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Nefertiti
Nofretete Neues Museum.jpg
The bust of Nefertiti from the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin collection, presently in the Neues Museum
Queen consort of Egypt
Tenure 1353–1336 BC or
1351–1334 BC
Born c. 1370 BC
Thebes, Egypt
Died c. 1330 BC
Spouse Akhenaten
Issue
Full name
Neferneferuaten Nefertiti
Dynasty 18th of Egypt
Father Ay (possibly)
Mother Iuy? (possibly)
Religion Ancient Egyptian religion
Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti in hieroglyphs
X1
N35
N5
M17 F35 F35 F35 F35
 
F35 M18 X1
Z4
B1

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti
Nfr nfrw itn Nfr.t jy.tj
Beautiful are the Beauties of Aten, the Beautiful one has come
  Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten

Nefertiti (pronounced at the time something like *nafratiːta) (c. 1370 BC – c. 1330 BC) was the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. She was the mother-in-law and may have been stepmother of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. After her husband died, Nefertiti may have also ruled as pharaoh under the name Neferneferuaten.

Her name in English means "the beautiful (or perfect) woman has come". Nefertiti was one of the most powerful queens in Ancient Egypt.

Nefertiti and her husband reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of ancient Egyptian history. They radically changed the national religious policy, introducing proto-monotheism centred on the sun god Aten.

Nefertiti is best known for her bust, which is in Berlin's Neues Museum. This bust is considered to be a beautiful example of Egyptian art. It was attributed to the sculptor Thutmose, and it was found in his workshop.

She is one of the most recognized queens in Ancient Egypt.

Family and early life

Almost nothing is known about Nefertiti's life prior to her marriage to Akhenaten. She probably was the daughter of a woman named Tey anh her husband, Ay.

The exact dates when Nefertiti married Akhenaten and became the king's great royal wife are uncertain. They had at least six daughters together, including Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten (later called Ankhesenamun when she married Tutankhamun), Neferneferuaten Tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre.

Nefertiti was the first and most loved wife of Akhenaten. He had a total of eight wives, but she was different from the rest. Ramses was devoted and obsessed with her beauty. Nefertiti was such an educated woman, she was able to read and write hieroglyphs. It was a rare skill that barely anyone had.

Life

Alabaster sunken relief depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and daughter Meritaten. Early Aten cartouches on king's arm and chest. From Amarna, Egypt. 18th Dynasty. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Close-up of a limestone relief depicting Nefertiti smiting a female captive on a royal barge. On display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Nefertiti first appears in scenes in Thebes, in the damaged tomb (TT188) of the royal butler Parennefer. The new king Amenhotep IV is accompanied by a royal woman; they are both shown worshiping the Aten.

During the early years in Thebes, Akhenaten (still known as Amenhotep IV) had several temples erected at Karnak. One of the structures, the Mansion of the Benben (hwt-ben-ben), was dedicated to Nefertiti. She is depicted with her daughter Meritaten and in some scenes the princess Meketaten participates as well.

In the fourth year of his reign, Amenhotep IV decided to move the capital to Akhetaten (modern Amarna). In his fifth year, Amenhotep IV officially changed his name to Akhenaten, and Nefertiti became known as Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti. The name change was a sign of the ever-increasing importance of the cult of the Aten.

The new city contained several large open-air temples dedicated to the Aten. Nefertiti and her family would have resided in the Great Royal Palace in the centre of the city and possibly at the Northern Palace as well. Nefertiti's steward during this time was an official named Meryre II. He would have been in charge of running her household.

Meketaten may have died in year 13 or 14. Nefertiti, Akhenaten, and three princesses are shown mourning her. The last dated inscription naming her and Akhenaten comes from a building inscription in the limestone quarry at Dayr Abū Ḥinnis. It dates to year 16 of the king's reign and is also the last dated inscription naming the king.

Possible reign as Pharaoh

Many scholars believe Nefertiti became co-regent of her husband Pharaoh Akhenaten before his death. She is depicted in many archaeological sites as equal in stature to a King, smiting Egypt's enemies, riding a chariot, and worshipping the Aten like a pharaoh. When Nefertiti's name disappears from historical records, it is replaced by that of a co-regent named Neferneferuaten, who became a female Pharaoh. It seems likely that Nefertiti, in a similar fashion to the previous female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, assumed the kingship under the name Pharaoh Neferneferuaten after her husband's death. It is also possible that, in a similar fashion to Hatshepsut, Nefertiti disguised herself as a male and assumed the male alter-ego of Smenkhkare; in this instance she could have elevated her daughter Meritaten to the role of great royal wife.

Death and burial

Queen Nefertiti, Limestone relief
Nefertiti worshipping the Aten. She is given the title of Mistress of the Two Lands. On display at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Fragment with cartouche of Akhenaten, which is followed by epithet Great in his Lifespan and the title of Nefertiti Great King's Wife. Reign of Akhenaten. From Amarna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Fragment with cartouche of Akhenaten, which is followed by epithet Great in his Lifespan and the title of Nefertiti Great King's Wife. Reign of Akhenaten. From Amarna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Unfinished portrait head of queen Nefertiti with sketches 01
Limestone trial piece showing head of Nefertiti.
Heads of Akhenaten and Nefertiti
heads of akhenaten and Nefertiti 18th Dynasty Egypt

Nefertiti is thought to have died around 1330 BC. In 1898, French archeologist Victor Loret found two female mummies among those cached inside the tomb of Amenhotep II in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings. These two mummies, known as 'The Elder Lady' and 'The Younger Lady', were identified as likely candidates of her remains. However, in a subsequent research project led by Zahi Hawass, the mummy was put through CT scan analysis and DNA analysis. Researchers concluded that the younger lade is Tutankhamun's biological mother, an unnamed daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye, not Nefertiti. The Elder Lady proved to be Tiye, mother of Akhenaten.

KV21B mummy

One of the two female mummies found in KV21 has been suggested as the body of Nefertiti. DNA analysis did not yield enough data to make a definitive identification but confirmed she was a member of the Eighteenth Dynasty royal line. CT-scanning revealed she was about 45 at the time of her death; her left arm had been bent over her chest in the 'queenly' pose. The possible identification is based on her association with the mummy tentatively identified as Ankhesenamun. It is suggested that just as a mother and daughter (Tiye and the Younger Lady) were found lying together in KV35, the same was true of these mummies.

Hittite letters

A document was found in the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa which dates to the Amarna period. According to the document, the Hittite ruler received a letter from the Egyptian queen. The letter reads:

My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband... I am afraid.

This proposal is considered extraordinary as New Kingdom royal women never married foreign royalty. He eventually did send one of his sons, Zannanza, but the prince died, perhaps murdered, en route.

The identity of the queen who wrote the letter is uncertain. She is called Dakhamunzu in the Hittite annals, a translation of the Egyptian title Ta hemet nesu (The King's Wife). Since Nefertiti was depicted as being as powerful as her husband in official monuments smiting Egypt's enemies, she might be the Dakhamunzu in the Amarna correspondence, as Nicholas Reeves believes.

Names and titles

Nefertiti had many titles including:

  • Hereditary Princess (iryt-p`t)
  • Great of Praises (wrt-Hzwt)
  • Lady of Grace (nebet-imat, nbt-jmꜣt)
  • Sweet of Love (beneret-merut, bnrt-mrwt)
  • Lady of The Two Lands (nebet-tawi, nbt-tꜣwj)
  • Main King's Wife, his beloved (hemet-nesut-aat meretef, ḥmt-nswt-ꜥꜣt mrt.f)
  • Great King's Wife, his beloved (hemet-nesut-weret meretef, ḥmt-nswt-wrt mrt.f)
  • Lady of All Women (henut-hemut-nebut, ḥnwt-ḥmwt-nbwt)
  • Mistress of Upper & Lower Egypt (henut-shemau-mehu, ḥnwt-šmꜣw-mḥw).

Gallery

Cultural depictions

  • Nefertiti was portrayed by Geraldine Chaplin in Nefertiti and Akhenaton (1973), Mexican short film of Raul Araiza.
  • Nefertiti was also portrayed by Riann Steele in Doctor Who (2012), in the episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Nefertiti para niños

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