Nefertiti is perhaps one of the best known queens of Ancient Egypt. Nefertiti was the Wife of Akhenaten during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Her face appears in more sculpture and artwork than even the King Akhenaten. She is considered one of the most beautiful women of the ancient world. She joined her husband in reigning and in worship of a new religion.
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. Queen Nefertiti was said to have supported her husband Akhenaton as he made a unique impression on Egypts history, when the King began to promote the worship of one god above all others - the 'sun-god' Re or Ra.
Nefertiti had many titles including Hereditary Princess, Great of Praises, Lady of Grace, Sweet of Love, Lady of The Two Lands, Main King’s Wife, his beloved, Great King’s Wife, his beloved, Lady of all Women, and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt.
She was made famous by her bust, now in Berlin's Neues Museum. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. It was attributed to the sculptor Thutmose, and it was found in his workshop. The bust is notable for exemplifying the understanding Ancient Egyptians had regarding realistic facial proportions. Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly after her husband's death and before the accession of Tutankhamun as Neferneferuaten, although this identification is a matter of ongoing debate.
The Nefertiti bust was found on 6 December 1912 at Amarna by the German Oriental Company (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft – DOG), led by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt. It was found in what had been the sculptor Thutmose's workshop, along with other unfinished busts of Nefertiti. Borchardt's diary provides the main written account of the find; he remarks, "Suddenly we had in our hands the most alive Egyptian artwork. You cannot describe it with words. You must see it".
To emphasize the strength and power of the pharaoh, Egyptian iconographical tradition required the female figure to be smaller in scale than the male.
The figure of Nefertiti, although she is Akhenaten's Royal Wife, is carved at a smaller scale than her illustrious husband. She is enrobed in a traditional long white garb. Akenaten wears a short white loin cloth and is adorned with a neck decoration. In contrast, to Akhenaten's red skinned robust body, Nefertiti's figure is rendered in white tones. Characteristic of the Amarna style, the figures are fashioned with swelled-stomachs. This new style portrayed the human body with unflattering realism.
To those who are not very involved in the study of ancient Egypt, Queen Nefertiti is perhaps better known than her husband, the heretic King Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). It is said that even in the ancient world, her beauty was famous, and her famous statue, found in a sculptor's workshop, is not only one of the most recognizable icons of ancient Egypt, but also the topic of some modern controversy. She was more than a pretty face however, for she seems to have taken a hitherto unprecedented level of importance in thee Amarna period of Egypt's 18th Dynasty. In artwork, her status is evident and indicates that she had almost as much influence as her husband. For example, she is depicted nearly twice as often in reliefs as her husband, at least during the first five years of his reign. Indeed, she is once even shown in the conventional pose of a pharaoh smiting his (or in this case, her) enemy.
Together, we know that Akhenaten and Nefertiti has six daughters, though it was probably with another royal wife called Kiya that the king sired his successors, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun. Nefertiti also shared her husband with two other royal wives named Mekytaten and Ankhesenpaaten, as well as later with her probable daughter, Merytaten.
Undoubtedly, Akenaten seems to have had a great love for his Chief Royal wife. They were inseparable in early reliefs, many of which showed their family in loving, almost utopian compositions. At times, the king is shown riding with her in a chariot, kissing her in public and with her sitting on his knee. One eulogy proclaims her :
"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. This limestone relief (right) 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.
About Year 14 of Akhenaten's reign, Nefertiti vanishes from the historical record. There is no word of her after that date. Theories include sudden death by a plague that was sweeping through the city or another natural death. This theory is based on the discovery of several shabti fragments inscribed for Nefertiti (now located in the Louvre and Brooklyn Museums).
A previous theory that she fell into disgrace is now discredited, since the deliberate erasures of monuments belonging to a queen of Akhenaten have been shown to refer to Kiya instead.
During Akhenaten's reign (and perhaps after), Nefertiti enjoyed unprecedented power. The Coregency Stela may show her as a co-regent with her husband. By the twelfth year of his reign, there is evidence that she may have been elevated to the status of co-regent equal in status to the pharaoh. It is possible that Nefertiti is to be identified as the ruler named Neferneferuaten. Some theories believe that Nefertiti was still alive and held influence on the younger royals. If this is the case, that influence and presumably Nefertiti's own life would have ended by year 3 of Tutankhaten's reign (1331 BC). In that year, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun. This was evidence of his return to the official worship of Amun, and his abandonment of Amarna to return the capital to Thebes.