Ancient Egypt Wiki
Akkadian cuneiform: Naptera
G14&t nfrit
nfr-ỉtrï mrỉt-mwt
"Beautiful Companion, Beloved of Mut"

Nefertari on a wall relief in her QV66 tomb.

Dynasty 19th Dynasty
Pharaoh(s) Seti IRamesses II
Titles King's Great Wife
God's Wife
Great of Praises
Lady of the Two Lands
Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt
Spouse(s) Ramesses II
Issue Amunherkhepeshef, Nefertari,
Pareherwenemef, Meritamen,
Henuttawy, Meryre, Meryatum
Born c. 1302 BC
Died 1255 BC (aged c. 47)
Burial QV66
For other pages by this name, see Nefertari.

Nefertari-Meritmut (transliteration: nfr-ỉtrï mrỉt-mwt, meaning: "Beautiful Companion, Beloved of Mut"), or simply Nefertari, was the King's Great Wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 19th Dynasty during the New Kingdom. She is one of the best known Egyptian queens, among such women as Cleopatra VII, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut, and one of the most prominent not known or thought to have reigned in her own right. Her lavishly decorated tomb, QV66, is the largest and most spectacular in the Valley of the Queens. Ramesses also dedicated a temple to her at Abu Simbel next to his own Great Temple.


Nefertari held many titles, including: Great of Praises (wrt-ḥzwt), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt), Lady of Grace (nbt-ỉmꜣt), King's Great Wife (ḥmt-nswt-wrt), his beloved (ḥmt-nswt-wrt merỉt.f), Lady of the Two Lands (nbt-tꜣwy), Lady of All Lands (hnwt-tꜣw-nbw), Wife of the Strong Bull (ḥmt-kꜣ-nḫt), God's Wife (ḥmt-nṯr), Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (ḥnw.t šmꜥw mḥw).[1] Ramesses II also named her 'The one for whom the sun shines'.[2]


Nefertari married Ramesses II when he was still Crown Prince under his father, Seti I. Nefertari had at least four sons and two daughters. She bore Ramesses' eldest son, Amunherkhepeshef, which may have contributed to her status as principal wife. Other son include; Pareherwenemef, Meryre and Meryatum. Her daughters were Meritamen, Henuttawy, and probably Nefertari (due to her name and presence at Queen Nefertari's smaller temple at Abu Simbel). Further suggested daughters are Baketmut and Nebettawy, but these princesses are absent from Nefertari's smaller temple at Abu Simbel, therefore making it unlikely that they were Nefertari's daughters.

Although Nefertari's family background is unknown, the discovery in her tomb of a knob inscribed with the cartouche of Pharaoh Ay has led people to speculate she was related to him.[3] The time between the reign of Ay and Ramesses II means that Nefertari could not be a daughter of Ay and if any relation exists at all, she would be a (great-)granddaughter. So far, there is no conclusive evidence linking Nefertari to the royal family of the 18th Dynasty, however.[4]

Monuments and Attestations[]

Nefertari first appears as the wife of Ramesses II in official scenes during Year 1 of Ramesses II. In the tomb of Nebwenenef, Nefertari is depicted behind her husband as he elevates Nebwenenef to the position of High Priest of Amun during a visit to Abydos.[5]

Nefertari is an important presence in the scenes from Luxor and Karnak and appears on many statues there too. In a scene from Luxor, Nefertari appears leading the royal children. In Western Thebes, Nefertari is mentioned on a statuary group from Deir el-Bahari, as well as on a stela and blocks from Deir el-Medina.[2]

Abu Simbel[]

Main article: Abu Simbel
The greatest honor was bestowed on Nefertari however in Abu Simbel. Nefertari is depicted in statue form at the great temple, but the small temple is dedicated to Nefertari and the goddess Hathor. The building project was started earlier in the reign of Ramesses II, and seems to have been inaugurated by ca year 25 of his reign (but not completed until ten years later).[6]

Nefertari appears twice as one of the royal women represented beside the colossal statues of Ramesses II that stand before the greater temple at Abu Simbel. To the left of the doorway, Nefertari, Queen-Mother Tuya and the king's son Amunherkhepeshef (still called Amunherwenemef here) flank the colossal statue of the king. To the right of the doorway Nefertari, Baketmut and the king's son Ramesses are shown with the pharaoh.[4] Inside the greater temple Nefertari is depicted on one of the pillars in the great pillared hall worshipping Hathor.[2] On the wall of the inner pillared hall Nefertari appears behind Ramesses II. They stand before the barque of Amun, and Nefertari is shown playing the sistra. Elsewhere Nefertari and Ramesses II are shown before a barque dedicated to a deified Ramesses II. Nefertari is shown twice accompanying her husband in Triumph scenes.[2]

The smaller temple at Abu Simbel was dedicated to Nefertari and Hathor. The dedication text on one of the buttresses states:

"A temple of great and Mighty monuments, for the Great Royal Wife Nefertari Meritmut, the one for whom the sun shines, given life and beloved."[2]

The two colossal standing statues of Nefertari in front of the small temple are equal in size to those of Ramesses II. Nefertari is shown holding a sistrum. Her statues being flanked by her children. She wears a long sheet dress and she is depicted with a long wig, Hathoric cow horns, the solar disk, and tall feathers mounted on a modius.[4] In the interior of the smaller temple, Nefertari appears in a variety of scenes. She is shown for instance offering to a cow (Hathor) in a papyrus thicket, offering before Khnum, Satis, and Anuket, the triad of Elephantine, and offering to Mut and Hathor.[2]

Foreign Diplomacy[]

Nefertari's prominence at court is further supported by cuneiform tablets from the Hittite city of Ḫattuša (modern Boğazkale in Turkey), containing Nefertari's correspondence with King Ḫattušili III of Ḫatti and his wife Pudu-Ḫepa. She is mentioned in the letters as Naptera. Nefertari is known to have sent gifts to Queen Pudu-Ḫepa:

"The great Queen Naptera of the land of Egypt speaks thus: Speak to my sister Pudu-Ḫepa, the Great Queen of the land of Ḫatti. I, your sister, (also) be well!! May your country be well. Now, I have learned that you, my sister, have written to me asking about my health. ... You have written to me about the good friendship and brotherly relationship between your brother, the Egyptian king, the Great King, and his brother, the Ḫatti King, the Great King. Riamashesha (i.e. Ramesses II) and the Storm god will lift up your head, and Riamashesha will bring about peace, and make the brotherly relationship between the Egyptian king, the Great King, and his brother, the Ḫatti King, the Great King, last forever... See, I have sent you a gift, in order to greet you, my sister... for your neck (a necklace) of pure gold, composed of 12 bands and weighing 88 shekels, coloured linen maklalu-material, for one royal dress for the king... A total of 12 linen garments."[7]

Death and Burial[]

Nefertari is shown at the inaugural festivities at Abu Simbel in Year 24. Her daughter Meritamen is depicted taking part in place of her mother in some of the scenes. Nefertari may well have been in failing health at this point, and probably died near the end of Year 24 or early in Year 25.

Nefertari was buried in her QV66 rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Queens. In poetic fashion, splashed across the walls of her tomb, Ramesses II declared the depth of his love for his favorite wife:

"My love is unique. No one can rival her, for she is the most beautiful woman alive. Just by passing, she has stolen my heart."[8]


Unfortunately by the time that Schiaparelli rediscovered Nefertari's tomb in 1904 it had already been robbed in antiquity. A pair of mummified legs was found found in the burial chamber, and taken to the Egyptian Museum in Turin by Schiaparelli, where they are still kept today under the assumption that they belong to Nefertari. The pair of legs — including fragmented femurs, a patella and a piece of the tibia and fibula — were never actually examined, and it remained unclear whether or not they actually belonged to the famous queen.


The mummified legs as shown in the 2014 exhibition at the Museo Egizio, in Turin (Habicht et al. 2016).

In 2016 a detailed analysis was conducted on the mummified legs, the results of which were published.[9] It was concluded that both legs belonged to a single individual, who was female with 90 percent certainly and probably ranged between 40-60 in age. The woman was estimated to have stood some 165 cm. (5 ft. 5 in.) to 168 cm. (5 ft. 6 in.) tall — taller than some 84 percent of other women of the period. The embalming techniques and materials used match the time of Nefertari and the quality points to an individual of high social standing.[9]

The researchers also examined a pair of sandals found in Nefertari's tomb, of which the materials and manufacture were of high quality, in a style typical of the 18th and 19th dynasties of ancient Egypt, suggesting that they might well have been Nefertari's. The size was estimated to be a European size 39-40 (U.S. size 9), which would have fit someone of the queen's stature.[9]

It seems highly unlikely that Nefertari was interred with any of her daughters and, since Nefertari's tomb lies higher in the valley than the older tombs, these remains and sandals were not washed into her tomb by flooding. Given all the evidence, the researchers concluded that "the most likely scenario is that the mummified knees truly belong to Queen Nefertari".[9]


  1. Grajetzki 2005.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Kitchen 1996.
  3. Dodson & Hilton 2004.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Tyldesley 2006.
  5. Kitchen 2001.
  6. Kitchen 1983.
  7. Luckenbill 1921, p. 194; KBo I 29 + KBo IX 43.
  8. O'Connell 2007.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Habicht et al. 2016.


  • Dodson, A./Hilton, D., 2004: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Grajetzki, W., 2005: Ancient Egyptian Queens: A Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Golden House Publications, London.
  • Habicht, M.E./Bianucci, R./Buckley, S.A./Fletcher, J./Bouwman, A.S./Öhrström, L.M./Seiler, R./Galassi, F.M./Hajdas, I./Vassilika, E./Böni, T./Henneberg, M./Rühli, F.J., 2016: Queen Nefertari, the Royal Spouse of Pharaoh Ramses II: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Mummified Remains Found in Her Tomb (QV66). PLoS ONE 11(11).
  • Kitchen, K.A., 1983: Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II, The King of Egypt. Aris & Phillips.
  • Kitchen, K.A., 1996: Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, Translations. Vol. II, Blackwell Publishers.
  • Luckenbill, D.D., 1921: Hittite Treaties and Letters. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Vol. 37, No. 3.
  • O'Connell, T., 2007: True Love, the Sphinx, and Other Unsolvable Riddles: A Comedy in Four Voices. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books.
  • Tyldesley, J., 2006: Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.