Ancient Egypt Wiki
Preceded by:
Pharaoh of Egypt
18th Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti (?)
Manetho: Achencheres

Berlin Stela depicting a female pharaoh, likely to be Neferneferuaten, caressing Akhenaten.

1335-1332 BC or
1325-1322 BC (3 years)
t ra
Living are the Manifestations
of Re, Beloved of Waenre
Most Beautiful of the Aten's
Beauties, Effective for her
Consort(s) Akhenaten (?), Smenkhkare (?)
Burial Unknown

Ankhetkheperure-Meritwaenre Neferneferuaten (ancient Egyptian: nfr-nfr.w-ỉtn, "Most Beautiful of the Aten's Beauties") was a female Pharaoh who ruled toward the end of the Amarna Period during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Her sex is confirmed by feminine traces occasionally found in the name and by the epithet Akhet-en-hyes ("Effective for her husband"), incorporated into one version of her second cartouche.[1][2][3]

Name and Identity[]

The identity of the Pharaoh(s) using the Throne Name Ankhkheperure remains subject to much scholarly interpretation. The original consensus, introduced by Percy Newberry,[4] was that Neferneferuaten and Smenkhkare were names of the same person, although there was little unanimity as to which name was the earlier. Since 1973, Neferneferuaten/Smenkhkare was argued to have been a woman.[5] In 1978, it was proposed that there were two individuals using the same throne name, Ankhkheperure; a male king Smenkhkare and a female Neferneferuaten.[1]

The female Pharaoh Neferneferuaten is usually identified as Nefertiti who adopted the name Neferneferuaten in regnal Year 5 of her husband, Akhenaten. Some scholars thought that Meritaten was identical to Pharaoh Neferneferuaten, but a box fragment from KV62 (JE61500) gives the names and titles of Neferneferuaten and Meritaten as clearly separate individuals.[6] Another daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, Neferneferuaten Tasherit, has been considered as identical to Pharaoh Neferneferuaten as well, but she is generally considered to have been too young at the time. Furthermore, it is unlikely that she was able to assume power while her mother and older sisters were also alive.

Typically, throne names in Ancient Egypt were unique. Thus, the use of similar titulary led to a great deal of confusion among Egyptologists.[7] However, James Peter Allen points out that Neferneferuaten can be differentiated from Smenkhkare.[8] Smenkhkare's throne name always appears as just Ankhkheperure, without epithets, while Neferneferuaten often includes epithets referring to Akhenaten such as; Mery-Neferkheperure ("Beloved of Neferkheperure"), Mery-Waenre ("Beloved of Waenre") and Akhet-en-hyes ("Effective for her Husband"). Some versions of the throne name of Neferneferuaten also include the feminine "t", resulting in Ankhetkheperure.

Two sets of names associated with Smenkhkare:

  • Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare, who may be identified as the husband of Queen Meritaten, Akhenaten's daughter, and ruled briefly during or after Akhenaten's reign.
  • Ankhetkheperure-Meritwaenre Neferneferuaten-Akhetenhyes, who is probably the queen we know as Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaten of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and who may have ruled as co-regent with her husband.

It has been suggested that Smenkhkare adopted Neferneferuaten's names, albeit with the masculine form of writing without epithets referring to Akhenaten, or less commonly, the other way around; that Neferneferuaten adopted Smenkhkare's name instead. Dodson argues that naturally the "short" and "simple" version of the throne name used by Smenkhkare should precede the "long" and "elaborate" version (extended by epithets) used by Neferneferuaten.[9]

Few objects have been found bearing the name Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare, whereas some clearly feminine objects with the name Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten were reused in the KV62 burial of Tutankhamun.

A fragmentary stela from Amarna, now known as the Coregency Stela, adds more evidence as well as more confusion. It is known that the stela originally portrayed three figures, identified as Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Meritaten. However, at some point after the stela was made, the name of Nefertiti had been gouged out and replaced with the name Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten, and Meritaten's name had been replaced with that of Akhenaten and Nefertiti's third daughter, Ankhesenpaaten. Why Nefertiti's clearly feminine figure would be renamed with a throne name in the masculine spelling is still debated to this day, as is the reason for Meritaten's usurpation by Ankhesenpaaten.

Dates and Length of Reign[]

The highest date known for Neferneferuaten is Regnal Year 3, in a graffito from the TT139 tomb of Pairi at Thebes.[10] There are wine dockets at Amarna that lack a king's name but bear dates for Regnal Years 2 and 3. They are almost certainly from Neferneferuaten's reign, since they reflect a change in their dating system from year-dates of Akhenaten.[10]

She may have been coregent during the last years of Akhenaten's reign and may have remained in power during the brief reign of Smenkhkare as wel. She possibly outlived the latter and may have ruled briefly as sole ruler in between Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun. At the very most she might have lived and still been in power during the first year of Tutankhamun.

Chronological Placement[]

There is also little that can be said with certainty about the life and reign of Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten. Most Egyptologists accept that she was a woman and an individual apart from Smenkhkare.

Coregency with Akhenaten[]

Many specialists in the period believe the epigraphic evidence strongly indicates she acted for a time as Akhenaten's coregent.[11][12][13] Whether she reigned before or after Smenkhkare depends on the underlying theory as to her identity.

Successor to Akhenaten[]

Based on the Pairi inscription dated to her third regnal year, it appears she enjoyed a sole reign. How much of her reign was as coregent and how much as sole ruler, is a matter of debate and speculation. The same tomb inscription mentions an Amun temple in Thebes, perhaps a mortuary complex, which would seem to indicate that the Amun proscription had abated and the traditional religion was being restored toward the end of her reign.[14][12][13] Since much of her funeral equipment was used in Tutankhamen's burial, it seems fairly certain she was denied a pharaonic burial by her successor. The reasons for this remain speculation, as does a regency with Tutankhaten.[14][12][13]


With so much evidence expunged first by Neferneferuaten's successor, then the entire Amarna period by Horemheb, and later in earnest by the kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty, the exact details of events may never be known. The highly equivocal nature of the evidence often renders it suggestive of something, while falling short of proving it. The various steles, for instance, strongly suggest a female coregent but offer nothing conclusive as to her identity.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Krauss 1978, p. 43–47.
  2. Allen 1994, p. 7–17.
  3. Gabolde 2009, p. 17-21.
  4. Newberry 1928.
  5. Harris 1973, p. 15–17.
  6. Gabolde 1998, p. 178-183.
  7. Dodson 2009a, p. 34.
  8. Allen 1988.
  9. Dodson 2009b.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Allen 2006, p. 5.
  11. Reeves 2001.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Dodson 2009a.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Allen 2006.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Giles 2001.


  • Allen, J.P., 1988: Two Altered Inscriptions of the Late Amarna Period. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 25.
  • Allen, J.P., 1994: Nefertiti and Smenkh-ka-re. Göttinger Miszellen, Vol. 141.
  • Allen, J.P., 2006: The Amarna Succession.
  • Dodson, A., 2009a: Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian Counter-Reformation. The American University in Cairo Press.
  • Dodson, A., 2009b: Amarna Sunset: the late-Amarna succession revisited. In: Beyond the Horizon: Studies in Egyptian Art, Archaeology and History in Honour of Barry J. Kemp. Eds: S. Ikram & A. Dodson.
  • Gabolde, M., 2009: Under a Deep Blue Starry Sky. Causing His Name to Live: Studies in Egyptian Epigraphy and History in Memory of William J. Murnane.
  • Giles, F.J., 2001: The Amarna Age: Egypt. Australian Centre for Egyptology.
  • Harris, J.R., 1973: Neferneferuaten. GM 4, p. 15–17.
  • Krauss, R., 1978: Das Ende der Amarnazeit (The End of the Amarna Period). Hildesheim.
  • Newberry, P.E., 1928: Akhenaten's Eldest Son-in-Law 'Ankhkheperure'. JEA 14.
  • Reeves, C.N., 2001: Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet. Thames & Hudson, London.
Pharaoh of Egypt
Eighteenth Dynasty