Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti, Lady of the Nile

(ORDO NEWS) — Nefertiti was the wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV), who ruled from about 1353 to 1336 BC. Known as the Ruler of the Nile and the Daughter of the Gods, Nefertiti gained unparalleled power and is considered to have an equal status with the pharaoh himself.

However, after the twelfth year of the reign of Akhenaten, when her name disappeared from the pages of history, there is a lot of controversy about Nefertiti.

In the new state of Akhenaten, in the center of whose religion was the sun god, he and Nefertiti were portrayed as a primitive first couple.

Nefertiti was also known throughout Egypt for her beauty. She was said to be proud of her swan-like neck and invented her own cosmetics using the galena plant. Her name is also associated with the oblong golden beads called nefer, which she often wore.

Long forgotten by history, Nefertiti became famous when her bust was discovered in the ruins of the artist’s studio in Amarna in 1912, which is now in the Altes Museum in Berlin. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt.

Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti Lady of the Nile 2The iconic bust of Nefertiti discovered by Ludwig Borchardt is part of the collection of the Egyptian Museum of Berlin and is currently on display at the Altes Museum

Nefertiti is depicted in images and in statues in a large image, denoting her significance. Many of her images show simple family gatherings with her husband and daughters. She is also known as the mother-in-law and stepmother of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

The relationship of Nefertiti is not exactly known, but it is generally accepted that she was the daughter of Aya, who became pharaoh after Tutankhamun. She had a younger sister, Mutnemenjet. Another theory identifies Nefertiti with the Mitannian princess Taduhipa.

Nefertiti was married to Amenhotep IV around 1357 BC. and later became his queen. There are images in which Nefertiti and the king ride together in a chariot, kissing in public, and Nefertiti sitting on the knee of the king, which allows scientists to conclude that their relationship was sincere.

King Akhenaten’s legendary love can be seen in the hieroglyphs at Amarna, and he even wrote a love poem for Nefertiti:

…And the heiress, great in the palace, beautiful in face, adorned with a double plume, lady of happiness, endowed with graces, hearing whose voice the king rejoices, the king’s main wife, his beloved, lady of the two lands, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, may she live forever and always…”.

The couple had six known daughters, two of whom became queens of Egypt: Meritaten (it is believed that she was the queen of her father), Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten / Ankhesenamen (later Queen Tutankhamen), Neferneferuaten-Tasherit, Neferneferure and Setepenre.

Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti Lady of the Nile 3“Home altar” depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their three daughters; limestone ca. 1350 BC, Egyptian Museum Berlin

New religion

In the fourth year of Amenhotep IV’s reign, the sun god Aten became the dominant national god. The king led a religious revolution, closing the old temples and increasing the central role of Aten. Nefertiti played a prominent role in the old religion and this continued in the new system.

She worshiped alongside her husband and held the unusual royal office of a priest of Aten. In the new, almost monotheistic religion, the king and queen were seen as the “primal first couple” through whom Aten bestowed his blessings. Thus, they formed a royal triad or trinity with Aten, through which the “light” of Aten spread to the entire population.

During the reign of Akhenaten (and possibly after) Nefertiti enjoyed unprecedented power, and by the twelfth year of his reign, there is evidence that she could be elevated to the status of co-ruler, equal in status to the pharaoh himself. She is often depicted on the walls of temples in the same size as him, which indicates her importance, and is depicted alone worshiping the god Aten.

Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti Lady of the Nile 4Wilbur plaque, Brooklyn Museum. Nefertiti is depicted as almost as big as her husband, indicating her importance

Perhaps most impressively, Nefertiti is depicted in a relief from the temple at Amarna striking a foreign enemy with a mace in front of Aten. Such images were traditionally meant only for the pharaoh, but Nefertiti was depicted in this way.

The figure of Nefertiti was carved on the four corners of Akhenaten’s granite sarcophagus, and it is she who is depicted as the protector of his mummy, a role traditionally played by the traditional female deities of Egypt: Isis, Nephthys, Selket and Neith.

Disappearance of Nefertiti

In the 12th year of the reign, the name Nefertiti ceases to occur. Some believe that she either died from the plague that swept the area, or fell into disuse, but recent theories refute this claim.

Shortly after her disappearance from historical records, Akhenaten acquired a co-ruler with whom he shared the throne of Egypt. This caused a lot of speculation as to the identity of this man.

One theory is that it was Nefertiti herself in a new female king guise, following the historical role of other female leaders such as Sobkneferu and Hatshepsut.

Another theory puts forward the idea of ​​the existence of two co-rulers – the male son of Smenkhkare and Nefertiti under the name Neferneferuaten (translated “Aten shines with radiance [because] the beautiful has come” or “Perfect perfection Athena”).

Some scholars are of the opinion that Nefertiti assumed the role of co-ruler during or after Akhenaten’s death. Jacobus van Dijk, who is responsible for the Amarna section of the Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, believes that Nefertiti really became co-ruler with her husband, and the role of queen consort passed to her eldest daughter Merietaten (Meritaten), with whom Akhenaten had several children.

(In addition, the Akhenaten sarcophagus is decorated with four images of Nefertiti, and not ordinary goddesses, which indicates her continued importance to the pharaoh until his death and disproves the idea that she fell out of favor. This also shows that she continued to play the role of a deity or demigods next to Akhenaten.

On the other hand, Cyril Aldred, author of Akhenaten: King of Egypt, states that the funerary shawabti found in Akhenaten’s tomb indicates that Nefertiti was merely a queen regnant and not a co-ruler, and that she died on the 14th year of the reign of Akhenaten, and her daughter had died the year before.

According to some theories, Nefertiti was still alive and influenced the younger courtiers who married in their teens. Nefertiti had to prepare for her death and for the succession of her daughter, Ankhesenpaaten, now called Ankhsenamun, and her stepson, now son-in-law, Tutankhamen.

According to this theory, Neferneferuaten died after two years of reign, and then she was succeeded by Tutankhamun, who is believed to be the son of Akhenaten. The new royal couple were young and inexperienced, by any estimate of their age.

According to this theory, Nefertiti’s life should have ended by the third year of Tutankhaten’s reign. In the same year, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun and left Amarna to return the capital to Thebes, as evidence of his return to the official worship of Amun.

Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti Lady of the Nile 5Gold plate found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, showing Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamen together

Since the records are incomplete, it is possible that future finds by archaeologists and historians will allow new theories to be developed regarding Nefertiti and her rapid departure from the public stage. To date, the mummy of Nefertiti, the famous and iconic Egyptian queen, has never been found.

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