Betsy Bryan: The Amarna Revolution from Above—Case Studies

Friday, March 8, 2019

6:30 p.m.—Pre-lecture reception ($5.00 per person)

7:00 p.m.—Lecture (free) 


We don't often think about how similar or different ancient Egypt and its religion and politics may have been from our own world today. Yet frequently the strategies and tactics used by authoritarian rulers in ancient history are not greatly different from what occurs in the modern era. One of the things that I have stressed in my 30-plus years of teaching at the university level is how much ancient Egyptians were like us—not strange people who made mummies and worshipped animal-like deities, but humans with exactly the same concerns, hopes, and egos that we have. It is what keeps us connected to them over long spans of time and not just for the brief splashy discoveries.

     In his short 17-year reign, Akhenaten achieved a new religion—nearly that of monotheism—instituted it, and built a new city to give it a home. This talk examines that phenomenon by comparing it to similar types of religious revolutions in less distant historical eras: the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century in England, and the Bolshevik attempt to stamp out all religion except atheism in the early 20th century. It will then compare those carefully with Akhenaten's steps to see what characteristics their tactics shared, and what was successful and what was not.


Betsy M. Bryan is the Alexander Badawy Professor of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, where she has taught since 1986. Dr. Bryan specializes in the history, art, and archaeology of the New Kingdom in Egypt, ca. 1600-1000 B.C., with a particular emphasis on the 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1300 B.C. Dr. Bryan's research interests include the organization and techniques of art production as well as the religious and cultural significance of tomb and temple decoration. She currently does fieldwork in the temple complex of the goddess Mut at South Karnak. Research there focuses on defining the earliest forms of the temple of Mut of Isheru. 

     Bryan is also interested in the presentation of Egypt's visual history to the public and has curated two major loan exhibitions: one on the art of the reign of Amenhotep III entitled "Egypt's Dazzling Sun" at the Cleveland Museum of Art; the other an exhibit of art illustrating the New Kingdom concepts of the afterlife entitled "The Quest for Immortality" at the National Gallery of Art.


505 East Braddock Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314

(across the street from the Braddock Road station on Metro’s blue and yellow lines)


Venue sponsored by Maria and Richard Calderon in association with

 Hands Along the Nile Development Services Inc. (HANDS)


During the pre-lecture reception, there will be a raffle for Egyptian-themed items such as books, journals, jewelry, and DVDs. ARCE-DC members receive a free raffle ticket for each one they buy.

Meet-the-Speaker and Networking Dinner—

After the lecture, join ARCE-DC members and guests for a dinner with the speaker. We will meet at Lena's Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, just a few blocks away. Each attendee pays for his or her own dinner and contributes an extra $5.00 to defray the cost of the speaker's meal.  Please RSVP to Carol Boyer at