Erich Lessing

THE FIRST MONOTHEIST. Considered a heretic to the traditional Egyptian religion, Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenophis IV) worshiped the sun god Aten as the sole, universal god. To signal the drastic change he was making to official Egyptian religion, Akhenaten moved his capital from Thebes to Akhetaten (modern el-Amarna). When he moved there, he brought with him numerous tablets from the royal archives, now known as the Amarna letters. (After his death, the capital was quickly moved back to Thebes and the old Egyptian religion was reestablished by his successor, Tutankhamun, but the archives were left behind.) In this 3.5-foot-high carving from el-Amarna, Akhenaten (the large central figure) and his wife, Nefertiti (immediately to the left), make offerings to the sun god Aten, whose rays end in human hands that present an ankh (the symbol of life) to each of them and to the entire world.