Ahead of the Current: City of the sun

The ancient Egyptian city of Amarna rose to prominence after Pharaoh Akhenaten—husband of legendary Queen Nefertiti and likely father of King Tutankhamun—scrapped Egyptian tradition and instituted a radical new religious belief based on a single god called Aten, the disk of the sun. The change not only altered Egyptian religious life but also brought about a remarkable period of artistic exploration, as Egyptian artists began using a style emphasizing naturalistic figures and curving lines. The arts thrived and Amarna became one of the most influential cultural centers in the world. It would not last long. Within a couple decades, by the time King Tut was 19, Akhenaten’s reforms (which earned him the name, “heretic pharaoh”) were done away with and the city of Amarna was dismantled. The city’s dramatic rise and fall will be explored by Penn Museum in a new exhibit, “Amarna: Ancient Egypt’s Place in the Sun,” set to open next month. The exhibit, which is the centerpiece of the museum’s “Year of Egypt” celebration and comes as Philadelphia prepares to welcome the much-anticipated “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” to the Franklin Institute early next year, opens Nov. 12 with a day of Middle Eastern music, dance, games, children’s activities, films and lectures. For more information, call 215-898-4000 or go to www.museum.upenn.edu.

Originally published on October 19, 2006