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Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt [Paperback]

Dominic Montserrat
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Dec 2002
The pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt in the mid-fourteenth century BCE, has been the subject of more speculation than any other character in Egyptian history. Often called the originator of monotheism and the world's first recorded individual, he has fascinated and inspired both scholars of Egyptology and creative talents as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Philip Glass.
This provocative biography examines both the real Akhenaten and the myths that have been created around him. It scrutinises the history of the pharaoh and his reign, which has been continually written in Eurocentric terms inapplicable to ancient Egypt, and the archaeology of Akhenaten's capital city, Amarna. It goes on to explore the pharaoh's extraordinary cultural afterlife, and the way he has been invoked to validate ideas as diverse as psychoanalysis, racial equality and fascism. Dr Montserrat makes the point that our view of Akhenaten has never been based purely on historical or archaeological knowledge, but is a cultural hallucination, influenced by western desires about ancient Egypt and modern struggles for legitimation and authority.
Combining up-to-date historical synthesis with extensive new archival research, Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt is the first book to assess critically why the archaeology of ancient Egypt continues to fascinate. Theoretically astute and engagingly written, and illustrated with many striking images never previously published, it will appeal to anyone with an interest in Akhenaten or in the archaeology of ancient Egypt.

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Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt + In the Light of Amarna: 100 Years of the Nefertiti Discovery
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Product details

  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (26 Dec 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415301866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415301862
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 847,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'I can thoroughly recommend the refreshingly idiosyncratic approach to the phenomenon of Amarna in Akhenaten. Dr Montserrat has clearly read both deeply and widely in areas which for many of us are very much at the periphery of our Egyptological interests.' - Egyptian Archaeology

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Histories and biographies of Akhenaten usually end with the destruction of his city and the obliteration of his name by those who wanted to erase this memory for ever. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Luned99
This is one of the best-written Egyptology books I have ever encountered. Thoughtful, provocative and amusing, it is, as Montserrat made quite clear in the introduction, not a biography of Akhenaten, but a meta-biography. It is a book about the many changing narratives which generations of academics, popular writers and esotericists have created around the surviving evidence for Akhenaten's life and reign. He takes a number of key texts and art pieces and thoroughly deconstructs much of the nonsense that has been created around them, but in a non-judgmental and engaging manner which never patronises the reader. As a study of the discipline of Egyptology it is an invaluable resource, and should be required reading for anyone with a passing interest in New Kingdom Egypt. I felt that Montserrat adopted a remarkably well-balanced approach to the discussion, and the occasional flash of dry wit and occasional tongue-in-cheek attitude made it a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A different book on the notorious Pharaoh 29 April 2009
This book has a very interesting and different slant on the topic of Akhenaten. It is not a biography or book on the king per se but how others see and use him to support their own agendas. Much of what he shows is worrying, especially his own intolerances that are made quite clear in the section on the king's sexuality. I do take issue with his comment that a quote in some gay encyclopedia is 'shoddy'. Whether you agree with the encyclopedia or not what it is quoting comes straight out of a work by Desroches-Noblecourt, an Egyptologist, in the 1970's - here she sets out the then belief that Egypt was a matriachal society and that the throne passed in the female line; that Akhenaten was grief stricken at Nefertiti's death and took Smenkhare as her 'replacement'. Of course archeological work since has disproved much of this but to condemn a group of people because they are quoting from an out of date book when he didn't do the same for the other groups he mentioned is hardly showing his objectivity.

However, beside that very small caveat, the book is a worthwhile read and gives a fascinating insight into the human need to make heroes.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrendously overpriced for a mere skimming of information 27 Jun 2001
By Eric Wahl - Published on Amazon.com
I couldn't agree more with the reviewer from Georgia who mentioned that this book is a great idea betrayed by an utter lack of thoroughness. Indeed, and without belaboring what has already been said in that review, this potentially valuable idea (for somebody else's book) is quite a frustrating read. And it does seem like more of an annotated bibliography than a real study of/comparison between competing notions of ideas about Akhenaten. While much of the information provided is interesting, there is basically no room for investigation, for follow-through, for earnest authorial postulation. Too, I found the book a lumpy piece of writing. For any American-educated scholar there seems to exist a wholly annoying and singular European mode of academc writing that would drive the MLA absolutely insane. Whereas parts of this book are utterly fascinating, such as the discussion of the aborted Akhenaten film script by the late Derek Jarman, such parts are touched upon ever so slightly . . . The idea of this book rates an A for me, but the combination of iffy execution and alarming brevity (and PRICE!) cause me to caution anyone, especially poor graduate students, from plunking down a veritable jackpot wad only to receive this disappointing scholarly effort.
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Idea Betrayed by Superficiality, Political Correctness 21 May 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
The idea of a book on the different interpretations and appropriations of Akhenaten and his religion is simply wonderful, and I learned a lot of names and titles from this book which will be useful for further research. The book is also well-produced, and contains some very good illustrations. But it is ultimately more frustrating than enjoyable. I was annoyed by the superficiality of EVERY discussion. The author simply tries to cover too much territory in only 184 pages of text, which means that none of it is covered well. A book of double the length would actually have been more readable if it had included more substantive discussions. Lists of names and titles with brief and superficial synopses quickly become tedious. Parts of this book read like an annotated bibliography. Also annoying is the author's totally needless use of postmodern academic jargon and his politically correct pandering to certain privileged minorities. His diplomatic pussyfooting is truly remarkable in his discussion of Afrocentrist interpretations of Akhenaten. He carefully avoids pointing out blatant falsehoods and distortions, and he treats the use of completely fictitious and childish etymologies as merely a charming Negro folk custom without commenting on whether such etymologies are a good method for unearthing historical facts. This is a tedious, grossly overpriced, and morally compromised book. A waste of time and money.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Akhenaten at his muliplicitous best 3 Jan 2001
By "johnmorales" - Published on Amazon.com
Dominic Montserrat has succeeded in bringing to us a survey of the different myths, legends and scholarship that have surrounded the elusive Akhenaten and the finds at Amarna. Starting out with the thesis that how people illuminate this historical figure is directly linked with who those people are and what they are trying to accomplish. He proves this through an entertaining look at all the incarnations Akhenaten has had in our society since his discovery over a hundred years ago--as political, social, religious and even sexual icon. I appreciated the tone of this work because it was neither condemning, condescending or mocking of these different views but rather did a good job of showing how varied groups viewed him as the hero in antiquity that lent validation to who they were (are). However, it is hard not to smirk at least at how seemingly diametrically opposed groups, such as Nazis and homosexuals, could both see Akhenaten as their distant progenitor. Montserrat also looks at the different depictions of this period in fiction and movies, and even the opera of Phillip Glass. He also puts the scholarship of Amarna in the context of the scholars who wrote it and the sources from which they got their information. It is interesting to see the changing views of this intriguing period of Egyptian history and why. Montserrat furthermore succeeds by offering no opinion of his own as to who he thinks Akhenaten was. This would only further muddy the water and cause him to become part of his own thesis. I agree with him to leave Akhenaten as perhaps all things to all people.
Well researched and well written! If you are interested in Akhenaten or in how historical figures are used in modern times, buy this book!!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating study 5 Jun 2010
By K. A. Sanders - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a biography of Akhenaten, this is not the book for you. This book is, in fact, a fascinating study on how different times and cultures have viewed Akhenaten, and their own biases for the way they view him and the ways they attempt to use him. I read this book at the recommendation of Dr. Aidan Dodson, and I thank him for pointing me to it. Akhenaten is still very much a figure of controversy today, used by a wide variety of groups for personal and political goals. He has been seen as a proto-Christ figure, the world's first known transgendered individual, and a poster child for Marfan's Syndrome, just to name a few. I will admit to having a bit of trouble remaining calm while reading the section dealing with the Afrocentrists, as their attempts to re-write ancient Egyptian history (in direct opposition to actual archaeological data) for their own political agendas & egos are one of my own pet peeves. I include this comment as an example of the true topic of this book - that the hows and whys of people's views of Akhenaten can give you insights into their own biases and viewpoints. This is one for anthropologists and students of human behavior.
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