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The Great Nefertiti

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    Queen Nefertiti, the most powerful woman in Egypt since the Pharaoh Hatshepsut 100 years earlier. She was as influential as she was beautiful, being a partner in power with her king and husband, Akhenaten. Together, the couple co-reigned over Egypt attempting to completely transform Egyptian religion. Though little is known about Nefertiti’s early life, it is believed that she was born around 1390 B. C. E. in the royal city of Thebes. Some say she is of Egyptian blood while others believed her to be a foreign princess.

    The name Nefertiti means, “the beautiful woman has come,” and is of Egyptian origin. Evidence suggests that Nefertiti had an Egyptian wet-nurse or governess of noble rank, which is strong support for the belief that she was born within the circle of the Egyptian royal court. Nefertiti’s father, Ay, worked as a scribe and keeper of King Amenhotep III’s records, eventually being promoted to chief minister and chief architect and even going on to become pharaoh for a brief period after King Tut. It is unclear as to who Nefertiti’s biological mother was.

    Some historians believe that Ay’s chief wife Tey was Nefertiti’s biological mother while others claim Tey simply raised young Nefertiti. It was through her father’s work that Nefertiti was able to become friendly with the king’s oldest son, Amenhotep IV. (http://www. findingdulcinea. com/features/profiles/n/nefertiti. html) By the age of eleven, it was already clear that Nefertiti would one day be Queen, due to the strong affection the young Amenhotep showed for her. Amenhotep IV scaled the throne at age sixteen, due to his father’s death.

    He then married Nefertiti, then fifteen, thus, allowing her to become Queen Nefertiti. The new king showed little interest in the affairs of the state, warfare, etc. His main focus was primarily theological. In fact, the new king became a religious reformer, replacing Amun-Ra, the supreme god of all Egyptian gods, with a new supreme and eventually sole god called Aton, the radiant disk of the sun. Until then, Aton had been only a minor Theban god. In the fifth year of his rein as king, Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaten.

    Due to the large amount of opposition he was receiving for closing the temples of the other gods, Akhenaten established a new capital called, Akhenaten. (http://www. kingtutshop. com/freeinfo/Nefertiti. htm) The king’s decision to move the capital from Thebes to this new site was due to the fact that the sun rose from a dip in the surrounding mountaintops, which he believed to be Aton coming up to watch over the city. Akhenaten commemorated the founding of his new capital by erecting boundary stelae, markers placed around the capital to show the limit of the city.

    These markers were also used to keep any god other than Aton, out of the city. After a year of residing in the new capital, Akhenaten prohibited the worship of Amun-Ra completely and ordered that all temples dedicated to the worship of Amun-Ra be closed. The king also prohibited all festivals and worship of Osiris, Isus, Mut and Ptah and any and all other major and minor deities, as only one god was to be worshipped, that god being Aton. In this sense, Akhenaten became a ruler with a newly created religion, monotheism.

    The total defilement of Amun-Ra from all statues, papyrus and temples meant that his father’s name had to be defiled too. To wipe out a person’s name meant wiping out a part of that person’s being. Therefore, that person could not be introduced to the God’s and resurrected – one of the ancient Egyptian’s worst fears. Surprisingly, this did not seem to bother Akhenaten, as he may have believed Aton to be his father. (“Akhenaten, The Heretic King. ”) Throughout the Eighteenth Dynasty, royal women held a significant and noticeable role in the affairs of the state and religion.

    Nefertiti continued this tradition by actively assisting Akhenaten in his attempt to convert Egypt to monotheism. Like the rest of the world, Ancient Egyptians believed in a multiplicity of gods and goddesses. Just as humans vary in power and status so did the gods. The worship of the gods at the top of the hierarchy was a state affair and was relatively unimportant to the common people. Each city had its own deity and there were also a number of minor gods and goddesses who were worshipped by ordinary people.

    An individual might feel a greater connection with one god than with another, but no one doubted the existence of the other gods. Akhenaten and Nefertiti decided to go against this tradition and convert Egypt to a monotheistic religion that would worship Aton, the Sun Disc God. Nefertiti was an enthusiastic supporter and a full partner in the process of spreading the new religion. It is clear that the king and queen truly believed in their new faith, but they left no further explanation for the strong opposition they felt against centuries of polytheism. (“Nefertiti. ) As previously mentioned, Nefertiti was as dedicated to this religious reformation as her husband; pictured worshipping along side Akhenaten at religious ceremonies, attending state events, and even killing enemies of Egypt – usually a role only given to the pharaoh. Even with the reformation going on, Nefertiti had time to birth six daughters, two of whom went on to become queens and a third may have ruled as pharaoh. As a result of all this, Akhenaten had much respect for his wife. When he ordered the building of massive statues of himself, he would order the building of statues of equal size in honor of Nefertiti.

    Nefertiti was also considered by many Ancient Egyptians to be somewhat of a living fertility goddess, due to her sexuality, along with her exaggeratedly feminine body shape, her beautiful wardrobe, and her fertility, highlighted by the constant appearance of her six daughters. (“Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen. ”) Unfortunately, this strikingly beautiful, powerful and controversial queen disappeared completely from Egyptian historical records for some unknown reason. No one knows what really happened to her, but historians do have ideas.

    Historians that have gone into deep study of her life say that she could have been murdered, banished or died from illness. Some say that she died around the age of thirty. Others say that she was murdered by one of Akhenaten’s other wives due to feelings of jealousy or that she was murdered due to her trying to change the polytheistic culture to monotheistic. Other theories propose that Nefertiti was really a male in disguise, more specifically, the male pharaoh Neferneferuaten. With all these theories, it’s safe to say no one knows for sure what happened to Nefertiti.

    Regardless of what happened to her, she will always be remembered for her remarkable beauty and power. (“Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen. ”) As mentioned earlier, Nefertiti was largely known among the Ancient Egyptians for her beauty, often being referred to as “the most beautiful of all. ” As the years passed however, Nefertiti became largely forgotten until the relatively recent discovery of her intricately molded and painted bust. The discovery was made in 1912 during the excavations of the German-Orient Association in the city of Amarna.

    Nefertiti’s bust is among the most recognized works of art surviving the ancient world due to the excellent preservation of the color and molding. The bust was made from a piece of limestone that had been carved, plastered and richly painted. It is said that the bust was created around 1340 BC by an Egyptian sculptor named Thutmose, who would use the bust as a model to produce a portrait of the queen. The lips are painted a vibrant red, both eyelids and brows are outlined in black and her elongated neck balances the tall, flattop crown that sits atop her head.

    The lively colors of her crown contrast the yellow-brown color of her skin. As perfectly sculpted as Nefertiti’s bust is, the one flaw of the piece is a broken left ear. Even so, it is still astonishing. The fact that this remarkable sculpture is still in existence is amazing, and it just goes to show why Queen Nefertiti was and still is considered to be “the most beautiful woman in the world. ” (http://www. crystalinks. com/nefertiti. html) Nefertiti was as powerful and influential as she was beautiful. Together, her and Akhenaten co-reigned over Egypt, something that, until then, was completely unheard of.

    Side by side, the power couple attempted to completely transform Egyptian religion, trying to convert Egypt from polytheism to monotheism. She had a say in state affairs and was even allowed to declare death on Egyptian enemies – usually a role only given to the pharaoh. As to what happened to Nefertiti, whether she was killed, banished or turned out to be a man, is still a mystery. Regardless of what may have happened, Nefertiti will always be remembered for her astonishing beauty and power.

    Bibliography

    1. Brondou, Colleen. Nefertiti, Egyptian Queen. ” Findingdulcinea. com. <http://www. findingdulcinea. com/features/profiles/n/nefertiti. html> 2. Moran, Michelle. “Nefertiti. ” New York: Crown Publishers, 2007. 1st Edition. 3. Redford, Donald B. “Akhenaten, The Heretic King. ” Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984. 4. Tyldesley, Joyce A. “Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen. ” New York: Viking, 1999. 1st American Edition. 5. Queen Nefertiti. ” Crystalinks. com <http://www. crystalinks. com/nefertiti. html> 6. http://www. kingtutshop. com/freeinfo/Nefertiti. htm

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