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The Sun God's Treasurer On Assignment

The Sun God's Treasurer On Assignment

The Sun God's Treasurer
Step into the world of writers and photographers as they tell you about the best, worst, and quirkiest places and adventures they encountered in the field.

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The Goldkeeper's Tomb

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By Alain ZiviePhotographs by Kenneth Garrett

A lavish tomb records the rise and fall of a heretical pharaoh and the staying power of a savvy CFO.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

A lot of experience and intuition, and a little luck, led me to this tomb in the ancient cemetery of Saqqara. With support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I had already found burial sites carved into a cliff there, including one prepared for a top official of Ramses the Great (see "A Pharaoh's Peacemaker," October 2002) and another belonging to a woman named Maïa, the wet nurse of the famous Tutankhamun, a successor of Akhenaten. As my crew filled sandbags to buttress our excavations, their shovels uncovered an opening in the rock. Once the sand was removed, I surveyed in amazement a colonnaded funerary chapel with a carved stone stela. In the cliff behind it we discovered a pair of rooms lined with reliefs, then stairs leading to an unfinished burial chamber. Inscriptions reveal that the owner had two names, Raïay and Hatiay. The son of a goldsmith, he became a top administrator of the treasury of the temples of Aten in Akhetaten (the new capital) and Memphis (the old one). In other words, this man looked after gold and other offerings to Aten in two of Egypt's key cities. Surely he had close connections to the great Akhenaten himself. Many of the tomb's reliefs reflect Raïay's devotion to the pharaoh's extreme religion. But some of them clearly were changed, apparently during Raïay's lifetime. Now the question became—why?

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.

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Preview Treasures of Egypt, the greatest collection of ancient Eygpt photographs ever published. Then watch interviews with photographer Kenneth Garrett, download desktop images, send e-greetings, and write in hieroglyphs.

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In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
Ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun as a god throughout their recorded history. A variety of deities—including Ra, or Re, Amun, and the combined Amun-Re—manifested different aspects of the solar orb. But the radical Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled the country from 1353 B.C. to 1336 B.C., elevated one god, Aten, the embodiment of the sun's radiating warmth, to a nearly exclusive position. Outlawing temples to other gods (along with the traditional festivals held in their honor), Akhenaten raised new temples to Aten, leaving them open to the sky to allow worshippers to feel the god's life-giving rays.

Moreover, Akhenaten proclaimed himself to be Aten's sole incarnation on Earth, the one human who could worship and communicate directly with the god. Ordinary people could adore Aten only through their king, who ordered his artists to depict Aten as a disk in the sky with rays culminating in hands—most commonly shown blessing the royal family and accepting their offerings. (See National Geographic, April 2001, 36-37.)

Following Akhenaten's death, the Aten temples were dismantled, as was the now heretical theology. Royalty, temple officials, and citizens throughout the realm once again took refuge in their belief in, and worship of, their own favored deities.

—Nancie Majkowski
Did You Know?

Related Links
National Geographic Hieroglyphs Translator
Write your own ancient Egyptian message, then print or send.
The Aten
Survey a virtual reconstruction of Pharaoh Akhenaten's capital, Akhetaten, and  see the location of the Great Temple of Aten where Raïay served this sun god.
The Great Hymn to the Aten 
Read Pharaoh Akhenaten's lyrical tribute to his supreme god, Aten.
Egyptian Galleries at the University of Pennsylvania Museum
See your name written in hieroglyphs, the writing used on the walls of Raïay's tomb.
Pharaohs of the Sun exhibition
View artifacts from a comprehensive exhibition about Pharaoh Akhenaten, his queen Nefertiti, and many aspects of their 17-year reign.


Freed, Rita E., and others. Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen. Museum of Fine Arts in association with Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown and Co., 1999.

Ikram, Salima. Death and Burial in Ancient Egypt. Longman, 2003.

Oakes, Lorna, and Lucia Gahlin. The Mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Lorenz Books, 2002.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, 3 vols. Donald B. Redford, editor in chief. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.
Thames & Hudson, 2003.


NGS Resources
Sloan, Christopher. Bury the Dead: Tombs, Corpses, Mummies, Skeletons, and Rituals. National Geographic Books, 2002.

Supples, Kevin. Egypt. National Geographic Books, 2002.

Price, Sean. "Treasures of the Tomb," National Geographic Kids (November 2002), 20-23.

Williams, A. R. "
Death on the Nile," National Geographic (October 2002), 2-25.

Berger, Gilda, and Melvin Berger. Mummies of the Pharaohs: Exploring the Valley of the Kings. National Geographic Books, 2001.

Fagan, Brian. Egypt of the Pharaohs. National Geographic Books, 2001.

Gore, Rick. "
Pharaohs of the Sun," National Geographic (April 2001), 34-57.

Hawass, Zahi. "
Egypt's Hidden Tombs Revealed," National Geographic (September 2001), 32-41.

"World Wonders," National Geographic Traveler (October 1999), 248-49.

Webster, Donovan. "Valley of the Mummies," National Geographic (October 1999), 76-87.

Harris, Stephen L., and others. The Wonders of the World, National Geographic Books, 1998.

Hawass, Zahi. "Abusir Tomb," National Geographic (November 1998), 102-13.

Weeks, Kent R. "Valley of the Kings," National Geographic (September 1998), 2-33.

Who Built the Pyramids? National Geographic Videos, 1992.

El-Baz, Farouk. "Finding a Pharaoh's Funeral Bark," National Geographic (April 1988), 512-33.

Miller, Peter. "Riddle of the Pyramid Boats", National Geographic (April 1988), 534-50.

Eigeland, Tor. "Splendors in Stone—Monuments of Ancient Egypt," National Geographic Traveler (Winter 1984/85), 110-28.

Peck, William H., Karl W. Butzer, and others. Ancient Egypt: Discovering its Splendors. National Geographic Books, 1978.

Hall, Alice J. "Legacy of a Dazzling Past?" National Geographic (March 1977), 292-311.

Caffery, Jefferson. "Fresh Treasures from Egypt's Ancient Sands," National Geographic (November 1955), 611-50.

Williams, Maynard Owen. "At the Tomb of Tutankhamun: An Account of the Opening of the Royal Egyptian Sepulcher Which Contained the Most Remarkable Funeral Treasures Unearthed in Historic Times," National Geographic (May 1923), 461-508.

Baikie, James. "The Resurrection of Ancient Egypt," National Geographic (September 1913), 957-1020.

Coburn, Camden M. "The Sacred Ibis Cemetery and Jackal Catacombs at Abydos," National Geographic (September 1913), 1042-56.


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