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Egyptian Queen, Ancient Beauty


Nefertiti Bust at the Altes Museum

Nefertiti Bust at the Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany, 2007

Sean Gallup / Getty Images Nefertiti Standing

Nefertiti standing, from a limestone figure in the Berlin Museum depicting Nefertiti.

From a photo by Andreas Praefcke, used with permission.

Nefertiti Facts:

Egyptian queen - chief wife of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV who took the name Akhenaten

Known for: appearance in Egyptian art, especially the famous bust discovered in 1912 at Amarna; part she probably played in the religious revolution centering on monotheistic worship of the sun disk, Aten
Dates: 14th century BCE, Eighteenth Dynasty.

What We Know About Nefertiti:

Nefertiti was the chief wife (queen) of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV who took the name Akhenaten when he led a religious revolution which put the sun god Aten at the center of religious worship. Art from the time shows a close family relationship, with Nefertiti, Akhenaten, and their six daughters depicted more naturalistically, individualistically, and informally than in other eras. Images of Nefertiti also depict her taking an active role in the Aten cult.

What Happened to Nefertiti?

After about fourteen years, Nefertiti disappears from public view. Akhenaten was succeeded first by one Pharaoh, Smenkhkhare, usually described as his son-in-law, and then by another, Tutankhaten (who changed his name to Tutankhamen when the Aten cult was abandoned), who is also usually described as Akhenaten's son-in-law.

One theory of Nefertiti's disappearance is that she assumed a male identity and ruled under the name Smenkhkhare. In another theory, she was murdered as part of the return to the traditional Egyptian religious customs. Another is that she simply died.

Nefertiti's Ancestry:

As for Nefertiti's origins, these too are debated by archaeologists and historians. She may have been a foreign princess from an area in what is now northern Iraq. She may have been the daughter of the previous Pharaoh, Amenhotep III, and his chief wife, Queen Tiy, in which case either Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) was not the son of Amenhotep III, or Nefertiti married (as was a custom in Egypt) her brother or half-brother. Or, she may have been the daughter of Ay, who was a brother of Queen Tiy.

DNA and Nefertiti

DNA evidence has recently surfaced a new theory about Nefertiti's relationship to Tutankhamen ("King Tut"): that she was the mother of Tutankhamen and a first cousin of Akhenaten. An earlier theory about the DNA evidence proposed that Tutankhamen was the son of Akhenaten and his (unnamed) sister, rather than of Nefertiti and Akhenaten. (source)

Learn More:

Learn even more about Nefertiti at the links below.

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