Saturday, January 26, 2008

Amarna finds: religious reform can be hard work


Well, I was just talking a bit ago about "the old con games," wasn't I? So today I saw over at Archaeoastronomy a post on an upcoming BBC TV show on recent work at Amarna, the city/religious center founded by the "monotheist" pharoah, Akhenaten. Here's the key passage:

One of the most shocking findings are the ages at death. There’s a chart you can look at and it’s pretty clear that Amarna was a lethal place. The 2007 report has a chart of its own. This shows that aging a skeleton isn’t always possible, but both charts indicate that a life in Amarna would likely be over at 35. The report by Melissa Zabecki, also from Arkansas, is grim. They had dental caries but probably didn’t complain too much about toothache as they were also likely to have extremely bad backs. Zabecki has found evidence of osteoarthritis and spinal trauma in many of the skeletons. Zabecki’s conclusion is that these people were worked to death. Akhenaten wanted to change Egyptian religion overnight, and that can’t be done without a lot of work. The twisted bones of the workers of Amarna show some of the cost of turning from the old gods.
I've been skeptical for a long while about Akhenaten's reputation as a "worthy heretic" and exemplar of religious progress; I've seen his religious regime as the product of a theological power grab in a heavily-ecclesiasticized society. This is not the first evidence that lots of people died in religious conflicts, either at his hands or those of his opponents.

For more detail on recent work, see the Amarna Project site.

For an aerial view of the ruins, see this BBC presentation.

Image:
Tomb #9 at Amarna, photo copyright Ross Day.

Labels: , , , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home