I’ve always been fascinated by mythology and by history in general. One figure I’ve often found quite interesting is Nefertiti. Here are some fun facts about her and what makes her interesting:
- Nobody knows when or where she was born and when or where she died.
- Nefertiti’s bust (above) was discovered by German archaeologist and Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt in 1912 at the sculptor Thutmose’s workshop at Amarna, which is located in present day Minya. This bust led to her being one of the best known Ancient Egyptians figures worldwide through her having been hailed as one of the most beautiful women in ancient times, if not all time. She’s also known the mystery that surrounds her, though the latter is known more-so by historians and history lovers in general. Since the discovery of Nefertiti’s bust in 1912, it has been housed in several different places in Germany. It’s currently on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin.
- She was married to Amenhotep IV aka Akhenaten, who was the 11th king of the 18th Dynasty in the New Kingdom.
- Nefertiti’s body and, presumably, tomb have never been found. There have been several potential mummies that have been tested as being her, such as the Elder Lady, which came back as the mummy of Queen Tiye (her mother-in-law), and the Younger Lady.
- Unlike most marriages in the royal family, Nefertiti was not part of her husband’s, Akhenaten aka Amenhotep IV, immediate family. It’s believed by many Egyptologists that she was of foreign origin, namely the Kingdom of Mitanni, whilst several will also adamantly state that she was Egyptian. Her origins, however, will likely continue to be debated as time goes on, as none of her relatives are known, with the exception of a sister, Mutnodjmet, whose burial site and location of tomb is known, as they were excavated in 1975 by Geoffrey Martin. However, her skeleton has not been found and whatever bones found in the chamber discovered in 1975 that housed the tomb have since disappeared.
- “Nefertiti” denotes to “A Beautiful Woman Has Come.”
- She bore Akhenaten six daughters.
- Whether one bore daughter or sons didn’t really matter to the Egyptians, unlike most civilizations. However, “there was greater status to be gained from producing sons rather than daughters.
- Nefertiti received a new name during Akhenaten’s rule, which was Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (“Beautiful are the Beauties of the Aten”). However, she continued to go by Nefertiti on cartouches for the sake of space.
- Nefertiti mysteriously vanished in Year 12 of Akhenaten’s reign after Meketaten, her daughter, passed away in Year 13 or 14 as a result of a plague at the time. Oftentimes, when one ceases to appear in records or disappears, this typically suggests that said person has passed away. However, no documentation of her burial or death appears on any tomb walls, which is where Akhenaten can be seen grieving the loss of his daughter. Akhenaten loved Nefertiti. As such, this leads historians to ask why his grieving over Nefertiti, if she had indeed passed away by then, is not documented like all other events of this sort.
- Several theories arose in the twentieth century pertaining to her unexplained disappearance. Some include:
- She, like her daughter, had fallen victim to the plague that had been spreading throughout Egypt and passed away.
- She had passed away as a result of natural causes.
- She had committed some sort of crime and had been banished as a repercussion.
- Norman de Garis Davies: Akhenaten had outlawed the priesthood of Amun and had established the Aten as more than just a family deity with the support of Nefertiti. As such, he gave Nefertiti religious power during his reign. Davies believes that rather than Nefertiti being a defender or protector of Aten, she was its first and biggest traitor.
- Norman de Garis Davies: Though he loved his six daughters, Akhenaten longed for a son and an heir. As such, knowing he wouldn’t get a son from Nefertiti, he married his daughter, Meritaten. This theory, however, was one Davies himself was reluctant to believe.
- (1970s) John Harris: Nefertiti hadn’t died when she vanished. Rather, she resided at Amarna aka Minya today and changed her name to the one she would use when she ruled as a king alongside and after Akhenaten’s death. She had changed her name multiple times, but the name that stuck is Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten. It’s not known for sure if this was Nefertiti, but multiple pieces of evidence and records corroborate this notion of Harris’. Another name that appeared after Akhenaten’s death was Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare, which was a definite male. Harris believes that Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten may have been the name Nefertiti used as a female king ruling alongside Akhenaten whilst Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare was the name she may have used whilst ruling alone. However, whether or not Nefertiti took on a new name and was co-ruler and then a female king is still debatable to this day.
By Maya Abou El Nasr