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  • Writer's pictureBriana Jackson

PhD Defended

I am pleased to announce that, on April 9, I defended my PhD dissertation and passed! It's very exciting, but also very strange to be on the other side. I keep putting "Dr." happily in front of my name, but also feel really weird about it, and sometimes even think that maybe I'm milking it a little too much. But also, facts are facts, yes?

I spent 8 years in my PhD program. Like most people (I think), I am graduating with the feeling that I haven't achieved enough, that I didn't learn enough skills, that I didn't have enough opportunities, that I didn't have enough access to resources that would make me more marketable, that my dissertation actually sucks and I shouldn't be proud of it.

However, I am somewhat relieved by scholarly minds that are more established than mine confirming to me that I have produced something substantial and contributory to the Egyptological discipline. Seeing as how my adviser is one of the most-respected and famed Egyptologists, I think that counts for something.

Anyway, I've decided to post the abstract I've settled on for my dissertation, plus the "book cover" I made (I do so love to make graphics things)!


Abstract: The Geographic and Social Spread of Aten Cult throughout Egypt and Sudan

By: Briana C. Jackson, PhD

The Amarna Period of ancient Egypt is marked by numerous innovations in art, religion, and government. Primarily, the Amarna Period comprises the 17-year rule of Amenhotep IV who changed his name to Akhenaten after the establishment of a new religion that elevated the sun-disc as the supreme deity. Akhenaten implemented a new artistic decorum and founded a new capital, Akhet-Aten (present-day Tell el-Amarna), replacing the former administrative capital, Memphis, and the former religious capital, Thebes.

Moreover, he initiated a widespread program of building temples dedicated to the Aten primarily in Thebes and Amarna, but also from Heliopolis in the Egyptian Delta to Gebel Barkal in Nubia. Most of the evidence suggesting that Aten temples or chapels existed in several sites outside Thebes and Amarna comes from talatat, uniquely sized blocks transportable by one person and singular to Akhenaten’s reign, that were excavated at these sites. Further evidence comes from royal and non-royal contexts that include tomb and other architectural inscriptions, stelae, jewelry, and other small finds that indicate the presence of Aten cult at each site. Many of the sites at which Aten temples or chapels may have been constructed were dedicated to the cults of major primeval gods, such as Re in Heliopolis, Ptah in Memphis, Min in Akhmim, and Osiris in Abydos.

This dissertation examines a wide corpus of data from 14 sites, all of which suggest or confirm Atenist activity. It proposes these possible widespread temples and chapels formed a network across Egypt and Sudan, as well as proposes that Atenism incorporated the cults of other major primeval gods. Lastly, it proposes that Atenism was accepted by non-royals, even non-elites not only at Amarna, but also throughout Egypt and Sudan.

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