and who resonate with you. But before you are really sure of someone’s expertise and credentials, don’t be tempted to be parted from your money.  You could easily spend a lot and gain very little, or even be outright scammed if you are not careful.

4)      A guru is someone who discovered something that worked well for them and then communicated how they achieved that success to their followers.  This is great and you can learn a lot.  It does not, however, mean that if we slavishly follow their every move that it will necessarily work for you or me. We are all on our own, individual writing journeys and have different goals, different ways of doing things and different comfort zones. So we need to test things out, try different things and build our own promotional toolkit of things that work for us.  And when we do find something that works well for us, pay it forward and share it with the followers that we have gained. And then you might just be surprised to find that people have started talking about you as the latest hot shot writing, publishing or social media guru.

5)      Don’t get caught up in the politics.  I was blissfully unaware of the raging arguments between Indie and traditional publishing before I started my reading and research, and have been somewhat surprised by the heat and vehemence displayed in some of the opinions for and against both positions.  Again you need to do what you feel is right for you and this may change on a book by book basis.  I have chosen to self publish my first book without exploring the traditional route, but that is my decision and I applaud any author who chooses the traditional route. Life is a smorgasbord as far as I am concerned and I have always been a fan of a pick n’ mix approach to life.

I think that we newbie authors can be guilty of taking ourselves a bit too seriously. It used to be so much easier in the good old days, when all we had to do was labour over our manuscripts in a freezing, windy attic for years before dying and being ‘discovered’ years after our deaths. Now we not only have to write a good book, we have to brand ourselves, build an author platform and try to be a professional in every situation that life throws at us. But ask yourself why you really write.  Do you have a story inside you that just has to be told?  Do you want the freedom from commuting and a workplace that writing can offer you?  Do you want to have fun and experiment a bit?

So be proud of your achievements so far and face the world with confidence and a sense of self worth.  Desperation just attracts the predators in and leads us to making bad decisions.  So we owe it to ourselves to chill out a bit, enjoy the journey as we go along and trust that if our work is good enough and we do some work on promotion that people will find our books, read them, enjoy them and come back for more.

One last thing......please buy my book, please buy my book, please, please buy my book!!!

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Sunday, 6 January 2013

Aten’s Egypt – The Amarna Period

The Aten Sequence books are pure fantasy, a product of my imagination, yet they are set in a period of our history that was very real.  I have shamelessly ‘borrowed’ some of the most important public figures of that time for my books and created personalities for them and given them a story that in reality they never lived.  So what were their real lives about and what was the true story of this unique slice of ancient Egyptian history known as the Amarna Period?

Worshipping the Aten - Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
Akhenaten and his family worshipping the Aten

Aten chooses to touch down in the reign of the Pharaoh Amenophis III for a very good reason.  He needs gold, lots of gold, vast quantities of gold.  And at this time, towards the end of the 18th dynasty in the New Kingdom, Ancient Egypt was enjoying perhaps the most prosperous, peaceful decades of her long history.  Amenophis III preferred to employ diplomacy rather than war craft, and during his reign he benefitted greatly from the previous military brilliance of his mighty Thutmosid forefathers who had pushed the boundaries of the Egyptian Empire ever wider. His was, quite literally, a golden reign of building, carving statues and creating exquisite jewelry, ornaments and funerary equipment.

He was on the throne from approximately 1386 BC and 1349 BC and was the son of Pharaoh Thutmosis IV and one of his minor wives, Mutemwaya.  His name, Amenophis, means ‘Amen is satisfied’ and during his long reign the great god Amen was the principle deity out of all the huge pantheon of traditional gods that were worshipped in Egypt at this time. The huge temple at Karnak on the east bank of the Nile at Thebes was dedicated to Amen, his consort Mut and their son Khonsu and the priests who ran the temple were immensely wealthy and powerful.

But Amen had not always been the most prominent and powerful of the Egyptian gods.  In the Old Kingdom solar deities, such as Re, had been greatly venerated and pyramids and sun temples had been built to honour them.  The sun was worshipped as a universal source of light, life and power and the early pharaohs had linked the power of the solar rays with their own potency and vigour as the king. The reign of Amenophis would see the return to prominence of these solar gods, paving the way for the startling, heretical beliefs of his son and successor, the Pharaoh who became known to the world as Akhenaten.

During this part of the late 18th dynasty, the royal women were especially honoured and shown in images, reliefs and statues in ways that they had never been done before.  Amenophis III took the unusual step of marrying out of the immediate royal family and taking as his Great Royal Wife an unknown girl called Tiye. Although not of royal birth, Queen Tiye was depicted as her husband’s equal in statues and wall paintings. In earlier times the queen, if she was mentioned at all, was shown as a much smaller figure and given considerably less prominence on her royal husband’s monuments. Royal children were also rarely shown, but Amenophis III recorded his daughter’s names and titles on many of his monuments.  His sons were not mentioned, but it is known from other archaeological evidence that his eldest son was called Thutmose or Dhutmose and that he was acknowledged as the crown prince.  It was only his early death that allowed his younger brother Akhenaten to gain the crown.

Pharaoh Akhenaten - Wikimedia Commons
Pharaoh Akhenaten

Akhenaten had originally been called Amenophis IV after his illustrious father and he was to take the worship of the sun to even greater lengths than his father did.  He succeeded to the throne of Egypt in around 1350 BC and reigned for a couple of years as Pharaoh Amenophis IV.  He initially followed the traditional path of starting building projects to enlarge the temple at Karnak, but he very quickly took up the worship of the god Aten, who was the divine sun disk. It was around this time that he changed his name to Akhenaten and started to build, create images and carve statues in a bold, new style.  Egyptian art had altered very little over the last couple of thousand years and was very elegant and stylised.  

This new art was more realistic and more focused on the natural world.  For the first time the Pharaoh was not recorded in the conventional way, but was shown with a saggy belly, skinny arms and legs, and long face.  The royal family were shown with strangely elongated skulls, and were displayed in intimate scenes of family life, even kissing and showing affection.  Once again, it was the royal women were afforded the greatest prominence. Akhenaten followed his father’s example and married a beautiful girl called Nefertiti whose origins are obscure and they had six daughters who were frequently shown with the royal couple. Above all these scenes of royal life, the Aten disk is shown with rays of sun ending in little hands, sometimes holding the ankh of life, reaching down to bless the family’s activities.

Amarna Princess - Wikimedia Commons
Amarna Princess - Wikimedia Commons

 Eventually Akhenaten felt compelled to move his capital city and the centre of Aten worship away from the contaminating presence of the cult and priests of Amen in Thebes.  He searched the country until he came upon a virgin site in Middle Egypt that had never been inhabited or built on before.  It was an arid, desert plain on the east bank of the Nile encircled by cliffs. He named his new city Akhetaten or ‘Horizon of the Aten’ and carved a number of huge boundary stela in the cliffs proclaiming his new city and that these were its boundaries. 

The new city, called el Amarna in modern times, was meticulously planned and laid out with huge temples open to the sun, royal palaces, streets, houses, shops and workplaces.  He started digging tombs for himself and other members of his family in the eastern cliffs, which was another departure from tradition as the dead had always previously been laid to rest on the west bank of the river Nile.  The court, army, craftsmen and many others followed their king to this new life, and workmen were sent out across the country to erase the names of the traditional gods from temples, tombs and monuments.

But Akhenaten’s glorious new dream was not destined to last for very long.  The building took time and many of the temples and public buildings were not completed until around year 8 of his reign.  The pinnacle of the city of Akhetaten’s glory and power was probably the grand jubilee celebrations of year 12, where foreign rulers and dignitaries came to the city to pay homage to the Pharaoh and bring him rich and costly gifts. After this time the effects of Akhenaten’s disinterest in international relations, maintaining order in the Empire and dealing with domestic affairs became more and more apparent.  Rulers of vassal states wrote desperately for help as they were put under pressure from Egypt’s enemies, but their pleas for aid went unanswered.

There were also numerous deaths in the royal family in the years following the jubilee with the royal couple’s second daughter Princess Meketaten dying by year 14, with scenes of her death being carved in the royal tomb. Images of a royal infant in the scene have led to speculation that the young princess could have died in childbirth, but there is also the possibility that she died in a plague that was sweeping through the Middle East at this time. Her two youngest sisters Nefernefrure and Setepenre were absent from these reliefs suggesting that they were already dead and this was the last time that we know of that Queen Nefertiti is shown on a monument.  

Akhenaten’s secondary wife Kiya also seems to have disappeared around this time. The last years of the city are ones of decline and confusion.  Archaeological evidence is scarce, so the exact details and dates of Akhenaten’s death, the reign of the shadowy Pharaoh Smenkhare who followed him and the accession of the boy king Tutankhamen can only be guessed at.  The city was stripped and allowed to fall into ruin, and the Pharaoh’s that followed turned Egypt back to its traditional gods and tried to erase every trace of what they regarded as a shameful, heretical blot on their glorious history.

Akhenaten has attracted many supporters and an equal amount of detractors in modern times.  Some regard him as the first person to worship a single god and adopt a monotheistic religion and he has even been identified with the biblical Moses. Others view him as a heretical dreamer who allowed his country and Empire to go to rack and ruin as he pursued his new ideas and religious mania.  Although the sun disk Aten was promoted as the most important deity by Akhenaten, other solar deities were tolerated.

 It was the other gods and goddesses who were persecuted with their temples being defaced and priests being turned out. It is also important to recognise that the Aten was not a god for the ordinary people.  The beneficial, power giving rays of the sun were only ever extended towards Akhenaten and his family and it was the king who formed the link between the god and the people.  Therefore, the people worshipped the Pharaoh as a means of communicating with the divine, so Akhenaten wanted to be honoured as a god himself rather than be the founding father of monotheistic religion in the world.

So this fascinating period of ancient Egyptian history gives my rather fertile imagination plenty of scope for the adventures of my fictional character Aten and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed creating them.

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Akhenaten image Szczebrzeszynski Wikimedia Commons Attribution Share Alike 1.0 Generic