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Nefertiti (c. 1370 BCE – c. 1330 BCE) was the Great Royal Wife (chief consort) of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they started to worship one god only. This was Aten, or the sun disc.
Nefertiti had many titles; for example, at Karnak are inscriptions that read Heiress, Great of Favours, Possessed of Charm, Exuding Happiness, Mistress of Sweetness, Beloved One, Soothing the King's Heart in His House, Soft-spoken in All, Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, Great King's Wife, Whom He Loves, Lady of the Two Lands, Nefertiti.
She was made famous by her bust, now in Berlin's Neues Museum. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. It was attributed to the sculptor Thutmose, and it was found in his workshop. The bust is notable for exemplifying the understanding Ancient Egyptians had regarding realistic facial proportions. Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly after her husband's death and before the accession of Tutankhamun as Smenkhkare, although this identification is a matter of ongoing debate.
Nefertiti's parentage is not known with certainty, but it is now generally believed that she was the daughter of Ay, later to be pharaoh and the sister of Mutbenret. Another theory that gained some support identified Nefertiti with the Mitanni princess Tadukhipa.
The exact dates of when Nefertiti was married to Amenhotep IV and later promoted to his Queen are uncertain. However, the couple had six known daughters. This is a list with suggested years of birth:
- Meritaten: Before year one or the very beginning of year one.(1356 BCE).
- Meketaten: Year 1 or three (1349 BCE).
- Ankhesenpaaten, also known as Ankhesenamen, later queen of Tutankhamun
- Neferneferuaten Tasherit: Year 6 (1344 BCE)
- Neferneferure: Year 9 (1341 BCE).
- Setepenre: Year 11 (1339 BCE).
In the fourth year of his reign (1346 BCE) Amenhotep IV started his worship of Aten. The king led this religious revolution, in which Nefertiti played a prominent role. It changed Egypt's religion from a polytheistic religion to a henotheistic religion. This was not strictly monotheism, as they did not deny the existence of other gods.
This year is also believed to mark the beginning of his construction of a new capital, Akhetaten, at what is known today as Amarna. In his fifth year, Amenhotep IV officially changed his name to Akhenaten as evidence of his new worship. The date given for the event has been estimated to fall around January 2 of that year. In Year 7 of his reign (1343 BCE), the capital was officially moved from Thebes to Amarna. Construction of the city seems to have continued for two more years (till 1341 BCE). The new city was dedicated to the royal couple's new religion. Nefertiti's famous bust is also thought to have been created around this time.
In an inscription estimated to November 21 of year 12 of the reign (approx. 1338 BCE), her daughter Meketaten is mentioned for the last time; she is thought to have died shortly after that date. Circumstantial evidence which shows that she predeceased her husband at Akhetaten include several shabti fragments of the Queen's burial, which are now located in the Louvre and Brooklyn Museums. A relief in Akhenaten's tomb in the Royal Wadi at Amarna appears to show her funeral.
During Akhenaten's reign (and perhaps after), Nefertiti enjoyed unprecedented power. By the twelfth year of his reign, there is evidence that she may have been elevated to the status of co-regent: equal in status to the pharaoh. She was often depicted on temple walls the same size as the king, signifying her importance, and she was shown worshiping the Aten alone. Perhaps most impressively, Nefertiti is shown on a relief from the temple at Amarna smiting a foreign enemy with a mace before the Aten. Such depictions had traditionally been reserved for the pharaoh alone, and yet Nefertiti was depicted the same way. (This relief is held by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.)
About Year 14 of Akhenaten's reign (1336 BCE), Nefertiti vanishes from the historical record. There is no word of her after that date. Theories include sudden death by a plague that was sweeping through the city or another natural death. A previous theory that she fell into disgrace is now discredited, since the deliberate erasures of monuments belonging to a queen of Akhenaten have been shown to refer to Kiya instead. Conclusions about the disappearance of Nefertiti seem likely to be lost to history.
The Coregency Stela may show her as a co-regent with her husband, who possibly ruled after his death. Some scholars think that Nefertiti changed her name, first to Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten and later to Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare, and that she enjoyed a brief sole rule under the latter name. They also believe that, as her husband's co-regent and successor, she may have attempted to reconcile the Atenist and Traditional religions Nefertiti would have prepared for her death and for the succession of her daughter, now named Ankhsenamun, and her stepson, Tutankhamun. They would have been educated in the traditional way, worshiping the old gods. This theory has Neferneferuaten's dying after two years of kingship, to be succeeded by Tutankhamun. (In February 2010, results of DNA tests were published which confirmed his being a son of Akhenaten.)
Tutankhamun married Nefertiti's daughter Ankhesenpaaten. The royal couple were young and inexperienced, by any estimation of their age. Ankhesenpaaten bore two premature, stillborn daughters whose mummies were found by Howard Carter in Tutankhamen's tomb. Some theories believe that Nefertiti was still alive and held influence on the younger royals. If this is the case, that influence and presumably Nefertiti's own life would have ended by year 3 of Tutankhaten's reign (1331 BCE). In that year, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun. This was evidence of his return to the official worship of Amun, and his abandonment of Amarna to return the capital to Thebes.
As can be seen by the suggested identifications between Tadukhipa, Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and Kiya, the records of their time and their lives are largely incomplete. The findings of archaeologists and historians may develop new theories vis-à-vis Nefertiti and her precipitous exit from the public stage.
There are many theories regarding her death and burial.
The "Younger Lady"
In the most recent research effort led by Egyptian archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, a mummy known as "The Younger Lady" was put through CT scan analysis. Researchers concluded that she may be Tutankhamun's biological mother, Queen Kiya, not Queen Nefertiti. Fragments of shattered bone were found in the sinus, and blood clots were found. The theory that the damage was inflicted post-mummification was rejected, and a murder scenario was deemed more likely. Scholars think Kiya's identification as KV35 is consistent with the fact that, after Tutankhamun returned Egypt to the traditional religion, he moved his closest relatives: father, grandmother, and biological mother, to the Valley of the Kings to be buried with him (according to the list of figurines and drawings in his tomb). Nefertiti may be in an undiscovered tomb.
On June 9, 2003, archaeologist Joann Fletcher, a specialist in ancient hair from the University of York in England, announced that Nefertiti's mummy may have been one of the anonymous mummies stored in tomb KV35 in the Valley of the Kings known as "the Younger Lady". The independent scholar Marianne Luban had published similar speculation in 1999 in an article posted on the Internet, entitled "Do We Have the Mummy of Nefertiti?"
Luban's points upholding the identification are the same as those of Joann Fletcher. Furthermore, Fletcher suggested that Nefertiti was the Pharaoh Smenkhkare. Some Egyptologists hold to this view though the majority believe Smenkhkare to have been a separate person. Dr. Fletcher led an expedition funded by the Discovery Channel that examined what they believed to have been Nefertiti's mummy.
The team claimed that the mummy they examined was damaged in a way suggesting the body had been deliberately desecrated in antiquity. Mummification techniques, such as the use of embalming fluid and the presence of an intact brain, suggested an eighteenth-dynasty royal mummy. Other elements which the team used to support their theory were the age of the body, the presence of embedded nefer beads, and a wig of a rare style worn by Nefertiti. They further claimed that the mummy's arm was originally bent in the position reserved for pharaohs, but was later snapped off and replaced with another arm in a normal position.
Most Egyptologists, among them Kent Weeks and Peter Locavara, generally dismiss Fletcher's claims as unsubstantiated. They say that ancient mummies are almost impossible to identify as a particular person without DNA. As bodies of Nefertiti's parents or children have never been identified, her conclusive identification is impossible. Any circumstantial evidence, such as hairstyle and arm position, is not reliable enough to pinpoint a single, specific historical person. The cause of damage to the mummy can only be speculated upon, and the alleged revenge is an unsubstantiated theory. Bent arms, contrary to Fletcher's claims, were not reserved to pharaohs; this was also used for other members of the royal family. The wig found near to the mummy is of unknown origin, and cannot be conclusively linked to that specific body. Finally, the 18th dynasty was one of the largest and most prosperous dynasties of ancient Egypt. A female royal mummy could be any of a hundred royal wives or daughters from the 18th dynasty's more than 200 years on the throne.
In addition, there is controversy about both the age and gender of the mummy. On June 12, 2003, Hawass also dismissed the claim, citing insufficient evidence. On August 30, 2003, Reuters further quoted Hawass: "I'm sure that this mummy is not a female", and "Dr Fletcher has broken the rules and therefore, at least until we have reviewed the situation with her university, she must be banned from working in Egypt." On different occasions, Hawass has claimed that the mummy is female and male.
The "Elder Lady"
A KMT article called "Who is The Elder Lady mummy?" suggests that the elder lady mummy may be Nefertiti's body . This may be possible due to the fact that the mummy is around her mid-thirties or early forties, Nefertiti's guessed age of death. Also, unfinished busts of Nefertiti appear to resemble the mummy's face, though other suggestions include Ankhesenamun and, the favorite candidate, Tiye. More evidence to support this identification is that the mummy's teeth look like that of a 29-38 year old, Nefertiti's most likely age of death. Due to recent age tests on the mummy's teeth, it appears that the 'Elder Lady' is in fact Queen Tiye and also that the DNA of the mummy is a close, if not direct, match to the lock of hair found in Tutankhamun's tomb which bears the inscription of Queen Tiye is the hairs coffin. To date, the mummy of this famous and iconic queen has not been found.
Nefertiti's place as an icon in popular culture is secure as she has become somewhat of a celebrity. After Cleopatra she is the second most famous "Queen" of Ancient Egypt in the Western imagination and influenced through photographs that changed standards of feminine beauty of the 20th century, and is often referred to as "the most beautiful woman in the world".
- ↑ Egypt State Information Service - Famous women
- ↑ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, (Thames & Hudson), 2004, p.156
- ↑ Reeves, Nicholas. Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet. p.172 Thames & Hudson. 2005. ISBN 0-500-285527
- ↑ Dodson & Hilton, p.156
- ↑ Reeves, C.N., Akhenaten, Egypt's False Prophet (Thames and Hudson, 2001) p. 164
- ↑ Do We Have the Mummy of Nefertiti?
- ↑ Hawass comments - No Discrimination
- ↑ Times Online - King Tut tut tut
- ↑ http://www.egyptology.com/kmt/summer2001/
- ↑ Queen Nefertiti of Egypt
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