Great Egyptians: Akhenaten: The Rebel Pharaoh and the Mystery of Tutankhamen: Teacher s Guide

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1 Great Egyptians: Akhenaten: The Rebel Pharaoh and the Mystery of Tutankhamen: Teacher s Guide Grade Level: 6-8 Curriculum Focus: World History Lesson Duration: Two class periods Program Description Akhenaten His reign was so scandalous that his name was stricken from his family's temples. Meet Akhenaten, who brought dramatic change to Egypt with his slogan, "Living in Truth." King Tut Compare Akhenaten's legacy with that of the boy king. Was there a murderer lurking in King Tut's court? Egyptologist Bob Brier does a little detective work to shore up a tale of power and intrigue in one of the world's oldest whodunits. Video Comprehension Questions Why is Amarna considered to be one of the most puzzling sites in all of Egypt? (Amarna is considered to be one of the most puzzling sites in Egypt because it was built in a remote area by Akhenaten, who founded a new religion there, and because it then quickly vanished until it was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. It is also puzzling because there are no scenes of gods, as in other ancient Egyptian sites, and images show the pharaoh as misshapen.) What is unusual about the physical description of Akhenaten? (The pharaoh Akhenaten is shown in his statues as misshapen, with an elongated face, breasts, wide hips, and swollen thighs. For a thousand years the pharaoh had been shown as young, vigorous, well-muscled, ready to go into battle.) How did Akhenaten become the most powerful person in Egypt? (Akhenaten became pharaoh because his mother, Queen Tiye, made sure he inherited the throne.) What changes did Akhenaten make in the religious order of Egypt? (Akhenaten turned the Egyptian religious order upside down by asserting, for the first time in Egyptian history, that there was only one god (Aten), declaring the other gods of Egypt extinct, and deserting Thebes to build a new city.) How did Akhenaten make changes in Egyptian art? (During Akhenaten's rule, artistic expression was allowed to flourish without concern for tradition, showing a new realism and portraying the daily life of the pharaoh.) What was the result of Akhenaten's rule on Egyptian foreign policy? (During Akhenaten's rule, Egypt, the great army had grown weak, Egypt was no longer receiving tribute from foreign countries, and its ambassadors were no longer respected in foreign lands.) Where do some archaeologists believe Akhenaten was entombed? (Evidence found in January of 1907 at tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings leads some to believe that Akhenaten was buried there.)

2 Great Egyptians: Akhenaten: The Rebel Pharaoh and the Mystery of Tutankhamen: Teacher s Guide 2 What is the evidence that Akhenaten suffered from Marfan's syndrome? (The physical disabilities shown in Akhenaten's statues (such as elongated face, long, thin fingers and toes) are very similar to a disease known as Marfan's syndrome, a genetic disease that damages the body's connective tissue.) Why has Akhenaten been called the most original religious thinker the world has ever known? (Akhenaten has been called the world's most original religious thinker because he prefigured the monotheism of Moses and the tranquility and hope of Jesus Christ.) Lesson Plan Student Objectives Students will understand: Some religions, or belief systems, develop because of the influence of an individual human being; some develop in other ways. Religious leaders and religions have features in common as well as significant differences. Materials Great Egyptians: Akhenaten: The Rebel Pharaoh and the Mystery of Tutankhamen video and VCR, or DVD and DVD player Encyclopedias (including encyclopedias of religion) Biographical reference works for important figures in world religions Procedures 1. Use the life story of Akhenaten and the short-lived monotheistic religion that he established as the basis of a research project into other religions or belief systems that have been founded or profoundly influenced by an individual (as opposed to the many ancient religions that evolved over time and have not been attributed to one man or woman). Begin by asking volunteers to name world religions. What individuals were responsible for founding or spreading this religion? (At this point, do not include sects within Christianity or Judaism, for example, or philosophical systems such as Confucianism and the Society for Ethical Culture.) 2. Create and distribute a chart of ancient and modern founders or significant movers in world religions. Consider including the following individuals in the first column, headed Individual list the names either in alphabetical order, as here, or in another order you prefer: Akhenaten Buddha Jesus Laozi (Daoism)

3 Great Egyptians: Akhenaten: The Rebel Pharaoh and the Mystery of Tutankhamen: Teacher s Guide 3 Mabuchi (Shintoism) Mohammed Moses Zoroaster 3. Head the next six columns Dates, Birthplace, Family Facts, Significant Life Events, Major Teachings, Influence on the 21st Century (did the religion survive the death of the individual?). 4. Work with your class to fill in the six columns for Akhenaten. If necessary, have students do their own research on Akhenaten to complete these columns. 5. After you and the class have discussed what students have written in the Akhenaten row, assign students the task of filling in the other rows on their own. In addition to their chart, they should submit a bibliography of research sources. 6. Once students have completed their chart, ask them to write a paragraph answering the following question: What personality traits or other characteristics did all or most of these men share? Give examples. 7. After you ve collected and read the students charts, bibliographies, and paragraphs, hold a class discussion about the issue of leadership traits among people who founded or influenced world religions. Discussion Questions 1. The narrator in this documentary suggests that Akhenaten may have foreshadowed the monotheistic teachings of Moses and the hope inspired by the message of Jesus. Debate whether or not this contention is supported by the evidence. In what ways was the message of Akhenaten like or unlike that of these later religious figures? 2. Akhenaten has been called the most original religious thinker the ancient world had ever seen. Is this true? Analyze and compare the teachings of other significant religious figures and make a determination. What makes Akhenaten s message original? 3. Discuss the validity of the assertion that Akhenaten was excluded from important ceremonies. What evidence is there to support this claim? Are there alternative hypotheses you can devise? 4. Explain why Akhenaten focused on the sun as the symbol of his one god. Did he believe that the sun itself was a god? Discuss what other physical phenomena he might have selected to represent god. What would the criteria for selection be? 5. Explain why Akhenaten allowed so many radical changes in Egyptian art. How was this received in Egypt following thousands of years during which art hardly ever changed? Discuss why changes in Egyptian art happened so slowly. 6. What did the priests of the other Egyptian gods think about Akhenaten s new religious message? What sorts of threats do you think they felt this new religion posed for them?

4 Great Egyptians: Akhenaten: The Rebel Pharaoh and the Mystery of Tutankhamen: Teacher s Guide 4 7. Discuss how our country would react if the president of the United States, as suggested in the program, retreated from political issues as Akhenaten did? What action might Congress take? How would the executive branch function? Assessment Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson. 3 points: Student s paragraph includes several complete facts; extremely clear and complete paragraph with many examples. 2 points: Student s paragraph includes some facts; moderately clear and complete paragraph with a few examples. 1 point: Student s paragraph contains many missing facts; unclear and incomplete paragraph without sufficient examples. Vocabulary entourage Definition: One s attendants or associates. Context: When the royal entourage went to the temples to make offerings to the God Amen and to celebrate the festivals, we can imagine little Akhenaten left behind in the palace. homage Definition: Expression of high regard. Context: Up and down the Nile, workers built vast temples to pay homage to the hundreds of gods. Marfan s syndrome Definition: A hereditary disorder of connective tissue that is characterized by abnormal elongation of the bones and often by ocular (eye) and circulatory defects. Context: The final word on the source of Akhenaten s apparent deformities may be written right now by a group of scientists working on a disease known as Marfan s syndrome a genetic defect that damages the body s connective tissue. monotheism Definition: The doctrine or belief that there is but one God. Context: He had foreshadowed the monotheism of Moses and the tranquility and hope of Christ well before the people of ancient Egypt were able to accept it. mystical Definition: Having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence. Context: Akhenaten had boundary markers carved surrounding the site of his new city telling of his mystical vision.

5 Great Egyptians: Akhenaten: The Rebel Pharaoh and the Mystery of Tutankhamen: Teacher s Guide 5 Academic Standards Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: World History Early Civilizations and the Rise of Pastoral Peoples: Understands the major characteristics of civilization and the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley. World History Early Civilizations and the Rise of Pastoral Peoples: Understands the political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium BCE. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online, go to This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards: Time, Continuity, and Change Support Materials Develop custom worksheets, educational puzzles, online quizzes, and more with the free teaching tools offered on the Discoveryschool.com Web site. Create and print support materials, or save them to a Custom Classroom account for future use. To learn more, visit

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