The most powerful and significant of Egyptian queens has always remained a mystery to historians and archaeologists around the world. Who was Nefertiti? Here are 17 facts about Egypt’s most famous queen Nefertiti.
One of the most fascinating and intriguing of Egyptian queens was Queen Nefertiti. She could have become pharaoh if she had a way, but she remained a queen and a priestess. She got her husband Amenhotep IV to throw out all their gods and set up the sun god as Aten which ended up being a very unpopular move. However, they gained immense power over the people.
Nefertiti was always revered by her husband, her subjects and none other than her sculptor Thutmose who was forever capturing the beauty of her face in stone. Nefertiti was usually portrayed wearing the pharaoh’s crown and might have even ruled Egypt after Amenhotep died. The brief rule was in preparation for another grand figure of Egypt, King Tut.
The biggest disadvantage to historians and archaeologists was the absence of Nefertiti’s name from important scrolls, and inscriptions. It was assumed that she had either died or the successors of Akhenaton’s reign never really took kindly to the couple. Artifacts from her tomb could have also been looted.
No one has ever found her tomb although archaeologists believe they may have discovered it behind the tomb of King Tut. For the last 3000 historians have always been fascinated by her. Who was she? Was she just a wife and mother, or the most powerful women in Egypt? Here are 17 facts about Queen Nefertiti.
1. Queen Nefertiti Was More Powerful Than any other Egyptian Queen
Since she always portrayed wearing a crown, archaeologists have felt that she was her husband’s equal and enjoyed pharaoh’s powers. She may have also ruled Egypt after Akhenaton’s death and before Tut as Djeserkheperure Smenkhare or as inscriptions depict, “he who ruled with a short reign.”
Inscriptions also refer to a queen heavily involved with matters of the court. Nefertiti was also a high priestess and acted as a self-appointed medium for the God Aten.
2. Nefertiti’s One Eye, a Cause for Speculation
One of Nefertiti’s visual portrayals has an eye that is blank. This has given way to speculation that either an apprentice failed to complete the bust or the queen was suffering from river blindness that caused an opaque cornea or it could be gradual eye damage over the years.
3. Nefertiti and Her Husband Akhenaten Were a Power Couple
Queen Nefertiti married Amenhotep IV when he was just 16 years old. She was 15 at the time. Together they had six daughters and one son Tutankhamen. The couple shared equal power and ruled Egypt together in mid-1300 BC. They made several changes declaring the sun as a god named Aten and making him the center of politics and religion in the land.
Although it made the people unhappy, there was no choice but to comply especially since the couple declared themselves as priests and mediums through which the people could access Aten. They also changed their names where Amenhotep became Akhenaten and Nefertiti became Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti (Beautiful Are the Beauties of Aten, Beautiful Woman Has Come).
4. Her Tomb Could Have Been Hidden Behind King Tut
It was widely believed by Archaeologists that Nefertiti could have been buried in Amarna but Akhenaten’s successors may have also destroyed it or it could have been ravaged by the elements over time. However, no one is sure if it actually held her body. The larger secret room behind Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 2015 by Dr. Nicholas Reeves.
Reeves suggested that King Tut was actually buried in Nefertiti’s tomb and Tut could have been either her son or even stepson. Reeves says “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong,” Reeves said. “But if I’m right, the prospects are frankly staggering.” If proved, Nefertiti will then regain her rightful place in Egyptian history. Some experts are of the opinion that she was kept hidden in Tut’s tomb to conceal her from her enemies.
5. She had her own temple
While the royal couple lived in Karnak where grand living structures were built for them, a temple dedicated to Nefertiti was built inside the palace. Inscriptions show the royal couple with their daughters and court attending a festival held inside the temple and viewing subjects enjoying themselves.
6. The Nefertiti Bust Is Still a Huge Issue between Egypt and Germany
In 1912, German archaeologists excavated the bust of Nefertiti sculpted by Thutmose and brought it to Germany with permission from the Egyptian government whose antiques department was run by the French. This irked the British who dominated Egypt at the time. The Bust was put on display at the Berlin museum in 1913.
Although the Nazis tried stealing artworks and antiques from all occupied territories, Hitler said: “I will never relinquish the head of the Queen.” It seems they hid the bust of Nefertiti which was ultimately discovered by allied forces in a salt mine. The bust was kept in a West Berlin museum til it was returned to Egypt in 2009. Egypt has always claimed, the Germans acquired the bust through nefarious purposes and described it as looting.
7. Nefertiti and Her Husband Constructed Their Own City
Queen Nefertiti and Akhenaten built for themselves a city called Tell El Amarna in honor of the god Aten. They also forced all those who worshipped him to move to the new city. Older gods were thrown out, temples closed and high priests had to abide by new religious laws.
8. She Had Several Titles
Nefertiti was given several titles some of which she created on her own, these were:
Lady of Grace, Sweet of Love, Lady of the Two Lands
Main King’s Wife, his beloved, Lady of all Women,
Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, Hereditary Princess, Great of Praises.
9. Nefertiti’s Father
The man most historians feel was Nefertiti’s parents was Egypt’s senior-most adviser Ay and wet nurse, Tey. It was Ay who succeeded as pharaoh after King Tut.
10. She Was a Faithful Wife
Nefertiti’s father was a philandering man but she, on the other hand, was a faithful wife to Akhenaten who wasn’t any different. Historians say he sired children from other women including his sister that resulted in the deformed King Tut. Nefertiti, however, remained his most powerful wife.
11. Nefertiti Bore Six Daughters
Perhaps the reason why Akhenaten was sleeping around was that he was desperate for a male heir. Nefertiti bore him six daughters instead. Their names were Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhes-en-pa-aten, Neferneferuaten-tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre. Meritaten might have replaced her as a court official after Nefertiti became pharaoh or died.
12. How Did Nefertiti Die?
There is a difference of opinion related to Nefertiti’s demise. Theories feel that she expired six years after Akhenaten during which time she ruled Egypt and was preparing Tut for the throne. Unfortunately, she may have succumbed to the plague which is why Tut became King at a young age and was known as the boy king.
13. Nefertiti’s Mummy
Regardless of all the important mummies discovered thus far, Nefertiti’s makes for the most significant and historically important one. In 1898, while excavating the tomb of Amenhotep II, Victor Loret an Egyptologist found three mummies hidden behind a wall. The tomb was located in the Valley of the Kings and one of the three mummies was that of “The Younger Lady” and was presumed to be Nefertiti’s.
There was mixed opinion on the discovery and DNA tests done by the Egyptian government declared the mummy to be Tut’s mother and sister of Akhenaten. French Egyptologist Marc Gabolde disputed this claim saying that “The Younger lady” was a reference to Nefertiti and the mummy was indeed her.
14. The Statue of Nefertiti Outraged Egypt
When a huge bust of the Pharaoh Queen was erected at the gates of Samalout in Egypt, it was removed after a few days. The people felt it was a mockery of her looks and did not bear any similarity to her bust discovered in 1912. One even tweeted “I guess this is what she looked like four days after she died.”
15. She Vanished After 12 Years
Nefertiti surprisingly vanished from all court records just 12 years after ruling with her husband that included 6 years of ruling as pharaoh herself. While historians feel she had expired, one theory says that Akhenaten was displeased with her because of not bearing him a son.
Others feel that she was instead the co –pharaoh and even dressed in pharaoh’s attire. Some feel she married a foreigner while others believe it was Akhenaten’s successors who destroyed all reports, artifacts, and records of matters related to Nefertiti’s rule in Egypt.
16. Scientists Dispute the Fact That She Was Hot
Trust scientists to play spoilsport. Queen Nefertiti was tall and thin and Akhenaten may have insisted sculptors and painters to portray her as a pharaoh and use the photoshopping of those days to highlight her beauty and make her look good. But scientists feel those were not authentic at all.
CT scans on the bust revealed the original work under the layers of retouching. Modern technology in 1992 revealed even more features to show that the inner cast doesn’t match the external bust. It reveals Nefertiti as having a bump on the ridge of her nose, wrinkled cheeks and not so prominent cheekbones.
17. She May or May Not Have Been Akhenaten’s Cousin
In those days it wasn’t uncommon for royalty to bear children from siblings. Nefertiti and Akhenaten might have been cousins and the theory behind Tut suggests that his deformities reveal that he was not the child of the king’s sister. It was Nefertiti that was the king’s cousin and King Tut was indeed their child.
It also means that Queen Nefertiti didn’t only have daughters but a son too. There are many acclaimed scientists who dispute this claim.