Akhet - Horizon, or Hill of Light?
In the Egyptian language, there is a frequent
formula, which is hard to define. It is there in the name of Akhenaten's capital. The name
Akhetaten is usually translated as Horizon of Aton, the Solar Disc. There are
several occurrences, and akhet as horizon makes difficult to cope with them.
Usually it comes as something related to the horizon, sure, but often means a kind of
mystic Hill of Light. "Ra sets / rises on the Hill of Light". Ra-Harachti, the
rising sun bears a name we can translate as Ra, the Horus on the Horizon. Even Cheops'
pyramid had the ancient name Akhet Khufu which means Cheops' Horizon - or Cheops'
Hill of Light? It is hard to imagine a pyramid, rather pointy thingy and tall enough,
named after such a flat thing like the horizon. It is true enough that akhet has
been related to the eternity, maybe through the endlessness of the horizon, but this came
only in the ptolemaic period, so we'd better translate the name as Cheops' Hill of Light.
But what Hill of Light? Sometimes one can feel that ancient Egyptians had completely
different mental picture about the horizon, than we have.
It gets more interesting if we take a look to the hieroglyph of akhet: It resembles to lots of things but the horizon, by our means. So what is this? The Hill of Light? What Hill of Light?
Laszlo Kakosy, Hungarian Egyptologist writes about
the Hill of Light in his work "Ré fiai" (Sons of Ra). He gives interesting
explanation: according to him, Hill of Light is an optical phenomenon caused by the
setting and rising sun. A luminous halo can be observed even in Europe, but in Egypt, with
that air clear and dry, it is more definite. This halo has a round or triangular shape and
seems to standing on the edge of the ground, on the horizon. Kakosy brings examples to
show that ancient Egyptians represented the sun in triangular shape, or in a triangle, and
he derives it to that halo. His explanation makes it obvious that this halo is the Hill of
Light, the akhet. And now, more than six months later, I understood that I
took a picture of akhet, and here it is!
If you take a look at the hieroglyph of akhet, you can spot easily that the round hape partly covers the lover rectangular part. The usual interpretation of the symbols says the sun rises between two hills. I have different opinion. It is pity that the phenomenon cannot be seen perfectly on this photo, because of the shading effect of the building. But it has a significant flare effect, which cause the light seemed to reach under the horizon level, as it glares against our eyes. I am sure this effect is what the glyph represents.
This point of view puts everything to different light. A city named after the horizon - well, funny idea. But named after a hill, even after a mythic hill - it rings the bell. Look: the sun sets and rises in the Hill of Light (exactly what is pictured several times by Egyptians!), this makes their relation in mind, and the Hill of Light becomes sacred, a home of the Sun and Gods (one of them, at least). Its perpetual renewing leads to harmonize its meaning to the eternity in the later ages - as I mentioned already.
This way the akhet gets new meaning easier to understand, and this makes clear how the Great Pyramid got the name Cheops' Hill of Light - the Hill of Light where the Great God (a name or title of Cheops) has set to rise again on a new dawn like the sun does. NB: even this point of view can be false, since Cheops is famous for protecting his own cult very fast. According to certain sources he closed temples and banned gods to protect himself and Khnum, his honored god. But the pharaoh and the sun, the pharaoh and Horus - these were close terms for hundreds of years from then. We shouldn't forget Horus of Divine Body (Horus Netjeri-Khet) Djoser, who had the title The Golden Sun.