You are here

Biblical Archaeology Review 48:4, Winter 2022

Epistles: What’s in a Name?: Ankhesenamun

Biblical Archaeology Review


‘nkh.s = she lives | n = “for” | Jmn = “god Amun”

Ankhesenamun was the chief wife and queen of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Born to the royal couple Akhenaten and Nefertiti in around 1350 B.C.E., she was King Tut’s half-sister.

Her original name was Ankh-es-en-pa-aten, meaning “she lives for the Aten,” which referred to the sun god Aten, whom her father established as Egypt’s supreme deity. Following Akhenaten’s death and the reversal of his religious reforms, the then queen replaced Aten with Amun in her name, to become Ankh-es-en-amun, “she lives for Amun.” Grammatically, the name is a simple sentence consisting of the verb ‘nkh “to live,” with the affixed pronominal subject s “she,” followed by the preposition n “for,” and then the divine name Amun. In the hieroglyphs, the god’s name comes first, in what is called the honorific transposition.

Her husband similarly changed his name from Tutankhaten (“living image of the Aten”) to Tutankhamun (“living image of Amun”), honoring thus the restored primacy of the Theban god Amun. It was, however, only a few years after King Tut’s death that their old names (and any traces of the “heretic” era) were systematically purged. The Aten-bearing names, therefore, survived inscribed on items buried with the boy king, including on the marvelous golden throne that features both forms of their names.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.