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Egyptian Queen Nefertiti: Biography, History & Facts

Instructor: Margaret Moran
In this lesson, we'll learn who the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti was. Together, we will take a closer look at her background and personal life. Additionally, we'll explore her continued legacy in Egyptian history.

Background

Queen Nefertiti, also known as Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, was the queen of Egypt and wife of King Akhenaten, formerly called Amenhotep IV, who reigned from 1353-1336 B.C.E. She and her husband would rule Egypt together and play prominent roles in developing the cult religious following of the sun god known as Aten.

Birth and Early Life

You might be surprised to know that neither Nefertiti's birth year or parentage are known with any certainty. The best guess for her birth year is circa 1370 B.C.E. The most popular theory of her parentage claims that she is the daughter of her future husband's uncle, making them first cousins!

Marriage and Family

Nefertiti was celebrated for her beauty, most notably her statuesque figure and symmetric facial features, so it should not surprise you that she caught the attention and eventually married the king of Egypt. She is thought to have been a teenager at the time of her marriage to King Akhenaten, though the exact date of their marriage and her subsequent ascension to the royal throne of Egypt are also unknown. She was the great love of her husband, and the union produced six daughters.

Depiction of Nefertiti
Depiction of Nefertiti

Egyptian Legacy

The earliest images containing Nefertiti were found in the royal tombs of Theban. The images depict Nefertiti accompanying her husband, along with the royal butler and a high official. She is shown as an even more prominent figure in the temple known as 'The Mansion of the Benben,' where she is drawn serving as a priest attending the god Aten.

The most important finding, however, can be seen in blocks recovered from Karnak/Luxor in which she is shown wearing a unique blue crown, high with a flat top, striking female enemies. These depictions of her as a strong ruler have led many scholars to wonder if she served as her husband's co-ruler, rather than simply his consort queen, which would have been a position of unprecedented power. However, there is no scholarly data to support this.

Nefertiti with blue crown
Nerfertiti

Arguably, Nefertiti's greatest legacy is the religious revolution that occurred during her husband's reign. At this time in Egyptian history, the people worshiped several deities. Nefertiti and her husband chose to focus on the god Aten, represented by the sun disc. It's worth noticing that they each included his name within their own chosen names: Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti and Akhenaten. Talk about devotion!

Nefertiti even managed to blend her religious devotion with an obvious nod to her beauty by choosing the name Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, which translates to 'beautiful are the beauties of Aten; a beautiful woman has come.'

The royal couple closed state temples and the entire royal court transferred to the new capital, Amarna. Nefertiti took on an active religious role, both worshiping with her family and serving as the female part of the triad that also included Aten and the king. She was considered to be a depiction of an earth-bound fertility goddess, supported by the constant appearance of her many children. The royal family was depicted widely across the nation, appearing on private devotional material, the walls of tombs, and even on various sarcophagi.

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