Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (ca. 1370 BC – ca. 1330 BC) was the Great Royal Wife (chief consort) of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshiped one god only, Aten, or the sun disc. Akhenaten and Nefertiti were responsible for the creation of a whole new religion which changed the ways of religion within Egypt. With her husband, they reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history. Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly as Neferneferuaten after her husband’s death and before the accession of Tutankhamun, although this identification is a matter of ongoing debate.
Nefertiti had many titles including Hereditary Princess (iryt-p`t); Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt); Lady of Grace (nbt-im3t), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt); Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy); Main King’s Wife, his beloved (hmt-niswt-‘3t meryt.f); Great King’s Wife, his beloved (hmt-niswt-wrt meryt.f), Lady of all Women (hnwt-hmwt-nbwt); and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw). 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, and this lady is thought to be an early depiction of Nefertiti. The king and queen are shown worshiping the Aten. In the tomb of the vizier Ramose, Nefertiti is shown standing behind Amenhotep IV in the Window of Appearance during the reward ceremony for the vizier.
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 in the scenes as well. In scenes found on the talatat, Nefertiti appears almost twice as often as her husband. She is shown appearing behind her husband the Pharaoh in offering scenes in the role of the queen supporting her husband, but she is also depicted in scenes that would have normally been the prerogative of the king. She is shown smiting the enemy, and captive enemies decorate her throne.
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 was henceforth known as Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti. The name change was a sign of the ever-increasing importance of the cult of the Aten. It changed Egypt’s religion from a polytheistic religion to a religion which may have been better described as a monolatry (the depiction of a single god as an object for worship) or henotheism (one god, who is not the only god).
The boundary stelae of years 4 and 5 mark the boundaries of the new city and suggest that the move to the new city of Akhetaten occurred around that time. 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 center of the city and possibly at the Northern Palace as well. Nefertiti and the rest of the royal family feature prominently in the scenes at the palaces and in the tombs of the nobles. Nefertiti’s steward during this time was an official named Meryre II. He would have been in charge of running her household. Inscriptions in the tombs of Huya and Meryre II dated to Year 12, 2nd month of Peret, Day 8 show a large foreign tribute. The people of Kharu (the north) and Kush (the south) are shown bringing gifts of gold and precious items to Akhenaten and Nefertiti. In the tomb of Meryre II, Nefertiti’s steward, the royal couple is shown seated in a kiosk with their six daughters in attendance. This is one of the last times princess Meketaten is shown alive.
Two representations of Nefertiti that were excavated by Flinders Petrie appear to show Nefertiti in the middle to later part of Akhenaten’s reign ‘after the exaggerated style of the early years had relaxed somewhat’. One is a small piece on limestone and is a preliminary sketch of Nefertiti wearing her distinctive tall crown with carving began around the mouth, chin, ear and tab of the crown. Another is a small inlay head (Petrie Museum Number UC103) modeled from reddish-brown quartzite that was clearly intended to fit into a larger composition. Meketaten may have died in year 13 or 14. Nefertiti, Akhenaten, and three princesses are shown mourning her.[ Nefertiti disappears from the scene soon after that.
Pre-2012 Egyptological theories thought that Nefertiti vanished from the historical record around Year 14 of Akhenaten’s reign, with no word of her thereafter. Explanations included a sudden death, by a plague that was sweeping through the city, or some other natural death. This theory was based on the discovery of several shabti fragments inscribed for Nefertiti (now located in the Louvre and Brooklyn Museums).
A previous theory, that she fell into disgrace, was discredited when deliberate erasures of monuments belonging to a queen of Akhenaten were shown to refer to Kiya instead. During Akhenaten’s reign (and perhaps after), Nefertiti enjoyed unprecedented power. By the twelfth year of his reign, there is evidence she may have been elevated to the status of co-regent: equal in status to the pharaoh — as may be depicted on the Coregency Stela. It is possible Nefertiti is the ruler named Neferneferuaten. 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 BC). In that year, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun. This is evidence of his return to the official worship of Amun, and abandonment of Amarna to return the capital to Thebes.
Discovered in 2012, a Regnal Year 16, month 3 of Akhet, day 15 inscription, dated explicitly to Akhenaten’s reign, mentions the presence of the “Great Royal Wife, His Beloved, Mistress of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti”. The badly legible five line text “mentions a building project in Amarna” (Egypt’s political capital under Akhenaten). (The inscription was found in a limestone quarry at Dayr Abū Ḥinnis, just north of Dayr al-Barshā, north of Amarna.) This means that Nefertiti was alive in the second to last year of Akhenaten’s reign, and demonstrates that Akhenaten still ruled alone, with his wife by his side. Therefore, the rule of the female Amarna pharaoh known as Neferneferuaten must be placed between the death of Akhenaten and the accession of Tutankhamun. This female pharaoh used the epithet ‘Effective for her husband’ in one of her cartouches, which means she was either Nefertiti or her daughter Meritaten (who was married to king Smenkhkare).
There are many theories regarding her death and burial but, to date, the mummy of this famous queen, her parents or her children has not been found or formally identified. In 1898, archeologist Victor Loret found two female mummies inside the tomb of Amenhotep II in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings. These two mummies, named ‘The Elder Lady’ and ‘The Younger Lady’, were likely candidates of her remains. The KMT suggested in 2001 that the Elder Lady may be Nefertiti’s body. It was argued that the evidence suggests that the mummy is around her mid-thirties or early forties, Nefertiti’s guessed age of death. More evidence to support this identification was that the mummy’s teeth look like that of a 29-38 year old, Nefertiti’s most likely age of death. Also, unfinished busts of Nefertiti appear to resemble the mummy’s face, though other suggestions included Ankhesenamun.
Due to recent age tests on the mummy’s teeth, it eventually became apparent that the ‘Elder Lady’ is in fact Queen Tiye, mother of Akhenaten and that the DNA of the mummy is a close, if not direct, match to the lock of hair found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The lock of hair was found in a coffinette bearing an inscription naming Queen Tiye. Results have discovered that she was the daughter of Yuya and Thuya, who were the parents of Queen Tiye, thus ruling her out as Nefertiti.
- January, 01, 1370
- January, 01, 1330
- Body lost or destroyed.