Nefertiti is known for her elegant beauty. Her bust has been an icon for many women and for many modern cosmetic lines. Many societies around the world have adopted the queen as a symbol of true beauty. Some historians have even proclaimed her the most beautiful woman in the world. Whatever people have said about her, one thing holds true—she remains renowned for her beauty after her death and during her life as a queen.
She ruled alongside Akhenaten during the eighteenth dynasty (1550-1292 BC). Nefertiti means, “The beautiful one has arrived.” She lived in Tell El Amarna, a city constructed by the pharaoh to worship their god Aten. There, they safeguarded their family and their beliefs—it became the center of Egypt’s new religion. It’s believed that Nefertiti was probably a distant relative to Akhenaten and a favorite queen to the pharaoh. Nothing is known about the queen’s childhood and no evidence has yielded who her parents are. Some believe her father could be Aye due to inscriptions found inside his tomb proclaiming him the father of her sister Mutnodjmet.
During her reign as queen, Egypt went about many radical religiouschanges. Hundreds of years of culture and worship had been exchanged for a new radical concept— Monotheism. The old gods had been disregarded, temples shut down, and priests forced to change their ways. Many historians believe this transition could have been hostile and was not adopted so easily by the citizens or priests.
Her reign with Akhenaten was unlike the traditional ways Egypt had seen. She was more than just a typical queen and helped to promote Akhenaten’s views. Her reign was only 12 years, but she was perhaps one of the most powerful queens to ever rule. Supporting her husbands’ beliefs she changed her name to Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti meaning, “The Aten is radiant of radiance [because] the beautiful one has come.” Her importance was greatly valued by Akhenaten and he went to great lengths to show her as his counterpart. As queen, she took on powerful roles and showed herself in ways only Egyptian kings did. For example, she was often shown with the crown of a pharaoh or was depicted in scenes of battle smiting her enemies. Akhenaten valued her so much, that he also allowed her to practice that art of priesthood and she too was allowed to make offerings to Aten.
Many Egyptologists believe that perhaps Akhenaten was born with deformities that hindered his role as king. One of the ailments that was believed he had was bad vision. This illness could have made his job difficult, in turn, he could have put trust into Nefertiti allowing her to decide many important matters. He trusted her so much, that he went as far as placing her name next to his in his royal cartouche. This was very unique and could have symbolized her as equal status next to Akhenaten.
Other depictions show the couple side by side often with their children in a utopic fashion. In one stela, found in Tell el Amarna, the couple is seated together. Akhenaten is giving his daughter an earring while his wife Nefertiti has the other two daughters on her lap. In this depiction, the queen is having a wonderful time and is shown in a loving manner with her husband and children. Both are shown as equal counterparts in their status and family affairs.
The Disappearance of Nefertiti
Twelve years into the Amarna Period Nefertiti disappears. She could have simply died of a terminal illness; however, many refuse to think so. Little is known about her disappearance due the damage caused by Akhenaten’s successors. It seems they wanted no memory of his existence and that included memories of Queen Nefertiti. Everything was destroyed or buried in the sands of Egypt. Though very little evidence has survived, it has still sparked theories as to how she disappeared.
The first theory suggests she became unfavorable to Akhenaten. During her reign as queen she had six daughters. All were cherished, expect a male heir was needed to inherit the throne. Possibly Akhenaten worried a son would never be born and he looked else ware, in turn, dismissing Queen Nefertiti.
The second theory suggests she became co-regent to Akhenaten and helped him rule Egypt. After she disappears from historical records, a new co-regent is recorded to rule with Akhenaten by the name of Smenkhare. Many have decaled Smenkhare to be Nefertiti and believe she went to great lengths similar to that of Hatshepsut—dressing as male to be accepted as a pharaoh.
The final theory suggests that she could have tried to save the throne by marring a foreign king. Sometime during the end of the Amarna Period a stone tablet recorded the death of the king; this was sent to the Hittites. The queen who had the tablets prepared asked for the king to send a son to Egypt so she may be married. She requested it be prompt as she did not want to marry any servants. The king of the Hittites did send a son, but he was assonated on his journey to marry the queen. This theory has been tied to both Nefertiti and Though we’ll never know what happened to the queen she will forever remain a mystery. Her body has never been found. Possibly somewhere beneath the sands her body has been hidden by Egyptian priests. Somewhere she might be buried in a tomb that was created to hide her last remains.