Nefertiti was the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten), and mother-in-law of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Her name roughly translates to "the beautiful one is come". She also shares her name with a type of elongated gold bead that she was often portrayed as wearing, known as "nefer" beads.

Bust of Nefertiti from Berlin's Egyptian Museum
Bust of Nefertiti from Berlin's Egyptian Museum

She was made famous by her bust, now in Berlin's Egyptian Museum, shown to the right. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. It was attributed to the sculptor Djhutmose, and was found in his workshop.



Nefertiti's parentage is not known, but it has been conjectured that she may have been a daughter of later Pharaoh Ay and his wife Tey. Another theory that has gained some support identifies Nefertiti with the Mitanni princess Tadukhipa.

Depending on which reconstruction of the genealogy of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs is followed, her husband Akhenaten may have been the father or half-brother of the Pharaoh Tutankhaten (later called Tutankhamun).

The exact dates of when Nefertiti was married to Amenhotep IV and later, promoted to his Queen are uncertain. However, the couple had six known daughters. This is a list with suggested years of birth:

In year 4 of his reign (1346 BC) Amenhotep IV started his famous worship of Aten. This year is also believed to mark the beginning of his construction of a new capital, Akhetaten, at what is known today as Amarna. In year 5 of his reign (1345 BC), Amenhotep IV officially changed his name to Akhenaten as evidence of his new worship. The date given for the event has been estimated to fall around January 2 of that year. In year 7 of his reign (1343 BC) the capital was moved from Thebes to Amarna, though construction of the city seems to have continued for two more years (till 1341 BC). The new city was dedicated to the royal couple's new religion. Nefertiti's famous bust is also thought to have been created around this year.

In an inscription estimated to November 21 of year 12 of the reign (1338 BC), her daughter Meketaten is mentioned for the last time; she is thought to have died shortly after that date. A relief in Akhenaten's tomb in the Royal Wadi at Amarna appears to show her funeral.

In year 14 of Akhenaten's reign (1336 BC), Nefertiti herself vanishes from the historical record, and there is no word of her after that date. Theories include a sudden death that was so emotionally painful to her husband that he forbade her being mentioned, or a fall from favor and subsequent replacement that led to its being politically incorrect to discuss her. Regardless, the verifiable knowledge of this episode has been completely lost to history.

Her disappearance coincides with the rise of co-ruler Smenkhkare to the throne and the mention of Akhenaten's new Queen Kiya. Smenkhkare is thought to have been married to her daughter Meritaten. It has been suggested that Smenkhkare replaced Nefertiti as Akhenaten's chief consort and that the two Pharaohs were lovers. In any case both Smenkhkare and Akhenaten died in 1334 BC/1333 BC. Akhenaten died after at least 29 years of life, and seventeen years of reign. Smenkhkare had been his co-ruler for four years. There are also theories that identify Nefertiti with Smenkhkare.

They were succeeded by Tutankhaten, who is thought to have been a son of either Amenhotep III or Akhenaten, and was probably a younger brother of Smenkhkare. He married Nefertiti's daughter Ankhesenpaaten. The royal couple were young and inexperienced, by any estimation of their age. Some theories believe that Nefertiti was still alive and had an influence on them. If this is the case that influence and presumably her own life would have ended by year 3 of Tutankhaten's reign (1331 BC). In that year, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun, as evidence of his worship of Ammon, and abandoned Amarna to return the capital to Thebes. If Nefertiti was Tadukhipa she would be about thirty-five years old at the time.

As can be seen by the suggested identifications between Tadukhipa, Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and Kiya, the records of their time and their lives are largely incomplete, and the findings of both archaelogists and historians may develop new theories vis--vis Nefertiti and her precipitous exit from the public stage.

The mummy discovered?

As Nefertiti's tomb was never completed and no mummy was ever found, the location of Nefertiti's body has long been a subject of curiosity and speculation.

On June 9, 2003, archaeologist Joann Fletcher, a specialist in ancient hair, from the University of York in England, announced that Nefertiti's mummy may have been one found in the famous cache of mummies in tomb KV35 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Ms. Fletcher led an expedition, funded by the Discovery Channel, that examined what is believed to have been Nefertiti's mummy. Furthermore, it suggests that Nefertiti was in fact the Pharaoh Smenkhkare.

The mummy that was examined by the team was discovered damaged in a way that suggested the body had been desecrated either at the time of death or shortly after. Mummification techniques, such as the use of embalming fluid and the presence of an intact brain suggest an eighteenth dynasty royal mummy. Among the most suggestive features are the age of the body, the presence of embedded nefer beads, the fact that the arm had been buried in the position reserved for pharaohs and had been snapped off by vandals and replaced with another arm in a normal position, and a wig of a rare style worn by Nefertiti.

On June 12, 2003, Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, dismissed the claim, citing insufficient evidence.

On August 30, 2003, Reuters quoted Dr. Hawass as saying, "I'm sure that this mummy is not a female." He is also quoted as saying "Dr Fletcher has broken the rules and therefore, at least until we have reviewed the situation with her university, she must be banned from working in Egypt."


Nefertiti's place as an icon in popular culture is secure: she has become a celebrity, the second most famous "Queen" of Egypt in the European imagination and influenced through photographs the changed standards of feminine beauty of the 20th century.

Further reading

  • Cyril Aldred, Akhenaten: King of Egypt (Thames and Hudson, 1988) contains much material on her
  • Rita E. Freed, Yvonne J. Markowitz, Sue H. D'Auria, Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten - Nefertiti - Tutankhamen (Museum of Fine Arts, 1999)

External links

ca:Nefertiti da:Nefertiti de:Nofretete eo:Nefertito es:Nefertiti fr:Nfertiti it:Nefertiti nl:Nefertiti nds:Nofretete ja:ネフェルティティ no:Nefertiti pl:Nefertiti pt:Nefertiti ru:Нефертити sl:Nefertiti sv:Nefertiti


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