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Strachey, J. (1939). Preliminary Notes Upon the Problem of Akhenaten. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 20:33-42.

(1939). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20:33-42

Preliminary Notes Upon the Problem of Akhenaten

James Strachey

These notes are essentially of a tentative and provisional nature, since they are based upon a quite inadequate survey of the material. It seemed perhaps worth while, however, to publish them even in their present unsatisfactory form in view of their possible bearing upon Professor Freud's study of Jewish monotheism—though it is important to add that he himself is not, I believe, inclined to accept my conclusions.

My general aim has been to reconsider the problem of Akhenaten in the light of advances in our knowledge since Abraham wrote upon the same subject in 1912. This new knowledge is of two kinds: (A) Egyptological and (B) Psycho-Analytical.


1. The Karnak Colossi. —In 1925, in the course of some drainage work outside the eastern boundary wall of the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak, there were unexpectedly dug up the well-preserved remains the neighbourhood, and during the course of the next few years fragments of some forty colossi (all of them portraits of Akhenaten) were brought to light. These works are without parallel in Egyptian art. Although (as we shall see presently) they must have been constructed quite early in Akhenaten's reign, they manifest to an extreme degree the peculiarities of what is known as the Amarna style. They are considered by most archæologists as quite incredibly hideous, and have been described as 'monstrosities' and 'abominations'; but the extraordinary force of the realism with which the king's gigantic features are portrayed makes them, for me at least, a welcome relief from the interminable rows of stuffed sand-bags that form such a large proportion of the millennia of official Egyptian sculpture.

Almost the last colossus to be discovered (in 1929) was the most remarkable of all. It shows the king, to use the words of its discoverer, Chevrier, 'nu et asexué'.

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