The Lord Hani Mysteries
by N.L. Holmes
This story takes place during the period of Egypt’s history known as the New Kingdom, when the country
had become an empire with holdings in Nubia to the south and throughout the Levant to the north. It
begins around 1350 BCE, the approximate date of the death of Amenhotep lll of Egypt. His son
succeeded him as Amenhotep IV, later changing his name to Akhenaten as he implemented his religious
reforms, replacing with the Aten the Theban gods Amen-Ra and his family and gradually the entire
Egyptian pantheon. Although this new religion is sometimes called monotheistic, it was more precisely
monolatrous. That is, Akhenaten didn’t deny that Amen and other gods existed, he simply decreed that
the Aten was the only god Egypt would worship henceforth. Scholars are divided over the idea of a
coregency in Amenhotep lll’s years later, but I have accepted that there was one and settled on a duration
of five years. Since Akhenaten is known to have resigned seventeen years, this would move his death date
earlier than the commonly accepted one.
The reign of Akhenaten marked a nearly unimaginable overturning of values and customs millennia old, a
testimony to the absolute power of the king. But judging by the speed with which his “reforms” were
reversed after his death, we must assume that relatively few people really bought into them. His reign is
the first and only time that we find intolerance at work in pharaonic Egypt, a country of remarkable open-
mindedness, and episodes of defacing tombs, people reporting friends and family, changing their names,
etc., were real.
Lord Hani, our protagonist, was a historical person, whose travel as a royal emissary are attested by the
Amarna letters. This collection of diplomatic correspondences from the reigns of Amenhotep lll and IV
were found at Akhetaten (today Tell el-Amarna), the new capital established by Akhenaten. They were
mostly written in Akkadian, the diplomatic language of the period, thus deforming the Egyptian names
found in them, presumably according to the Semitic pronunciation. The troubles with the hapiru and
between kings which from the background to our story are described in the letters. Likewise, all the kings
and commissioners of Kharu with whom Hani deals in our story — the Lords Ptah-mes, Yanakh-amu, and
Yapakh-addi — are real, although the relationships and personalities given them in the book are fictitious.
Many of the clues are, in fact, events attested in the Amarna letters, but I have woven them together into a
fictional connection. Scholars are undecided whether Ptah-mes lived in the early or late part of
Amenhotep lll’s reign; I have accepted the latter.