National Geographic : 1970 Nov
Holy realm of ancient Egypt, the area now known as Thebes blossomed with monuments. The exact location of Akhenaten's temple remains unknown. Many of its stones were re-used for foundations and fill in the monuments of Karnak. For simplicity and economy we used black and-white film, but one of our staff always was on hand to record for each carved block the most minute details of colors still clinging to costumes, flesh, jewelry, flowers, animals. For our analysis and matching program, I found a Cairo office and assembled a staff. Nearly all those enlisted were graduates in Egyptology from the University of Cairo.* We set to work. James Delmege aimed his lenses first at blocks in Karnak's largest store house. On a good day, Jim and his helpers could photograph about 400. None of us will ever forget the thrill when we achieved our first match of two Aten Tem ple blocks. I was in the office when Asmahan Shoucri (page 642), an attractive young woman with three school-age children, cried out with an exclamation of delight. She had seen that photoprints of two blocks fitted to form part of a scene showing sunrays and a hieroglyph. Most auspiciously, the inscription said, "The god's heart is pleased." Akhenaten Challenged Even the Gods What rewards warranted this elaborate ef fort to let these temple stones speak once more to men, after so many centuries of silence? The challenge lay in the complex personal ity and unorthodox goals of Akhenaten, whom the American Egyptologist James H. Breasted termed "the world's first idealist... the earli est monotheist, and the first prophet of inter nationalism-the most remarkable figure of the Ancient World before the Hebrews." Then, too, we shared the common curiosity about the eccentric king's marriage to Nefer titi, that symbol of queenly pride and beauty. The Egyptian empire was still in its golden age in the 14th century B.C., when Amenophis III turned over control of Egypt to his son. The new ruler may well have been still in his teens. Though the son, Amenophis IV, apparently possessed a brilliant and decisive mind, his *An international group of Egyptologists collaborated in the Akhenaten Temple Project. Without the enthusi astic support of Dr. Sarwat Okasha, Minister of Culture in the United Arab Republic, and Dr. Gamal Mukhtar, Under-Secretary of Culture, the effort could not have succeeded. Dr. Charles F. Nims, Professor of Egyptology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, provided expert counsel as Resident Egyptologist. Prime consultants included John A. Wilson, Professor Emeritus at the Oriental Institute, Dr. Herbert Ricke, Director of the Swiss Archaeological Institute in Cairo, and Pro fessor Abdel Moneim Abu-Bakr, former head of the Egyptology Department of the University of Cairo. Other distinguished scholars, too numerous to mention individually, afforded invaluable advice and assistance.