Nefertiti was a queen in Ancient Egypt who is world renowned for her beauty. She was one of the most powerful women in ancient times and was very influential during her husband’s reign. It is believed that she lived from around 1370 B.C. to around 1330 B.C. Many parts of her life including her origins and death remain a mystery. Know about Egypt’s mysterious and iconic queen through these 10 interesting facts.
#1 Tey was the wet nurse of Nefertiti and Ay was most likely her father
The identity of Nefertiti’s parents has not been established with certainty. The most widely accepted theory is that she was the daughter of a high ranking official named Ay, who would later go on to become Pharaoh for a brief period. It is believed that Nefertiti’s mother died and Ay’s known wife Tey was not the mother of Nefertiti but her wet nurse. This is deducted from inscriptions which mention Tey as “nurse of the Great Royal Wife”, i.e. Nefertiti.
#2 She presided over one of the wealthiest period in Ancient Egypt
Amenhotep III was the Pharaoh of Egypt at the time of Nefertiti’s birth. His elder son died young and hence the reign fell to his younger son Amenhotep IV. Amenhotep IV married Nefertiti at the beginning of his reign. She was probably around 15 at the time. Nefertiti then became the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep IV and along with her husband oversaw arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history.
#3 Nefertiti means “the beautiful one has come”
Amenhotep IV ruled Egypt for 17 years from around 1353 to 1336 B.C. He is most famous for changing Egypt’s religion from polytheism to henotheism (belief and worship of one God while accepting the existence of other deities). Worship was centered on the God Aten. Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten, the name by which he is known today. Nefertiti was referred to as Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti. Nefertiti means “the beautiful one has come” and the new name meant “beautiful are the beauties of Aten, a beautiful woman has come”.
#4 She played an important role politically and religiously during her husband’s rule
From inscriptions it can be deduced that Nefertiti and Akhenaten had at least six daughters. Although Nefertiti was not his only wife, Akhenaten is shown openly displaying love for Nefertiti and their daughters, which is uncommon in depictions. Most probably, the couple had a genuine romantic relationship. It can also be deduced that Nefertiti played a prominent role in the political and religious life during Akhenaten’s rule. She represented the female aspect of the God and along with her husband, was a bridge between God Aten and the citizens.
#5 Nefertiti was one of Ancient Egypt’s most powerful women
Nefertiti is prevalent in the depictions on the walls and tombs built during Akhenaten’s rule. The frequency is perhaps more than any other queen of ancient Egypt. While in some of the scenes she plays the role of a supporting queen, some show her leading worship of Aten, driving a chariot or striking an enemy. Such scenes in which she assumes rights generally associated with the Pharaoh suggest that Nefertiti was almost an equal counterpart to her husband during his reign. She is definitely one of the most powerful women of ancient Egypt.
#6 The time of her death remains a mystery
There is evidence that around Year 12 of Akhenaten’s reign Nefertiti was elevated to the status of co-regent and was equal in power to the pharaoh. Soon after that she disappears from all historical records. This usually indicates that that person has died and there is some more evidence which suggests that Nefertiti died around that time. However, in December 2012, a badly legible 5 line inscription from Year 16 of Akhenaten’s reign was discovered and it mentions Neferneferuaten Nefertiti as the Great Royal Wife. Her mummy has not been found but some suggest it is the Younger Lady Mummy that was discovered in 1898.
#7 Nefertiti might have ruled Ancient Egypt as Neferneferuaten
After Akhenaten’s death Ancient Egypt was ruled by a female pharaoh who went by the name of Neferneferuaten. She ruled Egypt for around 2 years. There are various theories regarding who this Neferneferuaten was. The use of Nefertiti’s name made her one of the primary candidates but her likely death in Year 12 ruled her out. If the inscription discovered in 2012 is confirmed and establishes that Nefertiti was alive in Year 16 of Akhenaten’s reign then her name, gender, location and position will make her case for being that female pharaoh very strong.
#8 Her famous bust was discovered by archaeologists of the German Oriental Company
On December 6, 1912 a team led by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt found the now famous bust of Nefertiti at Amarna, Egypt. In 1913, there was a meeting between Borchardt and a senior Egyptian official to discuss how to divide the archaeological finds of 1912. It is said that Borchardt showed a photograph of the bust to the Egyptian official “that didn’t show Nefertiti in her best light” and concealed its real value. The German Oriental Company denies this. However, there have been demands for the return of the bust to Egypt and the Time magazine lists it among the “Top 10 Plundered Artifacts”.
#9 The rediscovery of her bust has made Nefertiti an icon of feminine beauty
The Bust of Nefertiti was crafted in 1345 BC by the royal sculptor Thutmose. The bust shows Nefertiti “with a long neck, elegantly arched brows, high cheekbones, a slender nose and an enigmatic smile”. In 1923, the bust was first displayed to the public at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin in Germany. It created a sensation and it soon made Nefertiti a world renowned icon of feminine beauty. The bust is described as “the best-known work of art from ancient Egypt, arguably from all antiquity”. It remains one of the most copied images from ancient Egypt and the most famous bust of ancient art.
#10 Nefertiti is perhaps the most famous Egyptian Queen after Cleopatra
The bust of Nefertiti has been kept at several locations in Germany. It was also stored in a salt mine in Merkers-Kieselbach during the Second World War. After been kept in various museums in Berlin, since 2009, it is the prime attraction of the Neues Museum. It has become a cultural symbol of not only Ancient Egypt but also of Berlin. Its rediscovery has generated a lot of interest in Nefertiti making her the most famous Egyptian queen after Cleopatra. She is now known as a beautiful, versatile and powerful figure of ancient Egypt.