Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Nefertiti was the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten), and mother-in-law of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Her name roughly translates to "the beautiful one is come". She also shares her name with a type of elongated gold bead that she was often portrayed as wearing, known as "nefer" beads.
She was made famous by her bust, now in Berlin's Egyptian Museum, shown to the right. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. It was attributed to the sculptor Djhutmose, and was found in his workshop.
Nefertiti's parentage is not known, but it has been conjectured that she may have been a daughter of later Pharaoh Ay and his wife Tey. Another theory that has gained some support identifies Nefertiti with the Mitanni princess Tadukhipa.
Depending on which reconstruction of the genealogy of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs is followed, her husband Akhenaten may have been the father or half-brother of the Pharaoh Tutankhaten (later called Tutankhamun).
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 - year 2 (1348 BC).
- Meketaten - year 3 (1347 BC).
- Ankhesenpaaten, later queen of Tutankhamun - year 4 (1346 BC).
- Neferneferuaten Tasherit - year 6 (1344 BC).
- Neferneferure - year 9 (1341 BC).
- Setepenre - year 11 (1339 BC).
In year 4 of his reign (1346 BC) Amenhotep IV started his famous worship of Aten. 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 year 5 of his reign (1345 BC) 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 BC) the capital was moved from Thebes to Amarna though construction of the city seems to have continued for two more years (till 1341 BC). 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 year.
In an inscription estimated to November 21 of year 12 of the reign (1338 BC), her daughter Meketaten is mentioned for the last time; she is thought to have died shortly after that date. A relief in Akhenaten's tomb in the Royal Wadi at Amarna appears to show her funeral.
In year 14 of Akhenaten's reign (1336 BC), Nefertiti herself vanishes from the historical record, and there is no word of her from then on. Theories include a sudden death that was so emotionally painful to her husband that he forbade her being mentioned, or that she somehow fell out of favor and was replaced, so it became politically incorrect to discuss her. Whatever really happened has been completely lost to history.
Her disapearance coincides with the rise of co-ruler Smenkhkare to the throne and the mention of Akhenaten's new Queen Kiya. Smenkhkare is thought to have been married to her daughter Meritaten. It has been suggested that Smenkhkare replaced Nefertiti as Akhenaten's chief consort and that the two Pharaohs were lovers. In any case both Smenkhkare and Akhenaten died in 1334 BC/1333 BC. Akhenaten died after at least 29 years of life, and seventeen years of reign. Smenkhkare had been his co-ruler for four years. There are also theories that identify Nefertiti with Smenkhkare.
They were succeeded by Tutankhaten, who is thought to have been a son of either Amenhotep III or Akhenaten, and was probably a younger brother of Smenkhkare. He married Nefertiti's daughter Ankhesenpaaten. The royal couple were young and inexperienced, by any estimation of their age. Some theories believe that Nefertiti was still alive and had an influence on them. If this is the case that influence and presumably her own life would have ended by year 3 of Tutankhaten's reign (1331 BC). In that year Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun, as evidence of his worship of Ammon, and abandoned Amarna to return the capital to Thebes. If Nefertiti was Tadukhipa she would be about thirty-five years old at the time.
As can be seen by the suggested identifications between Tadukhipa, Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and Kiya, our records of their time and their lives are very incomplete. They are celebrated but enigmatic personalities. New theories about their lives are likely to arise as part of the effort by both archaelogists and historians to shed some light on this period of Egypt's past.
The mummy discovered?
As Nefertiti's tomb was never completed and no mummy was ever found, the location of Nefertiti's body has long been a subject of curiosity and speculation.
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 found in the famous cache of mummies in tomb KV35 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Ms. Fletcher led an expedition, funded by the Discovery Channel, that examined what is believed to have been Nefertiti's mummy. Furthermore, it suggests that Nefertiti was in fact the Pharaoh Smenkhkare.
The mummy that was examined by the team was discovered damaged in a way that suggested the body had been desecrated either at the time of death or shortly after. Mummification techniques, such as the use of embalming fluid and the presence of an intact brain suggest an eighteenth dynasty royal mummy. Among the most suggestive features are the age of the body, the presence of embedded nefer beads, the fact that the arm had been buried in the position reserved for pharaohs and had been snapped off by vandals and replaced with another arm in a normal position, and a wig of a rare style worn by Nefertiti.
On August 30, 2003, Reuters quoted Dr. Hawass as saying, "I'm sure that this mummy is not a female." He is also quoted as saying "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."
Nefertiti's place as an icon in popular culture is secure. American Actress Jeanne Crain was captivating as Nefertiti in the 1961 Italian motion picture production of Queen of the Nile , with Edmund Purdom and Vincent Price.
- Cyril Aldred, Akhenaten: King of Egypt (Thames and Hudson, 1988) contains much material on her
- Rita E. Freed, Yvonne J. Markowitz, Sue H. D'Auria, Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten - Nefertiti - Tutankhamen (Museum of Fine Arts, 1999)
- Do We Have the Mummy of Nefertiti? by Marianne Luban, 1999 (predates Joann Fletcher's work).
- J. Kluger, A. Dorfman, Nefertiti found?, Time, June 16, 2003; online edition
- Tracking Nefertiti Discovery article on Joann Fletcher's work.
- A Critical Analysis of the Discovery Channel's "Nefertiti Revealed"
- Spinning Nefertiti
- Discussion on the Nefertiti found? program
- A more detailed profile of Nefertiti
- The Encyclopedia of El Amarna, examining her time and connections
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