Smenkhkare


Smenkhkare
King c.1364-1361 BC.
    In Year 12 of *Akhenaten's reign, Queen *Nefertiti disappeared from the records, perhaps due either to her death or to a fall from favour. One of her names— Nefernefruaten—was subsequently given to Smenkhkare and he was also called 'Beloved of *Akhenaten'; he was probably made co-regent in Year 13 and the coronation perhaps took place in the great extension built to the Royal Palace at Amarna. His right to the throne was confirmed by his marriage to *Meritaten, the royal heiress.
    Few facts are known of Smenkhkare or his brief reign. It is probable that he was the son of *Amenophis III, either by Queen *Tiye, or by Sitamun, or another minor wife, and the medical examination of the body found in Tomb 55 at Thebes (now attributed to Smenkhkare) has indicated that he was probably a full brother of *Tutankhamun and that he died around the age of twenty.
    The details of his reign are obscure, particularly relating to the existence of a co-regency with *Akhenaten and the possibility of a brief period of sole rule. The only known date of Smenkhkare's reign occurs in a hieratic graffito in the Theban tomb of Pere, which gives a regnal date of Year 3 and also indicates that the cult of the god Amun was again in evidence. This possibly shows that Smenkhkare, as an independent ruler, was the first to move away from the Aten heresy, but other interpretations have suggested that *Akhenaten himself may have realised the failure of his revolution and sent his co-regent to Thebes to re-establish contact with the supporters of Amun, or that *Akhenaten and Smenkhkare may have disagreed fundamentally over the religious issues, with the result that Smenkhkare alone returned to orthodoxy.
    There is evidence that Smenkhkare planned to be buried at Thebes, for he built a mortuary temple there which would suggest that he also intended to construct a tomb nearby. It is likely that *Meritaten predeceased him and that he then married the next royal heiress, *Ankhesenpaaten, but there were evidently no heirs because he was succeeded by the boy-king *Tutankhamun, who was probably his brother.
    Events surrounding the death of Smenkhkare are also confusing. In Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings, a body and funerary equipment were discovered, and various interpretations of this evidence have been suggested. The body, examined on different occasions by several experts, has been variously identified as that of Queen *Tiye, of *Akhenaten and, most recently, of Smenkhkare. It has been shown to belong to a young man, aged about twenty at death, and it has an unusual but not abnormal platycephalic skull, similar to that of *Tutankhamun. The body was also enclosed in a coffin which bears a close resemblance to that of *Tutankhamun, but it was originally prepared for *Meritaten, Smenkhkare's wife, and it seems that both the coffin and the associated canopic jars (for containing the viscera) were later adapted for Smenkhkare. In a similar re-allocation of funerary equipment, some of Smenkhkare's goods were subsequently used in the tomb of *Tutankhamun, whose unexpectedly early death must have caused problems for those preparing his burial.
    There is no simple explanation of Tomb 55 and its contents, and it is also unclear whether Smenkhkare owed his allegiance to the Aten or to Amun. Indeed, his very identification and existence have been questioned, and one theory has suggested that the inscriptions can be interpreted to indicate that 'Smenkhkare' was not a separate person at all, but that *Nefertiti herself took over a new name which perhaps marked some major development during her reign with *Akhenaten. In this case, there would have to be an alternative explanation for the body in Tomb 55—that it belonged to some other, as yet unidentified member of the royal family.
BIBL. Aldred, C. Akhenaten, King of Egypt. London: 1988; Aldred, C. Year 12 at El-Amarna. JEA 43 (1957) pp. 114-17; Davis T.M. The Tomb of Queen Tiyi. London: 1910. Gardiner, A.H. The so-called Tomb of Queen Tiye. JEA 43 (1957) pp. 10-25; Roeder, G. Thronfolger und Konig Smench-ka-Re. ZAS 83 (1958) pp. 43-74; Derry, D.E. Note of the skeleton believed to be that of Akhenaten. Ann. Serv. 31 (1931) pp. 115-19; Harrison, R.G. An anatomical examination of the pharaonic remains purported to be Akhenaten. JEA 52 (1966) pp. 95-119; Harrison, R.G. et al. The kinship of Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun demonstrated serologically. Nature 224 (1969) pp 325-6; Harris, J.R. Nefertiti Rediviva. Acta Orientalia 35 (1973) pp. 5 ff; Nefernefruaten Regnans. Acta Orientalia 36 (1974) pp. 11 ff; Akhenaten or Nefertiti? Acta Orientalia 38 (1977) pp. 5 ff; Samson, J. Nefertiti's regality. JEA 63 (1977) pp. 88 ff.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 1338–1336 BC)
   Throne name Ankhkheperure. Mysterious and ephemeral ruler at the end of Dynasty 18who was coregentand successor of Akhenaten. It has been suggested that this ruler was in fact Akhenaten’s widow, Nefertiti, or daughter, Meritamun, or a man who reigned with one of these women, but his existence remains obscure. It has also been suggested that his presumed body found in tomb KV55 in the Valley of the Kingswas in fact that of Akhenaten, although the age of the skeleton renders this theory dubious.
   See also Ay; Horemheb; Tutankhamun.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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