In her 12 years of rule, Queen Nefertiti was held in high regard by her husband, her royal subjects, and Thutmose, the sculptor who captured her face of a great beauty. Nefertiti was depicted as wearing the crown of a pharaoh and may have ruled as one after her husband’s death and as King Tut prepared to rule.
When she vanishes from scrolls, inscriptions, and other depictions, historians have varying views on what happened to Queen Nefertiti. Did she change her name and become Djeserkheperure Smenkhare or Smenkhkare Ankhetkheperure, a co-regent ruling singularly or alongside King Tut? Or did she simply die? History was erased in part due to the angry successors to Akhenaten’s reign. And artifacts may have been looted or moved.
Archaeologists have been searching for Nefertiti’s tomb for decades and just may have found it behind King Tut’s. A University of Arizona archaeologist, Dr. Nicholas Reeves, might have found the tomb of Nefertiti, hiding in plain sight. Signs that Nefertiti was a ruler in her own right may explain why the tomb next to King Tut’s is so large and one reserved for a higher position.
Over three thousand years later, Queen Nefertiti still holds historians and history buffs spellbound. Who was Nefertiti? Wife, mother, queen, beauty icon, punisher, or pharaoh? Read below to learn more about this fascinating Egyptian female leader and vote up the Nefertiti facts you were most surprised to learn.
Nefertiti Was More Powerful Than Previous Egyptian Queens
The fact that she is depicted with a pharaoh’s crown led archeologists to believe that Nefertiti was seen as Akhenaten’s equal and had the powers of a pharaoh. She may have even ruled as a pharaoh after the death of her husband and before the reign of King Tutankhamen as Djeserkheperure Smenkhare. In any case, the inscriptions depict a queen who is very much involved and in charge of the royal court. She was also considered a high priestess, allowing the faithful access to the god Aten through her.
Nefertiti's One Eye Has Given Rise To Speculation
One of the most famous depictions of Nefertiti shows her with one blank eye, considered a blight on an otherwise beautiful face. There are widely varying speculations about the circumstances that led to the blank eye that include an apprentice failing to complete the bust, river blindness that led to an opaque cornea, or simply damage that occurred over the years.By far the most entertaining theory is that the artist who was working to complete the bust fell in love with Nefertiti and, after his advances were rebuffed, left the eye blank as a symbol of here inability to see the true nature of the artist's love.
Nefertiti and Akhenaten: Power Couple
Nefertiti married 16-year-old Amenhotep IV when she was 15 years old. They had six daughters and possibly one son, King Tut. They ruled Egypt as equals in the mid 1300s B.C.
The power couple changed Egypt drastically by designating the sun as god, Aten, and making the sun the center of political and religious structure, replacing the god Amun. They created a new capital, Akhet-Aten, over 100 miles north of Thebes. This didn’t exactly sit well with the people, but they didn’t have a choice. Defying the pharaoh could get you killed as the couple also made themselves priests through which all citizens had to go to access Aten.
Just like any celeb power couple, they changed their names. Amenhotep became Akhenaten and Nefertiti (whose original name was “The Beautiful One Is Come”) became Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti or "Beautiful Are the Beauties of Aten, Beautiful Woman Has Come." Much longer than Yeezus, but with the same intent.
Nefertiti’s Tomb Possibly Hidden Behind King Tut’s
Nefertiti may have been buried in Amarna, but due to the destruction by Akhenaten’s successors and the ravages of time, it’s not certain if that royal tomb ever held her body. In August 2015, archaeologist Dr. Nicholas Reeves discovered a secret, much larger room behind Tutankhamun’s smaller tomb.
The discovery could reveal Nefertiti’s true place within Egyptian history. The size of the tomb Dr. Reeves discovered suggests that King Tut was buried in his mother’s tomb, as Nefertiti may have been Tut’s mother or stepmother and, most importantly, the royal with the higher pedigree. Perhaps the burial logistics revolved around Nefertiti ruling as the boy king’s co-regent after the death of Akhenaten. Reeves posits that Nefertiti may have been interred first, with the door to her chamber plastered and painted over. The ghost door was found in Tut’s tomb. "If I'm wrong, I'm wrong," Reeves said. "But if I'm right, the prospects are frankly staggering.”
Some historians suggest that Nefertiti’s tomb and trappings were used for the burial of King Tut or that she was hidden in Tut’s tomb so that enemies of her husband Akhenaten wouldn’t find her.
As well, statues depicting a female ruler were found in Tut’s tomb.