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The Art of the Han Dynasty › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

Author: Mark Cartwright

The art of the Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) of ancient China is characterised by a new desire to represent everyday life and the stories from history and mythology familiar to all. The arts were fuelled both by a political stability with its consequent economic prosperity and the development and highly successful combination of brushes, ink, and paper. Calligraphy, painting, lacquerware production, and jade carving were just some of the areas Han artists pushed forward the boundaries of what was possible to make technically and what was desired aesthetically by the ever-increasing number of art connoisseurs.
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Han Jade Burial Suit

THE HAN CONTRIBUTION

The art historian Mary Tregear gives the following summary of how art evolved under the Han:
Whereas in previous ages art had been associated with rituals and ceremonies, gradually evolving into a decorative expression of social status, the art first of the Qin and then of the Han is concerned with myths and everyday life. It was from the outset both a narrative and an expressive art. (50)
The Han, like the brief Qin dynasty before them, had acquired a vast swathe of Asia which encompassed many varied cultures, belief systems, and myths. Han rulers realised that art could be a useful tool in collecting this heritage together and presenting a unified and comprehensibly “Chinese” view of the world. People and daily-life, especially hunting, farming, fishing, and landscape scenes, became very popular. Decorative motifs abounded and became highly stylised in border decorations whose uniformity suggests the use of pattern books in the larger urban workshops. These motifs are especially prominent on pottery, lacquerware, and bronze mirrors.

CALLIGRAPHY

Developments in paper and the use of brushes and inks led to a boom in writing, which in turn created a need for illustrations of those texts. Indeed, these two art forms: painting and calligraphy would remain the two most important forms of artistic expression in China for the next two millennia. Engraved calligraphy was already well developed, and styles had evolved on surfaces such as bronze, stone, and bone, but the fluidity of paper and brush would lead to many more new styles of writing over the following centuries.
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Han Figure Painting

Using animal hair brushes and ink which was a mix of compressed pine carbon and thinned glue, calligraphers were now only limited by their imagination. Some writing styles produced flamboyant characters, others were heavy, some mixed heavy and light strokes, while still others were designed for speed. The composition of the characters together on the page was also an important consideration. Eventually, a whole connoisseurship developed amongst the Chinese literati, and excellent writing skills became essential for anyone wishing to be taken seriously by their peers.
PAINTED PORTRAITS BECAME COMMON IN TOMBS & ON EVERYDAY ITEMS.

PAINTINGS

Silk had long been used as a medium for painting, but the increase in paper use and the greater availability of books were certainly a factor in the increase in paintings. Another reason for paintings' popularity was the stability provided by the Han government and the consequent accumulation of wealth by its more fortunate citizens. Wealthy individuals became both patrons and consumers of fine artworks. This demand led to innovations and experimentation in art, and one such area to benefit was figure painting.
Portraits became common, especially of filial sons but not only, with people of all kinds appearing on the stone walls, lintels and pillars of tombs, and on everyday objects like small boxes, and on coffins. One of the most celebrated examples of Han portraiture is from a basket discovered in the Lolang commandery in North Korea. The sides of the basket have panels with 7.5 cm (3 inches) high painted figures of famous historical personalities all of whom are labelled. Here, as elsewhere in Han painting, human figures are presented either in profile or three-quarter view.
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Han Women, Dahuting Tomb.

Chinese painters began to portray narrative scenes in their work even before the more mature approach was brought to China by Buddhist monks from India along the Silk Road. This was especially seen in tomb wall paintings and on lacquer-painted wooden panels. Very often there are multiple scenes arranged either horizontally or vertically as they would have appeared if painted on a silk or paper scroll. An outstanding example is the c. 168 BCE portrayal of the various levels of human existence from the underworld to the heavens in the hanging discovered at the Mawangdui caves at Changsha.
Landscape painting would not come to the fore until the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 CE) but its beginnings were in the Han period and they probably stemmed from the popular depictions of the heavens. As with Chinese painting in general, the aim of the artist was not to copy exactly reality but always to represent the essence of a subject. For this reason, most scenes are painted from multiple perspectives, as opposed to the single viewpoint more common in Western art. Colour-shading was not used, even if Chinese artists were aware of it. Rather, the use of thinner and broader brush lines was the preferred method of providing depth to a painting.

SCULPTURE

Bricks were stamped and carved, as was stone, with relief scenes similar to those seen in paintings and are particularly common in tombs. This was a new departure for Chinese art, creating permanent artworks in durable materials. The finest examples are from the Wu Liang Shrine at Jiaxiang. Dating to 151 CE or 168 CE there are some 70 relief slabs which carry scenes of battles and famous historical figures, such as Confucius, all identified by accompanying texts and covering a chronological Chinese history in a pictorial record similar to a history book.
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A Chinese Servant Statue

Large figure sculptures are rare from the Han period, but there are some statues representing generals and officials which were stood outside their tombs. Smaller-scale works include cast bronze sculptures of horses which are common in 2nd-century CE Han tombs. These are usually depicted in full gallop with only one hoof resting on the base so that they almost appear to be flying.
JADE WAS ESPECIALLY ESTEEMED FOR ITS RARITY, DURABILITY, PURITY, & CERTAIN MYSTICAL QUALITIES.
Painted earthenware figurines of single standing women, men, and servants are common. Cast bronze was used to make small figurines and ornate incense burners. These were often inlaid with gold and silver or gilded. One superb piece is a gilded bronze oil-lamp in the form of a kneeling servant girl, which dates to the late 2nd century BCE.
Jade was especially esteemed for its rarity, durability, purity, and certain mystical qualities. The material was carved into all manner of animals, people, and mythical creatures. Han Jade carvers now used circular cutting drills and iron tools, but pieces often have a lower quality finish than previously, which suggests they were starting to be made quicker and on a larger scale of production. Another feature of Han jade sculpture is the use of flaws and impurities in the jade to make them part of the sculpture. From the 1st century BCE, a pure white jade became available from central Asia following the expansion of the Han empire.
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Han Gilt Bronze Lamp

One unique but stunning art form was the creation of jade 'suits' to cover the body of the deceased in royal tombs. The 'suits' cover the contours of the body and are made from up to two thousand individually carved rectangular pieces of jade stitched together using gold or silver wire. Two outstanding examples come from the late 2nd century BCE tomb of Prince Liu Sheng and Princess Dou Wan at Mancheng. Reserved only for royalty, they nevertheless became so costly to produce that later rulers banned their use.

MINOR ARTS

Developments in techniques and kilns led to both higher firing temperatures and the first glazed pottery during the Han period.Pottery, especially the vessels painted with a grey slip commonly found in Han tombs, very often imitated the shape and decoration of bronze vessels. Low circular jars with lids and tall vases with a bulbous body and narrow base are characteristic.A painted dragon, phoenix, or tiger was a popular choice of decoration. Clay was also used to produce small unglazed models of ordinary houses which were set in tombs to accompany the dead and, presumably, symbolically meet their need for a new home. The two-storey models are useful indicators of now lost mud and wood structures; many are complete with adjacent animal pen and figurines of their occupants and animals.
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Han Dynasty Farm Model

Lacquer - a liquid of shellac and resin - was used to coat objects of wood and other material since the Neolithic period in China but, as with many other art forms, production took off under the Han. Indeed, the state sponsored and supervised the production of lacquerware, which now had different schools of lacquer art producing common forms but with recognisably distinct designs. Lacquerware commonly took the form of plates, cups, and jars and similarly imitated metal vessels, but they were decorated more elaborately, particularly with scenes of mythical creatures appearing from behind clouds and probably representing the spirit world of the afterlife.

Amarna › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Joshua J. Mark

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Amarna is the modern Arabic name for the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Akhetaten, capital of the country under the reign of Akhenaten (1353-1336 BCE). The site is officially known as Tell el-Amarna, so-named for the Beni Amran tribe who were living in the area when it was discovered.
A 'tell' in archaeology is a mound created by the remains of successive human habitation of an area over a given number of years. As each new generation builds on the ruins of the previous one, their buildings rise in elevation to create an artificial hill.Amarna differs from the usual 'tell' in that it did not fall to a foreign power or earthquake and was never built over in antiquity; it was instead destroyed by order of the pharaoh Horemheb (c. 1320-1292 BCE) who sought to erase Akhenaten's name and accomplishments from history; afterwards its ruins lay in the plain by the Nile River for centuries and gradually was built on by others who lived nearby.
When he came to power, Akhenaten was a powerful king entrusted – as all kings were – with the maintenance of ma'at(harmony and balance) in the land. Ma'at was the central value of the culture which allowed all aspects of life to function harmoniously as they should. It came into being at the beginning of creation and so, naturally, a king's observance and maintenance of ma'at relied heavily on the proper veneration of the gods through traditional rites and rituals.
AKHENATEN'S ONE TRUE GOD WAS LIGHT, THE LIGHT OF THE SUN, WHICH SUSTAINED ALL LIFE.
Although Akhenaten initially kept to this practice, in around the fifth year of his reign (c. 1348 BCE) he abolished the ancient Egyptian religion, closed the temples, and imposed his own monotheistic vision on the people. This innovation, though hailed by monotheists for the last hundred years, crippled the Egyptian economy (which relied heavily on the temples), distracted the king from foreign affairs, stagnated the military, and resulted in Egypt ’s significant loss of status among neighboring lands.
It is for these reasons that Akhenaten's son and successor, Tutankhamun (c. 1336-1327 BCE), returned Egypt to traditional religious practices and rejected the monotheism of his father. He did not live long enough to complete the restoration of Egypt, however, and so this was accomplished by Horemheb. This era in Egypt's history is known as the Amarna Period and is usually dated from Akhenaten's reforms to Horemheb's reign: c. 1348 - c. 1320 BCE.

THE CITY OF THE GOD

The god Akhenaten chose to replace all the others was not his own creation. Aten was a minor solar deity who personified the light of the sun. Egyptologist David P. Silverman points out how all Akhenaten did was elevate this god to the level of a supreme being and attribute to him the qualities once associated with Amun but without any of that god's personal characteristics. Silverman writes:
Unlike traditional deities, this god could not be depicted: the symbol of the sun disc with rays, dominating Amarna art, is nothing more than a large-scale version of the hieroglyph for 'light'. (128)
Akhenaten's one true god was light, the light of the sun, which sustained all life. Unlike the other gods, Aten was above human concerns and possessed no human weaknesses. As Akhenaten expresses in his Great Hymn to the Aten, his god could not be jealous or depressed or angry or act on impulse; he simply existed and, by that existence, caused all else to exist. A god this powerful and awe-inspiring could not be worshiped at any other god's repurposed temple nor even in any city which had known the worship of other deities; he required a new city built solely for his honor and adoration.
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Akhenaten

This city was Akhetaten, built midway between the traditional capitals of Memphis in the north and Thebes in the south.Boundary steles were erected at intervals around its perimeter which told the story of its founding. On one, Akhenaten records the nature of the site he chose:
Behold, it is Pharaoh, who found it – not being the property of a god, not being the property of a goddess, not being the property of a male ruler, not being the property of a female ruler, and not being the property of any people. (Snape, 155)
Other stelae and inscriptions make clear that the foundation of the city was entirely Akhenaten's initiative as an individual, not as a king of Egypt. A pharaoh of the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570 - c. 1069 BCE) would issue a commission for the building of a city or temple or erection of obelisks or monuments in his royal name and for the glory of his particular god, but these projects were to benefit the nation collectively, not just the king. Akhenaten's city was built for the sole purpose of providing him with an elaborate sacred precinct for his god.

DESIGN & LAYOUT

Akhetaten was laid out over six miles on the east bank of the Nile between the shore and the cliffs above Assiut. Some boundary stelae were carved directly into the cliffs with others free-standing on the far side of the city. The four main districts were the North City, Central City, Southern Suburbs, and Outskirts; none of these names were used to designate the locales in antiquity.
The North City was constructed around the Northern Palace where guests were received and Aten was worshiped. The royal family lived in apartments to the rear of the palace and the most opulent rooms, painted with outdoor scenes depicting the fertility of the Delta region, were dedicated to Aten who was thought to inhabit them. The palace had no roof – a common feature of the buildings at Akhetaten – as a gesture of welcome to Aten.
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Amarna, Northern Palace

The Central City was designed around the Great Temple of Aten and the Small Temple of Aten. This was the bureaucratic center of the city where the administrators worked and lived. The Southern Suburbs was the residential district for the wealthy elite and featured large estates and monuments. The Outskirts were inhabited by the peasant farmers who worked the fields and on the tombs of the necropolis.
Akhenaten himself designed the city for his god, as his boundary stelae make clear, and refused suggestions or advice from anyone else, even his wife Nefertiti (c. 1370 - c. 1336 BCE). Precisely what kind of suggestions she may have made is unknown, but the fact that Akhenaten makes a point of stating that he did not listen to her advice would seem to indicate they were significant. Egyptologist Steven Snape comments:
It is obvious that the 'prospectus' for the new city carved on the boundary stelae is deeply concerned with describing the provision that will be made for the king, his immediate family, the god Aten, and those religious officials who were to be involved with the cult of the Aten. It is equally obvious that it utterly ignores the needs of the vast majority of the population of Amarna, people who would have been moved (possibly unwillingly) from their homes to inhabit the new city. (158)
Once Akhenaten moved his capital to Akhetaten, he focused his attention on the adoration of Aten and increasingly ignored affairs of state as well as the condition of the country outside of the city which was slipping into decline.

AKHENATEN'S REIGN & AMARNA LETTERS

The Amarna Letters are cuneiform tablets discovered at Akhetaten in 1887 CE by a local woman who was digging for fertilizer. They are the correspondence found between the kings of Egypt and those of foreign nations as well as official documents from the period. The majority of these letters demonstrate that Akhenaten was an able administrator when a situation interested him personally but also that as his reign progressed he cared less and less for the responsibilities of a monarch.
In one letter, he strongly rebukes the foreign ruler Abdiashirta for his actions against another, Ribaddi (who was killed), and for his friendship with the Hittites who were then Egypt's enemy. This no doubt had more to do with his desire to keep friendly the buffer states between Egypt and the Land of the Hatti - Canaan and Syria, for example, which were under Abdiashirta's influence - than any sense of justice for the death of Ribaddi and the taking of Byblos.
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The Amarna Letters

There is no doubt that his attention to this problem served the interests of the state but, as other similar issues were ignored, it seems that he only chose to address issues which affected him personally. Akhenaten had Abdiashirta brought to Egypt and imprisoned for a year until Hittite advances in the north compelled his release but there seems a marked difference between his letters dealing with this situation and other king's correspondence on similar matters.
While there are examples like this one of Akhenaten looking after state affairs, there are more which provide evidence of his disregard for anything other than his religious reforms and life in the palace. It should be noted, however, that this is a point often – and hotly - debated among scholars in the modern day, as is the whole of the so-called Amarna Period of Akhenaten's rule. Regarding this, Dr. Zahi Hawass writes:
More has been written on this period in Egyptian history than any other and scholars have been known to come to blows, or at least to major episodes of impoliteness, over their conflicting opinions. (35)
The preponderance of the evidence, both from the Amarna letters and from Tutankhamun's later decree, as well as archaeological indications, strongly suggests that Akhenaten was a very poor ruler as far as his subjects and vassal states were concerned and his reign, in the words of Hawass, was "an inward-focused regime that had lost interest in its foreign policy" (45).
Akhenaten saw himself and his wife not just as servants of the gods but the incarnation of the light of Aten. The art of the period depicts the royal family as strangely elongated and narrow and, while this has been interpreted by some as "realism" it is far more likely symbolism. To Akhenaten, the god Aten was unlike any other – invisible, all-powerful, omniscient, and transformative – and the art from the period would seem to reflect this belief in the curiously tall and thin figures depicted: they have been transformed by the touch of Aten.

DESTRUCTION OF THE CITY

The city flourished until Akhenaten's death; afterwards, Tutankhamun moved the capital back to Memphis and then to Thebes.Tutankhamun initiated the measures to reverse his father's policies and return Egypt to the former beliefs and practices which had maintained the culture and helped it develop for almost 2,000 years. Temples were reopened, and the businesses which depended upon them were renewed.
Tutankhamun died before he could finish these reforms, and they were carried on by his successor, the former vizier Ay, and then by Horemheb. Horemheb had been a general under Akhenaten and served him faithfully but disagreed vehemently with his religious reforms. When Horemheb came to the throne, Akhetaten was still standing (as evidenced by a shrine to him built there at this time) but it would not remain intact for long. He ordered the city razed and its remains dumped as fill for his own projects.
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Relief of Horemheb

Horemheb was so dedicated to erasing the name and accomplishments of Akhenaten that he does not appear in any of Egypt's later historical records. Where he had to be cited it is only as "the heretic of Akhetaten" but never named and no reference made to his position as pharaoh.

DISCOVERY & PRESERVATION

The ruins of the city were first mapped and drawn in the 18th century CE by the French priest Claude Sicard. Other Europeans visited the site afterwards, and interest in the area was piqued after the discovery of the Amarna Letters. It was further explored and mapped in the late 19th century CE by Napoleon's corps of engineers during his Egyptian campaign, and this work attracted the attention of other archaeologists once the Rosetta Stone was deciphered and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics could be read in c. 1824 CE. Akhenaten's name was therefore known but not his significance. It was not until archeologists in the early 20th century CE found the ruins Horemheb had dumped as fill that the story of Akhenaten was finally put together.
In the present day, the site is a wide, barren, expanse of ruined foundations which is being preserved and excavated by The Amarna Project. Unlike the ruins of Thebes or the village of Deir el-Medina, there is little left of Akhetaten for a visitor to admire. Egyptologist Steven Snape comments, "apart from the modest reconstructions of parts of the city by modern archaeologists, there is virtually nothing to be seen of the city of Amarna" (154). This is not unusual as the cities of Memphis and Per-Ramesses, both also capitals of ancient Egypt – as well as many others – are largely vacant lots today with far fewer monuments than those extant at Amarna.
What makes Amarna a special case in this regard is that the city was not leveled by time nor by an invading army but by the successor of the king who built it. At no other time in Egypt's ancient history was a city destroyed by a king's successor to blot out his name. To remove one's name from a temple or monument or tomb was to condemn them for eternity, but in this instance, only the removal of an entire city would satisfy Horemheb's sense of justice.
The Egyptians believed one had to be remembered by the living in order to continue one's eternal journey in the afterlife. In Akhenaten's case, it was not just a tomb or temple which was defaced but the totality of his life and reign. All of his monuments, in every city across Egypt, were torn down and every inscription bearing his name or that of his god was edited with chisels. Akhenaten's heresy was considered so serious, and the damage done to the country so severe, that he was thought to have earned the worst punishment that could be meted out in ancient Egypt: non-existence.

Amarna Letters › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Priscila Scoville

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The Amarna Letters are a body of 14th century BCE correspondence exchanged between the rulers of the Ancient Near Eastand Egypt. They are perhaps the earliest examples of international diplomacy while their most common subjects are negotiations of diplomatic marriage, friendship statements and exchanged materials. The name “ Amarna Letters” derives from the place where the tablets were found: the ancient city of Akhetaten (built by order of the Pharaoh Akhenaten ), but nowadays known as Tell el-Amarna, in Egypt.
The first letters were found in 1887 CE and date back to the 14th century BCE. They are the first international diplomatic system known to us, ie they contain rules, conventions and institutions responsible for communication and negotiation.Although in the early third millennium BCE there was already another form of relationship, this was merely straightforward written communication between Mesopotamia and Syria. With time, this form added some rules, based on necessity and developed the beginning of diplomatic mechanisms, which would culminate in the Amarna system. Thus, diplomacy was created to be used as a tool in the process of creating an empire.
Even though the simpler form of communication between states already existed, it was the Amarna diplomatic system that expanded relationships throughout the Near East, establishing terms of equality among the Great Powers ( Babylon, Hatti, Egypt, Mitanni, Assyria ) for the first time. The Amarna Letters show us that great kings from the ancient world had both responsibilities and privileges which were held with power and respect. Therefore, the Amarna system brought a notion of stability and peace, although not always real, for more than two centuries.
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Amarna Letter

The tablets cover the reigns of the rulers Amenhotep III, Akhenaten and possibly Smenkhkare or Tutankhamun, of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. Nonetheless, the system continued to be used for approximately a hundred years after the end of the Amarna Period.
COHEN AND WESTBROOK TELL US THAT THE AMARNA LETTERS ARE THE FIRST KNOWN DIPLOMATIC SYSTEM.
The researchers R. Cohen and R. Westbrook tell us the importance of studying the Amarna Letters. They say that people nowadays should pay more attention to them, as these tablets are the first known diplomatic system. By seeing the mechanisms used in the past, we can learn about different kinds of relationships and how they changed and were modified through time. This means that we can learn more about the contacts between such distant civilizations, acknowledging that isolation was not part of ancient life. By realizing the sophistication of international relations in this period, our way to perceive the distant past can drastically improve.

STRUCTURE OF THE LETTERS

There are 382 known tablets, ordered chronologically and geographically with the acronym “EA”, by JA Kunudtzon, in 1907 CE. However, when Knudtzon organized the tablets, in the “Die El-Amarna-Tafeln”, only 358 of them were known, so the other 24 tablets were analyzed in 1970 CE by Anson F. Rainey, with the exception of EA 80-82.
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Amarna Letter from Biridiya

Some of these tablets (32) are not letters, but probably training material for scribes. The letters themselves were organized by Jean Nougayrol in two groups: lettre d'envoi (indicating what is being sent) and lettre d'injonction (making requests). The major part of this correspondence is a combination of these two types, ie the letters name gifts sent and ask for something in return.
Most of the letters were received by the Egyptians, only a few of them were written by the Pharaoh. We do not know why these letters were together, but maybe they were never sent or were retained copies. Furthermore, in addition to the letters for training purposes, there are two other subdivisions: the international ones (which the Egyptian rulers exchanged between the Great Powers of the Near East and the independent kingdoms); and the administrative ones (exchanged between the Syrian- Palestine region, mostly Egyptian vassals).
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Amarna Letter from Abdi-Tirshi

TRAINING PURPOSES

Due to the current stage of research we do not know much about these 32 training tablets. They have various themes such as myths and epics (EA 356-59, and probably EA340 and EA 375), syllabary (EA348, 350, 379), lexical texts (EA 351-54, 373), lists of gods (EA374), a tale of Hurrian origin (EA341), a list of Egyptian words written in cuneiform with Babylonian equivalences (EA368), and one tablet is perhaps an amulet (EA355). According to William Moran, the rest of them (EA 342-47, 349, 260-61, 372, 376-77, 380-81) are too fragmented and its content is still waiting to be determined.

INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENCE

The letters of this group can be divided into those exchanged between the Great Powers and the ones exchanged between independent kingdoms.
• Independent kingdoms: There are only two places in this category, which is Arzawa (EA 31-32) and Alashiya (EA 33-40).Arzawa was located on the south Anatolian coast. The alliance with Egypt was made via diplomatic marriage. Alashiya was on Cyprus, and was known as a source of copper.
• Great Powers: They were an exclusive group in which kingdoms were treated equally. They were the most influential and prosperous territories. Egypt only entered this group after the campaigns of Thutmose III. The others were Babylon, Hatti, Mitanni and Assyria. As they were equals, they had a “brotherly” relationship and had to employ a specific pattern when writing to each other. At first, they had to identify who was writing and for whom the letter was written, then, report their wishes to the other, as showed in the example below:
“Say to Naphurreya, the king of Egypt, my brother, my son-in-law, whom I love and whom loves me: Thus Tushratta, Great King, the king of Mitanni, you father-in-law, who loves you, your brother. For me all goes well.For you may all go well. For Tiye, your mother, for your household, may all go well. For Tadu-Heba, my daughter, your wife, for the rest of your wives, for your sons, for your magnates, for your chariots, for your horses, for your troops, for your country, and for whatever else belongs to you, may all go very, very well.” (EA27).
The rest of the letter was less stereotypical, making requests or listing the items being sent. But, as we said, normally, they presented both requests and gifts. The most common subjects were negotiations of diplomatic marriage, friendship statements and exchanged materials.
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Amarna Letter from Yapahu

VASSAL CORRESPONDENCE

During the reign of Thutmose III, the Egyptian army went as far as the Euphates, establishing an empire in Cannan. These territories became vassals of Egypt, and some examples are Amurru (EA60-67, 156-71), Byblos (EA 68-138, 362, 139-40), Damascus (EA 194-97) and Qadesh (EA 189-190).
The Egyptian vassals referred to the Pharaoh as “my lord” or “my Sun” and usualy began the letters in a pattern similar to the example below:
“Say to the king, my lord, the Sun: Message of Rib-Hadda, your servant. I fall at the feet of my lord 7 times and 7 times” (EA85).
Vassals, in theory, must obey their lords and although the Egyptian vassals constantly declared and affirmed loyalty to the Pharaoh some of them were traitors, negotiating with the Hitites, as did Qadesh and Amurru. Others, as Byblos and Damascus, were truly loyal to Egypt, but were everely repressed by the traitors.
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Amarna Letter from Shipti Ba'al of Lagash

THE LETTERS TODAY

As noted above, there are 382 tablets known to us, however, they were not found at the same time, which means that different groups of archaeologists and Universities have discovered various portions. Thus, the tablets are nowadays spread all over the world. They can be seen in museums like the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Berlin), the British Museum (London), the Louvre ( Paris ) and the Egyptian Museum (Cairo).
In 1992 CE, William Moran translated the 350 letters into English for the first time. Thanks to his book, The Amarna Letters, the correspondence can be easily explored by researchers from all over the world, given that, until then, only the version in cuneiform was available. In 2014 CE, a new edition of the letters was published by Anson F. Rainey and edited by William M. Schniedewind and Zipora Cochavi-Rainey. The book, The el-Amarna Correspondence, has translations, cuneiform transcriptions and commentaries on the letters.

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