Laura Taronas

  • Fellowship Dates 2018-2019
  • Research Topic The Amarna Period and the Politics of Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate Harvard University
This research examines what motivated the pharaoh Akhenaten to create a new religion, known as Atenism, to counter the traditional Egyptian religion of the New Kingdom. Much has been written about this question, but scholars have largely overlooked a major portion of the physical evidence the event left behind: the systematic erasure and destruction of scenes and hieroglyphic inscriptions pertaining to selected gods. The sheer scale of this program of iconoclasm was unlike anything that had occurred previously in Egyptian history. Further, the gods themselves had never before been the targets of such a strategically conceived attack. Thus far, this phenomenon has been analyzed on a monument-by-monument basis, potentially hindering scholars from obtaining a more complete view of the political and religious practices that characterized Akhenaten’s reign.
This research attempts to create the first comprehensive study of this iconoclasm to determine Akhenaten’s motivation and assess how far-reaching and accepted Akhenaten’s religious revolution was in Egypt, how literate the people doing the erasing were and the nature and structure of Egyptian religion during this period. Findings will be catalogued, erasures analyzed and patterns identified as to which gods are defaced, consistency of erasures across Egypt, variant spellings and what techniques were used to create the erasures. The investigation will initially be limited to objects in the Egyptian Museum collection.

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