This is another post about Aidan Dodson’s Amarna Sunset
The fourth fact behind Dodson’s reconstruction is that the record of King Ak’s reign and reform gets largely erased. At least somebody tried hard to erase it. Dodson argues that this happened earlier than some other scholar’s think. So his suggestion is that the generals and priests who engineered the end of Nefertiti’s reign and approved Tut’s restoration stele also at least began the process of blotting out the history of the Aten cult and Ak’s legacy.
Someone had murdered the son of the Hittite king who was invited to marry Tut’s widow. Although we are not sure of his name, it may have been Zananzash. Historians sometimes call this the Zananzash affair. Ankhespaton was the name of the widow.
But with the Hittite candidate for the throne dead, somebody else had to become Pharaoh. The candidate who emerged was Ay, the general. Since Tut was dead and childless, the royal line had come to an end. So Ay, already a powerful figure and someone who may have been father or some other relation to Nefertiti, became the ruler of Egypt. He, probably 70 or so, married Tut’s young widow.
The delayed funeral for Tut became the occasion for passing the pharaoh’s rule on. The wall of Tut’s burial chamber shows Ay conducting the “opening the mouth ritual” for Tut. Dodson interprets this as important. We know that the ritual was part of a burial ceremony. But, usually, when the ceremony gets pictured in Egyptian art the participants are not recognizable characters. That the art here goes out of its way to show Ay as the officiant. This may have been a way of signaling the legitimacy of Ay’s regime, since he came to power in such extraordinary circumstances.
Ay would have been sympathetic with, perhaps the author of, the blame-Ak message of Tut’s restoration stelle. So with Ay’s rise to power the counter reformation or backlash to King Ak’s devotion to the one god manifested in the sun was in full swing.
The Opening the Mouth ritual is interesting. Apparently it was first performed when dedicating a temple or a new idol. The point of the ceremony was to animate an object. The Egyptians would bring food and offerings to a god. This sounds pretty stupid if you think that a temple or and idol is a man-made object. But the Opening the Mouth ceremony was thought to bestow sensory perception upon the object. So a stone or metal idol was able to enjoy the gifts people brought.
As Egyptian thinking about new life after death evolved, the ceremony began to be used in the funerals of royalty. The royal family was conceived of as divine and they joined the gods after death. The ceremony was to cause the occupant of the mummy to be reborn and reanimated in the world of the gods. Opening the mouth symbolized the return of sensory experience.
This interests me from the standpoint of the Jewish and Christian beliefs about resurrection. As C.S. Lewis once said whatever the resurrection of the body means, it at least means the return of the senses. The Egyptians could no more conceive of a disembodied after life than Jews and Christians could.
Marriage and death played a role in the game of thrones in the ancient world. Really it is still often so. Think of North Korea. This is a supposedly Marxist government that practices hereditary succession. But everybody knows the succession actually needs the approval of the generals.
And in some countries, like Iran for instance, the clergy’s approval is needed. In ancient Egypt there were rules for succession that supposedly upheld the special divine connection of the royal family. But the generals and the priests has a big role. So sometimes the king had a tenuous claim on royalty. But it did not matter if the generals and priests came together.