Nefertiti Essay, Research Paper
Famed throughout the ancient world for her outstanding beauty, Akhenaten’s queen Nefertiti
Remains one of the best known of the queens of Egypt. Nefertiti, which means a beautiful woman has come. “Ahenaton’s own words describe Nefertiti: “The hereditary princess, great of favor, Mistress of happiness, gay with the two feathers, at hearing whose voice one rejoices, soothing the hart of the king at home, pleased at all that is said, the great and beloved wife of the king, lady of the two lands, Neferu-aton Nefertiti, living forever”(Spoore 2000). Nefertiti achieved a prominence unknown to other Egyptian queens. Her name is enclosed in a royal cartouche (Spoore 2000). The famous statue of Nefertiti, found in a sculptor’s workshop in Akhetaten, is one of the most recognizable icons from that period of history. It has escaped the excesses of the Amarna artistic style, and survived the wholesale destruction of Akhenaten’s monuments after his death. (Tyldesley 1999).
A Beautiful Woman Has Come
Little is known about the origins of Nefertiti but it seems unlikely that she was of royal blood. We know of no one claiming to be related to Nefertiti. Her father was possibly a high official of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten called Ay, who went on to become Pharaoh after Tutankhamun. “Nefertiti may have been a foreigner who, quite literally, arrived at the Egyptian court in order to marry the king”(Tyldesley 1999). There is no firm date for the royal marriage; although monumental evidence suggests that it occurred either just before or shortly after Amenhotep’s accession to the throne. Akhenaten and Nefertiti had six daughters, the elder three being born at Thebesm and the younger three at Amarna: Meritaten (Beloved of the Aten’), Meketaten (Protected by the Aten’), Ankhesepaaten (Living through the Aten’), Neferneferuaten (Exquisite Beauty of The Sun Disc’), Neferneferure (Exquisite Beauty of Re’), and Setepenre (Chosen of Re’) (Tyldesley 1999). It is possible that she also had sons, although no record has been found of this. It was a practice in Egyptian art not to portray the male heirs as children. Possibly, she may have been the mother of Tutankhamun, the boy pharaoh who succeeded to the throne at the age of eleven and died nine years later (Sporre 2000).
Nefertiti, the Great Royal Wife of King Amenhotep IV better known as Akhenaten, joined her husband in worship of a new religion that celebrated the power of the sun disk Aten. During the Amarna Period, Akhenaten at the age of twenty-one renounced his ties to the old religion of the Middle Kingdom by moving the capitol of Egypt from Thebes to a new site, Tell- el Amarna. He named the territory, Akhetaten, which means the “horizon of Aten”(Aldred 1988). In this city, Akhenaten financed the decoration of monuments and temples, which celebrated the power of the god Re Horus of the Akhet (Re-Horakhty) and the sun disk Aten. According to Cyril Aldred, author of Akhenaten, King of Egypt, Akhenaten instigated a fundamental change in Egyptian religion, which resulted in the unprecedented acceptance of a monotheistic god.
Nefertiti’s prominent role in Egyptian royal rule and religious worship reflects her influence in the public sphere. During the early years of her royal reign, Nefertiti as part of her religious conversion changed her name. Nefertiti which means, “The beautiful one has come” became Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti or “The Aten is radiant of radiance [because] the beautiful one has
come”. Following his wife’s lead, Amenhotep changed his name in the fifth year of his reign to Akhenaten (Aldred 1988). Nefertiti’s central role in the adaptation of this new religion is witnessed in the artistic representations, which adorned temple walls. Aldred in his book entitled Akhenaten, King of Egypt quotes a eulogy of Nefertiti’s found on the boundary stelae of Akhetaten. The inscription reads: And the Heiress, Great in the Palace, Fair of Face, Adorned with the Double Plumes, Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favors, at hearing whose voice the King rejoices, the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, May she live for Ever and Always.
Together Akhenaten and Nefertiti transformed the religious practices of ancient Egyptian society. The limestone relief found in the Royal Tomb at Amarna depicts Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and two of their daughters making an offering to the sun disk Aten. Akhenaten and Nefertiti carry flowers to be laid on the table beneath the “life-giving” rays of the Aten. The figures are carved in the grotesque style, a characteristic of the early half of the Amarna period. Nefertiti, sporting the double plume headdress mentioned in the stela dedication, is the petite figure placed behind her larger scale husband. The composition mirrors early artistic representations of the royal couple. To emphasize the strength and power of the pharaoh, Egyptian iconographical tradition required the female figure to be smaller in scale than the male (Aldred 1998).
The Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti
Around Year Fifteen of Akhenaton’s reign, Nefertiti mysteriously disappeared from view. Perhaps she died, but no indication of this can be found. Some scholars think that she was banished for some reason, and lived the rest of her years in the northern palace, raising Tutankhamun (Spoore 2000). Setepenre the youngest daughter of Akhenaton and Nefertiti was born some time before Year Ten, and Nefertiti’s last recorded appearance is at the funeral of Meketaten, some four or five years later. Just as Nefertiti’s influence increased with the birth of the first three daughters, it could be said that her influence could have started to decline as it became evident that she was never going to produce a son (Tyldesley1999). Nefertiti disappeared from history, and was replaced by her oldest daughter, Meritaten who was married to the heir to the throne.
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Spoore, D. J. (2000). The creative impulse: An introduction to the arts (Vol. 1) (5th ed.).
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Tyldesley, J. (1999). Nefertiti, Egypt’s Sun Queen.. New York, NY: The Penguin Group
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