Robert Partridge: The Ancient Egypt Picture Library

A colossal head of Pharaoh Akhenaten (1348–1331 B.C.E.) looms over the desert plain of Tell el-Amarna, the site of the king’s capital city, Akhetaten. From there, Akhenaten reigned over Egypt and administered the city-states of Syria-Palestine, whose rulers were vassals of the pharaoh. In its halcyon days, as many as 50,000 people may have lived in Akhetaten, which was located on the east bank of the Nile almost 200 miles south of modern Cairo. When Akhenaten died, however, the bustling city became a ghost town. The locus of pharaonic power shifted back to the previous capital, Thebes, and Akhetaten was abandoned for the ages.

Author Carolyn R. Higginbotham explains that after the Amarna age, beginning with the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II (1279–1212 B.C.E.), the relationship between Egypt and Canaan seems to have changed, judging by the increased frequency of Egyptian-style artifacts in the archaeological record of Syria-Palestine. Some scholars maintain that Egypt abandoned the vassal relationship with Canaan and initiated a widespread military occupation of its cities. But others contend that the vassal system continued well into the Ramesside period and that the great amount of Egyptian-style artifacts reflects a desire on the part of Canaan’s ruling elite to emulate the glorious Egyptian empire.