The Veneration of Amenhotep III and Lunar Cult during the Reign of Akhenaten


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In the 30th year of his reign, Amenhotep III adopted the epithet “the Dazzling Sun-disc”, revealing a marked increase in royal interest in the solar cult. Additionally, Amenhotep III elevated the lunar cult, and built in Soleb a temple dedicated to the celebration of his sed-festival and to himself in the form of a new lunar god, Nebmaatre, Lord of Nubia. At both Soleb and Sesebi, temple decoration displays Akhenaten’s veneration of his father as the moon god, and other evidence both at Malqata and Amarna reveal a continued royal interest in the cult of Amenhotep III. The elevation of the lunar cult during the reign of Amenhotep III is also demonstrated by new iconography and small finds, such as jewelry molds and representations of the moon god Thoth in sculpture and stelae. Such material culture turns up at Malqata, as well as in the private sector at Amarna. Moreover, Amarna’s neighboring city, Hermopolis, where Amenhotep III erected colossal statues of baboons, was dedicated to the moon god Thoth, perhaps suggesting a connection between the lunar city (Hermopolis) and the solar city (Amarna). This paper examines the presence and impact of the lunar cult, first elevated by Amenhotep III, in both the royal and non-royal sphere during the reign of Akhenaten, and explores degrees of religious continuity from the reign of Amenhotep III through that of Tutankhamun, whose jewelry is pregnant with lunar significance.

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