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Nefertiti: A Beautiful Woman Has Come


Bust of Nefertiti

Out of Egypt, a land of hot sunlit days and dark cool nights, emerges a Queen. Her name, which translates to "a beautiful woman has come," was Nefertiti. Who were her parents? No mention has been found. Maybe she was the daughter of Queen Sitamen or Gilukhepa. Was she an only child? She had a younger sister named Mutnodjmet. Where did she come from? Thebes? What is known is that she was one of many strong queens of 18th dynasty Egypt (Hatshepsut, Ahmose Nefertari). 

Eighteenth dynasty Egyptian women enjoyed several freedoms unique to their time. They were able to own property, work outside the home, bring about legal action, live alone. Yet few received formal education, and only a minority were able to read or write.

Life along the Nile was bountiful, with the locals diets featuring a range of fruits, vegetables, fish, fowl, small game and meat used to supplement the staples of bread and beer. Flax was grown to spin into linen cloth, papyrus for paper, and Egypt's desert exploited for precious metals and minerals which included gold, turquoise, amethyst as well as jasper.

Distinction between Egyptians and foreigners was made on the basis of those who spoke the Egyptian language and followed customs, and those who did not. Great architects and builders flourished during the time, working without steam power or combustion engines to build masterpieces. The skill of Egyptian doctors was famed throughout the Near East.

What is best known of Nefertiti is her bust, believed to have been created by Thutmose, which served as a sculptor's model of the queen. Nefertiti is cast looking ahead, "her neck is bent by the weight of her characteristic flat-topped headdress, and she wears a colorful neck piece." Carved in limestone with a layer of gypsum plaster, the bust was left behind when the capital of Armana was abandoned shortly after Akhenaten's death. During her reign, she commanded that later busts display her as a ruler, versus a woman. As tradition, her role as queen was to remain in the background supporting her husband.

Nefertiti was relatively young — likely in her early teens — when she married Amenhotep IV, who later changed his name to Akhenaten. Together, they introduced monotheism, with the worship of the sun god Aten. As queen, also known as the "King's Great Wife," she bore 6 daughters during the span of their marriage: Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Neferneferuaten, Neferneferture, Setepenre.

Many depictions exist of the Nefertiti and Akhenaten. She holds the position as the Egyptian queen with the most surviving appearances on monuments and other artistic mediums. Following death of her daughter Meritaten, she vanished. No record has been found to detail her own death, her mummy has yet to be found, her end remains a mystery.

As the desert blew over Armana, the names Akhenaten and Nefertiti vanished from Egypt until rediscovered in 1887. Her bust, which stands 18 inches high is displayed in the Neues Museum in Berlin.

I breathe the sweet breath which comes forth from your mouth and shall behold your beauty daily. My prayer is that I may hear your sweet voices of the north wind, that my flesh may grow young with life through your love, that you may give me your hands bearing your spirits and I receive it and live by it, and that you may call upon my name eternally, and it shall not fail.

Works cited:
  • Laura Taronas Harvard University. “Nefertiti: Egyptian Wife, Mother, Queen and Icon.” ARCE
  • Mark, Joshua J. “Nefertiti.” World History Encyclopedia, 16 June 2021.
  • “The Queen.” Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin, 16 June 2021.
  • Tyldesley, Joyce A. Nefertiti: Egypt's Sun Queen. Penguin, 1999.

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