dating akhnaton


Timing Akhenaten 

Léo Dubal

VLA,  virtual laboratory for archaeometry
dubal  (at)


Evidences for an exact datation of heretic Pharaoh AKHENATEN,
are presented,  based on a critical repertory of NM, New Moon days
(including Solar eclipses, though  symbolically "No Moon-days"):
birth, short after NM-day:   -1351.08.15,
coronation on NM-day
:  -1341.11.22,
wedding : 
fundation Akhetaten :  -1336.03.02
death at the age of 27:  -1324


The chronology of the Amarnian Heresy presented by Nobel prize winner 1988
Naguid Mahfouz
in his historic novel "Dweller in Truth",
appears three decades later
as surprinsingly far from the one presented here.
A key-element though remains true:
Queen Nefertiti , and not  Pharaoh Akhenaten
has been the invincible ruler with raised arm

To establish the Chronology of  Ancient Egypt, 
one of the first researchers having fully recognized 
the prime importance of the Sun in this civilisation, is late William McMurray
The days when only the sun was visible in the sky,
which deserve to be called "No Moon  days",
appeared to have been chosen for important events.
( New Moon occurrences are listed on imcce site), 
 Solar eclipses were perceived as special "omen",
 good or bad, if partial or total.
Summer solstices, when the Sun shines at longest must have been 
considered worth of the greatest devotion,
e.g. the erection of the Giza pyramids,

While we identified the role of the summer solstice zenith in Elephantine, 
 in connection with the "expected" start of the flooding of the Nile, 
in the launching of the Egyptian calendar, 
with the greatest satisfaction, we recently discovered  that
another physicist, reached, independently of us, just the same conclusion: 
see Juan Antonio BELMONTE AVILES " Some open questions on 
Egyptian calendar: an astronomer's view" TdE 2 ( 2003) pp. 23-25 , 

 Timing Solstices

In the Northern Hemisphere, the 5'200 year old
 Newgrange's 19 meter long passageway testifies that,
 the point of retrogression
of the Rising Solar Fire in its run southwards
has been celebrated  as the beginning of the (365 ¼ day long) year,
but, in absence of a writing code,
 this accurate solstitial mark did NOT give rise to any known calendar.

In Ancient Egypt
in Syene, just at Tropic of Cancer)
the story of Eratostene, seeing the bottom of his well illuminated
  on summer solstice day, tells us about an alternate paradigm: 

 shadowless summer solstice zenith is obviously the most salient feature.

As shown by the magnificent
sunset picture taken by Juan Antonio BELMONTE,
on June 21st, 2006, the megalithic landscape built around the Sphinx of Gizeh,  
testifies for the celebration of summer solstice, too.

It depicts the hieroglyph akhet

which has been interpreted by CHAMPOLLION as "horizon".

Let us notice that  the summer solstice, in the year of the Nicaea's Council, occurred
  on +325.06.22/05:36. or, at noon,  JDssNicaea = 1'839'937.
If one now calculates the date of the
( the conversion from a given Julian Day to a date of  the Ancient Egyptian Calendar 
is available on Holger ORTELIUS'  calendar calculator.)
 1st Summer Solstice occurence at the new city of Akhetaten, 1661 years earlier  :
JDssAkhetaten =  JDssNicaea - 16.61 [cy] .
λ-1  = JD 1'233'269.5,
this corresponds to -1336.07.05  in the Julian Calendar, instead of 06.22.
One should therefore, add 
to the date of the Julian Calendar:
12 days for RAMSES II's period, 
13 days  for  AKHENATEN's period,  
24 days for DJOSER's . 

DJOSER's name is usually associated with the first large pyramid.
Though, this monument is an achievement of the Great Vizir IMHOTEP.

Joseph DAVIDOVITS even suggests that IMHOTEP
introduced geopolymers for manufacturing agglomerated limestone...
Most probably, IMHOTEP is the one to be thanked  for having launched
47 centuries ago, 
on summer solstice day, a 365 day long cyclic calendar.
  This day was called: 1st day of Thot, 1st month of the inundation season Akhet

 IMHOTEP' Calendar

Some might argue that the coincidence with IMHOTEP  is fortuitous...
 On the Famine Stele erected under the Ptolemaic era 
and located on Sehel Island in the Nile near Aswan, 
is reported the following founding myth (i.e. for the Egyptian calendar... & State) 
It speaks of a 7 year period of drought and famine during the reign of the 3rd dynasty pharaoh Djoser. 
The king had a dream. He sees the God Knum, who promises an end to the famine if the king grants 
his temple at Elephantine with all his wealth...

Good choice indeed: in the tropical Island of Elephantine, the summer solstice, a "no-shadow event",
 matches pretty well with the beginning of the Nile's inundation season "Akhet". 
The Ancient Egyptian Calendar Year has 3 seasons of 120 days each + 5 additional days. 
Each seasons is made up of  4  months of 30 days each.
 there exists a ship's log written on a recycled papyrus,
i.e. the back of  Hymns to AMUN (Papyrus Leiden I 350). 
It reports that

on 27 Peret II of the 52nd regnal year, the "New Moon Festival" took place.
52nd must refer to the long reign, from -1290.06.03 (27 Shemu III)  to -1223, of
RAMSES II, while, according to the
& ORTELIUS Calendar Calculator
a New Moon occurred on -1238.12.22 ( JD 1 269 234), i.e. on 27 Peret II .
1 Akhet I ( 1st day of month Thot) must have been 176 days earlier on JD 1'269'058 (-1238.06.29).  
 The previous correspondence between Summer S
olstice and 1 Akhet I
was on -1257.07.04 (and 
for the 3 years before) and then
years earlier, on -2765.07.16. 
Considering that Summer solstice AND New Moon occurred on -2762.07.16,
obvious possibility for 1 Akhet I is: -2762.07.15.

Georges BONANI & al.  in "Radiocarbon Dates of Old and Middle
Kingdom Monuments in Egypt", Radiocarbon, 43, 2001, p.1313
 reported their Calibrated Dates from AMS measurements of straw and reed 
of adobe bricks from 3m above the 4th tier of the Saqqara Step Pyramid:
-2741 +/- 74    
with a confidence level of 80%,  in complete agreement with our findings.
That contrasts sharply with the so-called historical range around year -2650

Solar Pharaoh  vs. Solar Eclipses

The first Pharaoh who might have claimed to be the 1st Atenist
1st atenist
Though this stela with the pharaoh and his spouse TIY
is  probably from the amarnian period,
in our opinion, it depicted the partial (60%) solar eclipse over Thebes on
NM day
-1351.08.15 a short time before AMENHOTEP IV's birthday.

 The son of AMENHOTEP III and TIY has been crowned,
the age of 10, on  1Peret I ,
 i.e. NM -1341.11.22. The scene is depicted in Kheruef's tomb: 
the young pharaoh being chaperoned by
his mother TIY.
The young Pharaoh attempted very early to 
foster the cult of Aten.

The last mention of the Amun priest MAYA is dated
11 Akhet III, i.e. -1337.10.01.

With 13,
ca. -1338.08, at the end of reignal year III, ,
he married Nefertiti, just before the celebration of his first
Jubilee on -1338.11.21.

During reignal year IV a solar eclipse occurred on NM -1337.05.14, see SAROS
   A possible depiction of the event has been 
photographed by
George S. JOHNSON. It is the unique colored representation of ATEN,
n the unfinished tomb of MERYRE I, who was called the "Great Seer of ATEN".

Meryre I's tomb, photo G.S.Johnson, 2000.10.15

Typical of the pre-HIPPARCHUS'  No Moon / eclipsed Sun confusion,
 crescents are spontaneously painted in cold colour,
 as first noticed by
Brigitte QUILLARD.

he Pharaoh must have seen this solar eclipse at Thebes (E32.6 / N25.7),
where the magnitude has been 0.94,
and interpreted it as a personal message from "his father ATEN".
(a total solar eclipse would probably have frighten him to death...)

The Pharaoh decided then to change his name into AKHENATEN,
hiding, under the monotheistic cult of the faceless Solar Disk ATEN,
the cult of his own personality.

 -1337, MERITATEN, his first daughter, was born.
(The mother, NEFERTITI, was probably also only 12 year old,
the biological lowest limit for giving birth to an healthy child)

And after a gestation time of 10 New Moons, 
at the site
@ E30.9046 /N27.6701, now called Tell El-Amarna,
(a place where the -1337.05.14 solar eclipse had been total for 4 minutes

250 km North of Thebes, 
about half way to the Northern end of his kingdom,
in the most occidental part of the Nile river,
AKHENATEN created a new capitol: AKHETATEN.
The Sphinx with a Pharaoh's face  has been again popular during the 18th Dynasty.
On  front walls, AKHENATEN let himself depicted as a
sphinx solving the riddle of ATEN
(the only "hand signal" given by ATEN to AKHENATEN,
i.e., to be interpretable as such, is, to my understanding the

 Solar Eclipse he saw in Thebes).

 Geneva  Boston

    Hannover                                   Atlanta            

The text is very clear: " Let him build the Horizon of Aten in Akhetaten"

While CHEOPS, in order to"stage akhet" at the summer solstice sunset,
had to plan the building of a megalithic landscape on the Giza-plateau,,
13 centuries later, AKHENATEN followed a far easier way:
At the
10th No Moon occurence after the solar eclipse
(i.e. after a fair gestation time !),

AKHENATEN "staged akhet" at sunrise,

in a suitable wadi
(half-way between Thebes and Memphis)

AKHENATEN inaugurated in
("the place where Aten rises" what will become, in ryVII, his new capitol).
the first temple dedicated to ATEN,
According to Marc GABOLDE,
 in "Akhenaton, Du mystère à la lumière" (Découvertes Gallimard 2005),
 the boundary stele mentioned :
"at dawn of 13 Peret IV, regnal year V".

 Marc GABOLDE demonstrated his point with his breath-taking picture,

   Staging "akhet" at Tell-el Amarna

that very day, the rising sun, appears there....."akhet-like".

13 prt IV , ryV, i.e.  -1336.03.02,
29 days before the spring equinox.
Let us note that  the alignment of monuments on the
rising sun 4 weeks before the spring equinox
is part of the 
"Amarna Heritage", e.g. in Abu Simbel
illumination of the shrine of the temple of Ramses II ).

 DNA analysis, have recently provided further new hints on the Amarna royal family:
AKHENATEN appears as the father of TUTANKH-ATEN,
mother might  have been NEFERTITI,
or TUT's 9 years old sister MERITATEN !
She might be the one carrying her baby
( later known as TUTANKH-AMON)
who is depicted in the tomb of MAKETATEN around year

 fondling scene with Merytaten
The fondling scene between AKHENATEN
and his oldest daughter MERITATEN
(in front of Nefertiti and his two younger daughters)
brings light onto the royal family life...

Short remark, à la JUNG, on the fascination of Sigmund FREUD for AKHENATEN:
The triangle Sphinx-AKHENATEN & MERITATEN
sounds more like
the incestuous triangle Psychoanalysis-FREUD & ANNA

than the
triangle Sphinx-JOCASTA & OEDIPUS !!! 

With a 9 year old mother, TUT had no chance to procreate viable children !
Indeed only mummies of two fetuses are attributed to be the fruits of the union of
TUTANKH-ATEN and his 5 years older sister ANKHESEPA-ATEN !

According to Marc GABOLDE, AKHENATEN died in the 17th year of his reign,
shortly after the death of Queen NEFERTITI . 

This Chronology of the Amarna Period, is comforted by 
a letter from Hittite's King MURSILI II in his ryVII to General HOREMHEB,
 during, presumably, reignal year II of Pharaoh Aï.
In his ryX, MURSILI II mentioned a "bad omen", which
most probably refers to the solar eclipse over Hattusa, on -1311.06.24. 

Tentative Chronology of the Amarnian Heresy
Out of those data one might attempt to sketch an
  overview of this most peculiar period of Ancient Egypt 
- 1351.08.15  20 Akhet I Solar eclipse (70% over Thebes) followed by Birth Amenhotep IV
-1341.11.22 NM ry I  1 Peret I Crowning Amenhotep IV (10 years old, 
depicted with his mother TIY in Kheruef's tomb)
-1338.08.  ryIII   Wedding AmenhotepIV (13 yr)- Nefertiti 
-1338.11.21 ryIII / IV 1 Peret I Celebration 1st Jubilee
-1337.02.07 ry IV 19 Peret III Amenhotep IV changes into Akhenaten
-1337.05.14  ryIV 25 ShemuII Solar eclipse 94% over Thebes
followed by Birth Meritaten
-1337.10.01 ry IV

 11 Akhet III

last mention  Maia (1st priest of AMUN at Karnak)
-1336.03.02 ry V 13 Peret IV  Foundation Akhet-Aten 
-1336.04  ry V    Birth Maketaton
-1335.03.02  ry VI  13 Peret IV Anniversary AkhetAten
Birth Ankhesepaaten
-1334.03.13  ry VII 24 Peret IV Solar eclipse 74% over Akhetaten
followed by final move to AkhetAten / Family picture to 5
ry VIII 8 Peret I
30 Akhet IV
Repetition of Oath
Another Oath
-1331.12.30  ry XI 12 Peret II Solar eclipse 61% over Akhetaten
-1330.12.26  ry XII 8 Peret II Reception (in presence of the Pharao's six daughters) 
-1329 ry XIII Birth of Tutankhaten / Death  Maketaten



  Death Nefertiti ?
Death Akhenaten (27y)

ry I

ry II
  Crowning Meritaten (13y)
- Zannanza/Smenkhkare   

Retreat to Thebes & Memphis....
               End of the Amarnian Heresy 
-1322.09.27 ry III 10 AkhetIII Graffito in Tomb of Païre
-1322.11     Death Meritaten (15y) 
-1322.11 ry I Crowning Tutankha(t/m)on (7y)
Wedding with sister Ankhesepaaten (13y)
-1314.12  ry IX   Death Tutankhamon (17y)
-1314.12 ry I Crowning
Wedding with
Ankhesepaaten (21y)
-1313 ryII Letter Mursili II to Horemheb
-1311.06.24 NM ryIII Solar Eclipse over Hattusa (Mursili II ryX)
-1310.01 ryIV Death
-1310.01 ryI Crowning Horemheb
-1295 ry XV Death Horemheb...end of the XVIIIth Dynasty

Acknowledgment : The author would like to thank  Marc GABOLD
                    for stimulating comments.


© Virtual Laboratory for Archaeometry latest revision:    2012.06.06