top of page

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

Exalted Spirits: Veneration of the Dead through the Ages in Egypt

American Research Center in Egypt

Cairo, Egypt

November 10-12, 2021

Click HERE to view the poster

In the 30th year of his reign, Amenhotep III adopted the epithet “the Dazzling Sun-disc”, revealing a marked increase in royal interest in solar cult. Additionally, Amenhotep III elevated 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 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 lunar cult, first elevated by Amenhotep III, in both the royal and non-royal sphere during the reign of Akhenaten, as well as explores degrees of religious continuity from the reign of Amenhotep III through that of Tutankhamun, whose jewelry is pregnant with lunar significance.

Click HERE to view poster. To see the accompanying video, watch below.

Working bibliography

Andrews, Carol 1994. Amulets of ancient Egypt. London: The British Museum Press.

Beaux, Nathalie and Nicolas Grimal (eds) 2013. Soleb VI: Hommages à Michela Schiff Giorgini. Le Caire: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale.

Bryan, Betsy M. 1997. The statue program for the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. In Quirke, Stephen (ed.), The temple in ancient Egypt: new discoveries and recent research, 57-81. London: British Museum Press.

Cruz-Uribe, Eugene 1992. Another look at an Aton statue. Göttinger Miszellen 126, 29-32.

Drew-Bear, Marie 2007. De la porte du soleil à la porte de la lune à Hermoupolis Magna. In Palme, Bernhard (ed.), Akten des 23. Internationalen Papyrologenkongresses: Wien, 22.-28. Juli 2001, 199-202. Wien: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Eaton-Krauss, Marianne 2016. The unknown Tutankhamun. Bloomsbury Egyptology. London: Bloomsbury.

Edwards, I. E. S. 1939. The Prudhoe lions. Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology 26 (1-2), 3-9.

Ertman, Earl L. 2009. Under the disk and crescent: the use of the symbols of the moon and the god Khonsu in the reign of King Tutankhamen. KMT 20 (1), 36-39.

Freed, Rita E., Yvonne Markowitz, and Sue H. D'Auria (eds) 1999. Pharaohs of the sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts.

García-Fernández, Gudelia 2017. The moon god Iah in ancient Egyptian religion. In Rosati, Gloria and Maria Cristina Guidotti (eds), Proceedings of the XI International Congress of Egyptologists, Florence Egyptian Museum, Florence, 23-30 August 2015, 222-227. Oxford: Archeopress.

Jackson, Briana 2021. The Geographic and Social Spread of Aten Cult throughout Egypt and Sudan. PhD dissertation. New York University.

Johnson, W. Raymond 1996. The revolutionary role of the sun in the reliefs and statuary of Amenhotep III. The Oriental Institute News & Notes 151, 1-6.

Johnson, W. Raymond 1996. Amenhotep III and Amarna: some new considerations. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 82, 65-82.

Kozloff, Arielle P. and Betsy M. Bryan (eds) 1992. Egypt's dazzling sun: Amenhotep III and his world. With Lawrence M. Berman and an essay by Elisabeth Delange. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Museum of Art.

Krauss, Rolf 2000. Akhenaten: monotheist? Polytheist? The Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology 11, 93-101.

Larcher, Cédric 2016. Quand Thot devient babouin: essai de datation et d'interprétation de l'apparition de la forme simiesque du dieu. Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 143 (1), 60-76.

O'Connor, David B. and Eric H. Cline (eds) 1998. Amenhotep III: perspectives on his reign. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Pendlebury, J. D. S. 1951. The city of Akhenaten. Part III: The central city and the official quarters. The excavations at Tell el-Amarna during the season 1926-1927 and 1931-1936, 2 vols. Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Society 44. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

Priskin, Gyula 2015. The encounter between the sun and the moon on hypocephali. Birmingham Egyptology Journal 3, 24-41.

Radwan, Ali 2007. Concerning the cult of Amenhotep III after his death. In Hawass, Zahi A. and Janet E. Richards (eds), The archaeology and art of ancient Egypt: essays in honor of David B. O'Connor 2, 289-297. Le Caire: Conseil Suprême des Antiquités de l'Egypte.

Ruffle, John 1998. Lord Prudhoe and his lions. Sudan & Nubia 2, 82-87.

Schiff Giorgini, Michela 1998. Soleb V: Le temple. Bas-reliefs et inscriptions. En collaboration avec Clément Robichon et Jean Leclant. Préparé et édité par Nathalie Beaux. Bibliothèque générale 19. Le Caire: Institut français d'archéologie orientale.

Siclen III, Charles Cornell van 1973. The accession date of Amenhotep III and the jubilee. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 32 (3), 290-300.

Stevens, Anna 2006. Private religion at Amarna: the material evidence. BAR International Series 1587. Oxford: Archaeopress. 

Tiradritti, Francesco (ed.) 1998. Egyptian treasures: from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photographs by Araldo De Luca; translated by Neil Davenport. Vercelli: White Star.

bottom of page