Page one

This page


Nefertiti generally wore a close fitting almost diaphanous sheath dress, but was also depicted naked. In part this related to her role in the fertility cult. During the early years of Akhenaten´s reign Nefertiti wore the crown of Hathor (cow horns and a sun disc, often including plumes) or the headdress of Mut (the vulture goddess). When the royal family moved to Armarna, Nefertiti favoured a flat-topped version of the blue war crown which she is most often associated with. This crown also linked the queen with the goddess Tefnut, a solar deity. In this she emulated the role of "Gods Wife of Amun", wearing the same close fitting robe tied with a red sash and Nubian wig with either a double uraei (royal cobra) or the double plumed crown with a sun disk. However, it may be that her power exceeded even that of Ahmose Nefertari (the foundress of the eighteenth dynasty).

Nefertiti Nefertiti Nefertiti smiting copyright Captmondo



Nefertiti vanished around year fourteen of Akhenaten´s reign. It has been suggested that she was disgraced and her place at the King´s side taken by her daughter Merytaten and the lesser wife Kiya (possibly the mother of Smenkhare and Tutankhamun). According to some commentators, Nefertiti´s name was removed from inscriptions and relaced with that of Merytaten. However, others have suggested that was Kiya´s name and images that were removed from monuments. Proponents of this view suggest that Nefertiti was jealous of Kiya because she had provided two sons for the king, and so she arranged for her disgrace. So far, no evidence has been recovered to support this highly speculative story. It is also possible that Nefertiti simply died, and her death was so painful for Akhenaten that he did not wish to be reminded of her publicly after she had gone.

Her disappearance also coincided with the appearance of Akhenaten's co-regent Smenkhkare (who was married to Nefertiti´s daughter Meritaten). Some commentators have suggested that Smenkhkare replaced Nefertiti as Akhenaten's lover, but there is no evidence to support this view. Alternatively, Smenkhare was the same person as Nefertiti and that she simply wore male garb when acting as co-regent with her husband. It is proposed that while she acted as co-regent, her role as queen consort was taken over by her eldest daughter, Merytaten. Proponents of this view point to the fact that Nefertiti and Smenkhare used the name "Neferneferuaten" ("the beautiful beauty of the Aten"), but the idea is not generally accepted.

Another theory is that there were actually two co-regents, consisting of a male son named Smenkhkare, and Nefertiti under the name Neferneferuaten, both of whom adopted the prenomen, Ankhkheperure. Akhenaten and Smenkhare were succeeded by Tutankhamun, and some writers have suggested that Nefertiti was still alive during the first couple of years of his reign. However, Aldred noted that the convention of placing the phrase maet kheru (justified or true of voice) after the name of a deceased person was abandoned during Akhenaten´s reign and re-instated shortly after his death.

If he is correct, then the shawabti of Nefertiti (which does not include the phrase) suggests that she died during his reign. The shawbti gives her titles as "The Heiress, high and mighty in the palace, one trusted (of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Neferkheperure, Wa´enre), the son of Re (Akhenaten), Great in his Lifetime, the Chief Wife of the King, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, Living for Ever and Ever" and depicts Nefertiti as a queen regnant - not a co-regent in male attire. The last depiction of the queen is found in the burial scenes of Meketaten, during the thirteenth year of Akhenaten´s reign, and the latest date found on a lable from Nefertiti´s estate is from the fourteenth year. Thus many scholars conclude that she died shortly after.

Nefertiti rediscovered?

In 1898, the tomb of Amenhotep II was excavated and both the Pharaoh and eleven other mummies were also discovered in intact chambers. One of these mummies , known as the "Younger Lady" may be that of Nefertiti (although some suggest the body is that of Akhenaten´s sister, princess Sitamun).

Joanne Fletcher, an expert on mummification, is confident that the body is that of Nefertiti and has argued that the burial provided clues which confirm that she reigned as Smenkhare. The body had a shaved head but wore a Nubian wig (as did Nefertiti) and had a double piercing on each ear (which was fairly rare). Its face had been badly mutilated around the time of the burial, and an arm snapped off, but the fingers were still clasped in the position associated with a pharaoh holding a scepter. Archeologists also discovered a number of "nefer" beads with the burial, items strongly associated with Nefertiti.

Other commentators have suggested that the deceased was too young to be Nefertiti (the body is thought to have been about 30 years old). More controversially, Zahi Hawass (Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities) rejected the identification with a fairly personal attack on Fletcher (who he has now banned from working in Egypt), stating that the mummy is not even female! This is presumably based on the fact that the mummy´s arms are bent - usually associated with male burial, but possibly associated with the burial of a Pharaoh. Others reject the identification of Nefertiti while accepting that the body is indeed female, and suggest that it is a relative of Nefertiti rather than the lady herself. This mystery is unlikely to be solved in the near future as Hawass seems unwilling to allow any further testing.

copyright J Hill 2010
Return to Top
Ancient Egypt Online

Predynastic period Early Dynastic Old Kingdom First Intermediate Middle Kingdom Second Intermediate New Kingdom Third Intermediate Graeco-Roman period Late period