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"The Beauty has Come"

Bust of Nefertiti at the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin.

Dynasty 18th Dynasty
Pharaoh(s) Akhenaten
Titles King's Great Wife
Hereditary Princess
Great of Praises
Lady of the Two Lands
Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt
Father Ay (?)
Mother Iuy (?)
Spouse(s) Akhenaten
Issue Meritaten, Meketaten,
Neferneferure, Setepenre
Burial AT26 (?)

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (ancient Egyptian: nfr-ỉty, "The Beauty has Come") was the Queen of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten) in the Eighteenth Dynasty during the New Kingdom. She may have also ruled briefly in her own right as Pharaoh Neferneferuaten after her husband's death and before the accession of Tutankhamun.

She was made famous by her bust, now in Berlin's Neues Museum, shown to the right. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. It was attributed to the sculptor Thutmose, and was found in his workshop. The bust itself is notable for exemplifying the understanding ancient Egyptians had regarding realistic facial proportions.


Nefertiti held many titles, including: Hereditary Princess (ỉryt-pʿt), Great of Praises (wrt-ḥzwt), Lady of Grace (nbt-ỉmꜣt), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt), King's Great Wife (ḥmt-nswt-wrt), King's Principal Wife (hmt-nswt-ʿꜣt), Lady of the Two Lands (nbt-tꜣwy), Lady of All Women (ḥnwt-ḥmwt-nbwt), and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (ḥnwt-shmꜥw-mhw).[1]

At Karnak there are inscriptions that read: Heiress, Great of Favour, Possessed of Charm, Exuding Happiness, Mistress of Sweetness, beloved one, soothing the king's heart in his house, soft-spoken in all, Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, Great King's Wife, whom he loves, Lady of the Two Lands, Nefertiti.


See also: 18th Dynasty Family Tree.

Nefertiti married Amenhotep IV when he was still Crown Prince under his father, Amenhotep III. They had six daughters; Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Neferneferuaten-Tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre.[2]

Nefertiti's parentage is not known with certainty, but one often cited theory is that she was the daughter of Ay, later to be pharaoh,[3] since his wife Tey is attested as her wet nurse. The theory proposes that Iuy was an earlier wife of Ay and Nefertiti's mother and that her wet nurse Tey was thus her step-mother. One major problem is that no found sources have explicitly attested Nefertiti's parents. Nonetheless, Ay's fatherhood is still considered likely due to the great influence he wielded during Nefertiti's life and after her death.[3]

Others such as Petrie, Drioton and Vandier have suggested that Nefertiti is to be identified with the Mitanni princess Tadu-Ḫepa.[4] This theory suggests that Nefertiti's name "the beautiful one has come" refers to her foreign origin as Tadu-Ḫepa. Seele, Meyer and others have pointed out that since Tey held the title of nurse to Nefertiti, and that this argues against this identification. A mature princess arriving in Egypt would not need a nurse.[5]

Scenes in various tombs of the nobles in Amarna mention that Nefertiti had a sister named Mutbenret.[6][7][8]



Great Royal Wife[]

In Year 4 of his reign (1346 BC) Amenhotep IV started his worship of Aten. The king led a religious revolution, in which Nefertiti played a prominent role. 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 his Year 5, Amenhotep IV officially changed his name to Akhenaten as evidence of his new worship. Nefertiti adopted the additional name Neferneferuaten ("Perfect are the Beauties of the Aten") at the same time. 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 officially 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 this time.

In an inscription estimated to November 21 of year 12 of the reign (approx. 1338 BC)[citation needed], her daughter Meketaten is mentioned for the last time; she is thought to have died shortly after that date. Circumstantial evidence which shows that she predeceased her husband at Akhetaten include several shabti fragments of the Queen's burial which is now located in the Louvre and Brooklyn Museums.[9] A relief in Akhenaten's tomb in the Royal Wadi at Amarna appears to show her funeral.


Main article: Neferneferuaten.

Nefertiti was thought to have died in Year 12, since she vanished from the historical record around this time. That was until the 2012 discovery of a Year 16 graffito of Akhenaten in Dayr Abu Hinnis,[10] which mentions Nefertiti alive. Van der Perre stresses that:

This inscription offers incontrovertible evidence that both Akhenaten and Nefertiti were still alive in the 16th year of his [Akhenaten's] reign and, more importantly, that they were still holding the same positions as at the start of their reign. This makes it necessary to rethink the final years of the Amarna Period.[10]

During the final year of Akhenaten's reign Nefertiti enjoyed unprecedented power, and was perhaps the most powerful woman on earth. Some time during the reign she was made co-regent:[11] equal in status to the pharaoh. She was depicted on temple walls the same size as the king, signifying her importance, and shown worshipping the Aten alone. Perhaps most impressively, Nefertiti is shown on a relief from the temple at Amarna which is now in the MFA in Boston, smiting a foreign enemy with a mace before the Aten. Such depictions are reserved for the pharaoh alone, and yet Nefertiti was depicted as such.

Since Nefertiti has now been confirmed to be living as late as Year 16 of Akhenaten's reign, she is the most likely candidate for Pharaoh Neferneferuaten, Akhenaten's female pharaoh successor. Some scholars thought that her eldest daughter Meritaten was identical to Neferneferuaten, but a box fragment from KV62 (JE61500), gives the names and titles of Neferneferuaten and Meritaten as clearly separate individuals.[12]

Nefertiti as pharaoh is perhaps responsible for abandoning the Aten religion, and moving the capital back to Thebes. This would have been the only way to please both the people and the powerful priests of Amun. Nefertiti would have prepared for her death and for the succession of her daughter, now named Ankhesenamun, and her stepson, Tutankhamun. They would have been educated in the traditional way, worshipping the old gods.

Death and Burial[]

Nefertiti's time of death is uncertain and the fate of her mummy is unknown. She might have ruled up to three years in between Akhenaten and Tutakhamun. Neferneferuaten was ultimately succeeded by Tutankhaten, who married Nefertiti's third daughter Ankhesenpaaten. The royal couple were young and inexperienced, by any estimation of their age, and Ankhesenpaaten bore two still born daughters whose mummies were found by Howard Carter in Tutankhamen's tomb. Some theories suggest 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 prior to Year 3 of Tutankhaten's reign (1331 BC), when the latter changed his name to Tutankhamun, as evidence of his worship of Amun, and abandoned Amarna to return the capital to Thebes.

Nefertiti's burial was intended to be made within the Royal Tomb (AT26) as laid out in the Boundary Stelae.[13] However, given that Akhenaten appears to have predeceased her it is highly unlikely she was ever buried there. The unfinished AT29 tomb, which would have been of very similar dimensions to the Royal Tomb had it been finished, is the most likely candidate for a tomb begun for Nefertiti's exclusive use.[14] Given that it lacks a burial chamber, she was not interred there either.

In 2015, English archaeologist Nicholas Reeves announced that high resolution scans revealed voids behind the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb which he proposed to be the burial chamber of Nefertiti,[citation needed] but subsequent radar scans showed that there are no hidden chambers.[citation needed]

In 1898, French archeologist Victor Loret found two female mummies among those cached inside the tomb of Amenhotep II in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings. These two mummies, known as the 'Elder Lady' and 'Younger Lady', were identified as likely candidates of Nefertiti's remains. However, it was subsequently shown that the 'Elder Lady' is in fact Queen Tiye, mother of Akhenaten. A lock of hair found in a coffinette in KV62 bearing an inscription naming Tiye proved a near perfect match to the hair of the 'Elder Lady'.[citation needed] DNA analysis confirmed that she was the daughter of Tiye's parents Yuya and Tjuyu.[citation needed] Furthermore, a research project led by Hawass in 2010 put the 'Younger Lady' mummy through CT scan analysis and DNA analysis and concluded that she is Tutankhamun's biological mother and an unnamed daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye.[citation needed] Therefore, both the 'Elder Lady' and 'Younger Lady' are almost certainly not the remains of Nefertiti.


Nefertiti's place as an icon in popular culture is secure. She has become a celebrity; after Cleopatra she is the second most famous "Queen" of Egypt in the European imagination and influenced through photographs the changed standards of feminine beauty of the 20th century.


  1. Grajetzki 2005.
  2. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 142-157.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dodson 2016, p. 87.
  4. Tyldesley 1998.
  5. Aldred 1957, p. 30-41.
  6. De Garis Davies 2004a.
  7. De Garis Davies 2004b.
  8. Dodson & Hilton 2004.
  9. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p.156.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Van der Perre 2014.
  11. Reeves 2005, p. 172.
  12. Gabolde 1998, p. 178-183.
  13. Murnane 1995, p. 78.
  14. Kemp 2019, p. 6.


  • Aldred, C., 1957: The End of the El-'Amārna Period. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 43.
  • Dodson, A./Hilton, D., 2004: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Dodson, A., 2016: Amarna Sunrise. Egypt from Golden Age to Age of Heresy. Cairo; New York City: American University in Cairo Press.
  • Gabolde, M., 1998: D’Akhenaton à Toutânkhamon. Université Lumiére-Lyon. Vol. 2.
  • Garis Davies, N. de, 2004a: The rock tombs of el-Amarna. Parts I and II: Part 1 The tomb of Meryra & Part 2 The tombs of Panehesy and Meyra II, Egypt Exploration Society.
  • Garis Davies, N. de, 2004b: The rock tombs of el-Amarna. Parts V and VI: Part 5 Smaller tombs and boundary stelae & Part 6 Tombs of Parennefer, Tutu and Ay, Egypt Exploration Society.
  • Grajetzki, W., 2005: Ancient Egyptian Queens: A Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Golden House Publications, London.
  • Kemp, B., 2019: The Amarna Royal Tombs at Amarna.
  • Murnane, W.J., 1995: Texts from the Amarna period in Egypt. United States of America: Scholars Press.
  • Perre, A. van der, 2014: The year 16 graffito of Akhenaton in Dayr Abu Hinnis. A contribution to the study of the later years of Nefertiti. Journal of Egyptian History. Vol. 7.
  • Reeves, N., 2005: Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Tyldesley, J., 1998: Nefertiti: Egypt's Sun Queen. Penguin, London.