1/07/2012

Nefertiti

Berlin, Altes Museum - The Egyptian Collection
The famous Nefertiti bust
ⓒRebecca Bugge
Name: Nefertiti (Nafteta) 
Born: About 1370 B.C.
Died: About 1330 B.C.
Married toAkhenaten
Children: Six daughters (at least)
Occupation: Chief consort of the pharaoh Akhenaten.

Nefertiti (or more correctly Nafteta) is one of the most famous faces of ancient Egypt - though the portraits of her that exist are hardly typical Egyptian portraits. She and her husband, pharaoh Akhenaten, were at the centre of a religious revolution with an upheaval of many Egyptian customs and traditions, and introducing a new art style (the Amarna style, named after the modern name of the new capital they made: Akhetaten) with contorted bodies and weird faces (having led to speculations on possible disfiguration  of the pharaoh himself). Still the bust of Nefertiti is known for its beauty.

About the lady herself not all that much is known - her place of birth is not known, who her parents were is debated, when she died isn't exactly known, if she ruled a few years after the death of her husband is debated and where she is buried is not known. There are of course theories on all of these subjects. One theory of her parentage is that she was the daughter of Ay (who was later to become pharaoh after the death of Tutankhamen), supported by the fact she is mentioned as the sister of his other, known, daughter Mutbenret. His wife Tey was given the title of nurse of Nefertiti. But it has also been suggested that she is to be identified with the Mitanni princess Tadukhipa, daughter of the Mitanni king Tushratta. Tadukhipa was married to pharaoh Amenhotep III and after his death she married his successor Akhenaten (though the princess has also been identified with Akhenaten's other wife Kiya). Given the evidence at hand the Ay-theory seems to be a bit more well-founded.

It is not known when Nefertiti married Akhenaten, but the names of their six (known) daughters are known:
Meritaten (the wife of Smenkhkare, born about 1356 B.C.)
Meketaten (lived about 1349-1335 B.C.)
Ankhesenamun (the wife of Tutankhamen, lived about 1348-1322 B.C.)
Neferneferuaten Tasherit (about 1344 - before the ascension of Tutankhamen)
Neferneferure (about 1341 B.C. - probably before Meketaten)
Setepenre (about 1339 - before Meketaten and probably before Neferneferure)

After 14 years as a royal consort to the pharaoh Nefertiti disappears from all records. At one point the theory was  that she had fallen from grace, based on destroyed portraits of Akhenaten's consort - but it has later been shown that these were portraits of his other wife Kiya - and the theory has been abandoned. It has also been suggested that she in fact did not die at this point, that she instead was elevated to the rank of co-regent and as the successor of Akhenaten ruled under the name of Neferneferuaten (who in case was of royal descent - but might have been a daughter of Akhenaten rather than his wife). A very common interpretation of her disappearance is that she simply died.

(All dates are very imprecise in this post, because we simply don't know the exact ones.1339)

Berlin, Altes Museum - The Egyptian Collection
Nefertiti (to the right) with Akhenaten and three of their daughters.
ⓒRebecca Bugge

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