She was made famous by her bust, now in Berlin's Egyptian Museum.
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.
The Family of Nefertiti
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
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
Meritaten - year 2 (1348 BC).
Meketaten - year 3 (1347 BC).
Ankhesenpaaten, later queen of Tutankhamun - year 4 (1346 BC).
Neferneferuaten Tasherit - year 6 (1344 BC).
Neferneferure - year 9 (1341 BC).
Setepenre - year 11 (1339 BC).
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
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
The Death of Nefertiti
In year 14 of Akhenaten's reign (1336 BC), Nefertiti herself vanishes
from the historical record, and there is no word of her from
then on. Theories include a sudden death that was so emotionally
painful to her husband that he forbade her being mentioned, or
that she somehow fell out of favor and was replaced, so it became
politically incorrect to discuss her. Whatever really happened
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, our records
of their time and their
lives are very incomplete. They are celebrated but enigmatic personalities.
New theories about their lives are likely to arise as part of the
effort by both archaeologists and historians to shed some light
on this period of Egypt's past.
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
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
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 in Pop Culture
Nefertiti's place as an icon in popular culture is secure. American
Actress Jeanne Crain was captivating as Nefertiti in the 1961
Italian motion picture production of Queen of the Nile, with
Edmund Purdom and Vincent Price.