Nefertiti, the Great Royal Wife of the Amarna Period

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#1
Among the Royal wives who lived during the so called "Amarna Period" it's all evident that Nefertiti is the most important figure.

Her daughters Meritaten and Ankhesenpaaten [later Ankhesenamun] became "Queens" [a modern term we use] as well, but they didn't play an institutional role comparable with the one of their mother.

To introduce her I would start from the tomb of a personage who followed her from the beginning of her Royal "career": the vizier Ramose.

Here [Davies, Norman De Garis - The Tomb of the Vizier Ramose (1941) : Davies, Norman de Garis (1865-1941); Peet, Thomas Eric (1882-1934) : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive] we can See Amenhotep IV [later Akhenaten] without a Great Royal Wife. The "woman" with him is not a woman, but a goddes: she's Ma'at. Amenhotep IV [Neferkheperure Amenhotep, his identification in the depiction is certain not only because of the epitet "Neter Heqa Waset", but also because of the presence of his Horus Name "Kanakht Qai Shuti"] probably already had a common wife [Kiya], but she wasn't in condition to stay with him in such an official context [instead of Ma'at we would expect to see a Great Royal Wife].

Amenh.JPG
This representation makes it really probable that Amenhotep [we say IV, they said Neferkheperure ... Amenhotep] begun to reign without a Great Royal Wife. But it tells us also that, from an iconographic perspective, Nefertiti was going to substitute Ma'at.

If we go on with our visit to the tomb of Ramose we can observe an early depiction of Nefertiti with her Royal Husband.
In this representation there are already some clues about the role that the woman was going to play. First of all [this is almost an unicum] the artist didn't mind to make her look more little than the husband [she is as tall as him here] depicting them at the Window of Appearance [it was a particular architectural structure of the Royal Palace] at Thebes [this Window of Appearance is different from the one at Akhetaten, the new city of Akhenaten, so probably they are still at Thebes]. Then she is still only Nefertiti. In fact she will acquire the second part of her Royal Name, "Neferneferuaten", a bit later.

Nefertiti.JPG
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#2
Regarding the origin of this woman I report what I posted in a different thread [this one is the first "spin-off" of that gigantic topic: Akhenaten (Box, Carter Archive 001K)].

As we have noted, there isn't a general consensus, simply because we miss documented records about the early life of a noble [or not] woman called Nefertiti.

Personally I give credit to scholars like Secco who indicate that the title "Hereditary Princess"[1] was also [written in that way] a proper noble title [substantially equal to Princess]. Always keeping in mind that a Monarch was entitled to give any honorific title to anybody, this is just a clue, not an evidence, that Nefertiti was in some way connected with a Sovereign. If there was a certainty about this there will be a diffused consensus, but it's not the case. So that my opinion that she was probably a granddaughter of a previous Monarch values like other opinions.

This said, let's see the main "options".

* Ay's daughter.
Ay was "Father of the God"[2]. If not a honorific title, this would indicate that he was father-in-law of Akhenaten. This would put Nefertiti in connection with the clan of Akhmin[3].
[Frankly speaking I find no other great clues sustaining this option]

* Mitanni Princess Tadukhipa.
Daughter of Mitanni king Tushratta[4], she had sent to Egypt to get married with old Amenhotep III. She would have passed from him to the son.
[Here the problem is that there is no clue that this happened and that there are no explanations about why she had to change name to get married with Amenhotep IV]

* Akhenaten's sister.
Daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye. she would have got married with her brother.
[Here we face the problem that a daughter of Amenhotep III called "Nefertiti" is not recorded, so that a sister of Akhenaten had to change name. Which one? Why this change?][5].

We have developed a context where the dynasty tried and create "Royal Trinities" [it's a hypothesis, well built and plausible, but a hypothesis]. This would suggest a Royal origin also for Nefertiti [so Ay and Akhmin clan would be excluded], but this wouldn't mean not to consider a case of Royal lineage. And at the end, if Amenhotep III "passed" one of his wives to the son during the coregency ... also that Mitanni noble Princess was [at that point] "qualified" to be part of a trinity.

Note:
[1] the title "Hereditary Princess" is not easy to contextualize. It seems that [written as proper noble title and related to a woman] it indicates a kin with a Monarch or with an other "Hereditary Princess", but also about this there is no general consensus since the cases when the title appears are not enough coherent.


[2] "Father of the God" [God's Father] wasn't a title automatically acquire by the father of the Great Royal Wife and it was present in the clergy as well. It's nature is note clear. More than a position in the hierarchy it seems to be an office.

[3] Akhmin is a city in the South from which a kind of "clan" arrived [we can mention Ay, future Monarch and Tiye, Akhenaten's mother, as members of this "lobby"].

[4] The Amarna Letters [a collection of diplomatic letters from the age of Amarna] tell us that the relationships between Egypt and Mitanni were really good. Tushratta consider Tiye substantially a friend and when Amenhotep IV got the crown he wrote to her to ask to find a way to have with the new king the same good relationships he had with Amenhotep III [Akhenaten's father].

[5] Sitamun [Sitamen / Satamun / Satamen ... as usual about Ancient Egyptian names transliterations can vary a lot!] is sometime mentioned as a candidate. About this I can report a coincidence [again from the original thread]. Checking the catalogues of Egyptian scarabs I've found an item [British Museum, Item 1943, No. 39240 Catalogue of Egyptian scarabs, etc., in the British museum : Hall, H. R. (Harry Reginald), 1873-1930 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive]. I see "Beautiful is the daughter of Amen". Curiously enough it's ... "Nefersitamen" [or Nefersitamun, following the usual way to call Princess Sitamun]. It's just a coincidence, but it's interesting that also Sitamen was "Nefer" [it seems that it was a dynasty habit to have a Nefer around].
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,995
Crows nest
#3
What I find interesting in the bottom picture is the four "flag poles". So while they are depicted at the top and seem to be standing on top of the building, they would in reality having been placed on the ground in front of a pylon, indicating that this is the home of the god. So it seems to me that as Medinet Habu doubled as both temple and royal palace, so what we see here is Akhenaten and Nefertiti at a building that may also be temple and palace. Though the "flag poles" are in the wrong position, it looks as if this window of appearance was not so much a window as perhaps some structure built on the center part of the pylon. This is were in a non Atenist temple the statue of the god may be brought to at dawn to greet the rising sun. This was the case at Edfu but may not have been universal. As this is Akhenaten, it's difficult not to see him deliberately framing himself within the pylon as it forms an akhet, horizon.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#4
What I find interesting in the bottom picture is the four "flag poles". So while they are depicted at the top and seem to be standing on top of the building, they would in reality having been placed on the ground in front of a pylon, indicating that this is the home of the god. So it seems to me that as Medinet Habu doubled as both temple and royal palace, so what we see here is Akhenaten and Nefertiti at a building that may also be temple and palace. Though the "flag poles" are in the wrong position, it looks as if this window of appearance was not so much a window as perhaps some structure built on the center part of the pylon. This is were in a non Atenist temple the statue of the god may be brought to at dawn to greet the rising sun. This was the case at Edfu but may not have been universal. As this is Akhenaten, it's difficult not to see him deliberately framing himself within the pylon as it forms an akhet, horizon.
The situation is still hybrid [hawks are present and Akhenaten is still Amenhotep, Neferkheperure Amenhotep] and this is relevant to follow Nefertiti during her life at Palace: she arrived [and her name just meant something like "The Beauty has Arrived", btw] when Amenhotep was, with good probability, developing his identification with the role of the deities. The iconography of the Aten is substantially already mature: with the "hands" and the ankh to give life [or vital energy] to the two Royal persons. What's interesting is that we can also note that the rays of the Aten show also some Was-sceptres. This can be related to the context [Was-sceptres were depicted in tombs to take care of the dead persons in a certain sense], but in the representation those sceptres look contextualized. The Aten gives life and power.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#5
Now, to go on with the presentation of Nefertiti, we can pass to the tomb of Huya[1] who had, as well, the possibility to know Nefertiti from the beginning of her Royal experience.

Here [The rock tombs of El Amarna .. : Davies, Norman de Garis, 1865-1941 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive] we can observe a scene where Nefertiti [on the Left] is presented as Great Royal Wife with her name in the cartouche showing the rest of the word Aten and more signs for "nefer" ... Living Forever. In other depiction that new cartouche of Nefertiti is clearly readable and it shows "Nefertiti Neferneferuaten". That Neferneferuaten [Beautiful are the Beauties of the Aten] has added around the Year 5 of the reign of Neferkheperure Amenhotep sinceThat Neferneferuaten is present on the boundary stelae where, anyway we can still see cartouches with only Nefertiti [so it was the moment of the transition] [2]. I'd say that we cannot dismiss the hypothesis that this addition occurred when Amenhotep became Akhenaten.

Note:
[1] He was a noble who served in the house of the Great Royal Wife and Royal Mother Tiye [Akhenaten's mother] as steward and overseer of the harem and the treasure.
[2] The boundary stelae indicated the borders of the area of the city of Akhetaten, the new capital wanted by Akhenaten and they show the "Proclamations" of the Sovereign.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#6
If we want to analyze the picture with a bit of attention we can note that the artist used the later cartouches of the Aten[1]. This is a clue about when the depiction had realized, that is to say when they decorated the tomb, not necessarily an indication about when the event occurred. An other detail is that here Nefertiti is "reduced". The visual effect is different from the picture in the tomb of Vizier Ramose: here she doesn't look as tall as Akhenaten. And we can see the traces of "Akhenaten" in the Royal cartouches. No more Amenhotep. In the family scene there is also Beketaten, introduced as Royal Daughter, but not "born of the Great Royal Wife Nefertiti Neferneferuaten"[2].

cena.JPG

Note:
[1] The Aten, even if a God, had introduced like a Monarch with two cartouches. These cartouches changed, around Year 8-9 of the reign of Akhenaten, probably, from an earlier form where symbols connected with traditional deities were present to a later form where these symbols were no more. A part being a temporal indication, this means that the "theology" of Akhenaten reaches its maturity some years after the Later Proclamation [Year 6], and after the conclusion of the works of construction of the new capital. See the pictures ...

aten.JPG newaten.jpg
[2] In the so called "Amarna Tombs" [the tombs of the nobles of the city of Akhetaten] all the daughters of the Royal Couple have introduced as Royal Daughters, but then they are declared "born of the Great Royal Wife Nefertiti Neferneferuaten". This is the main reason why there is a good consensus about considering Beketaten daughter of Tiye and Amenhotep III and so a sister of Akhenaten.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#7
Regarding Mitanni as possible land of origin of Nefertiti I report again what I wrote in the other thread [with some corrections].

About the letters that Tushratta[1] wrote to the court at Akhetaten, there is EA 26 which is at least particular. First of all we read that Tushratta's daughter [Tadu-Heba] has become daughter-in-law of Tiye [this means that Tushratta's daughter got married with a son of Tiye ...]. Then we find out that Tushratta complains with Tiye about the behavior of the new Monarch [what a level of confidence!]. But the most interesting or surprising aspect of that letter is that it gives the impression that Tushratta thinks that Tiye is able for real to influence the son [the Monarch on the Throne of Egypt].

EA 27 [again about the missing golden statues] tells us that Tadu-Heba got married with Neferkheperure [Akhenaten] since Tushratta calles him "son-in-law", saying also clearly that Tadu-Heba is Neferkheperure's wife. At first sight I would say that EA 26 had written in Year 1 of Akhenaten: Tushratta doesn't know Neferkheperure yet, he prefers to write to Tiye, taking advantage from their confidence. It has to be at the beginning of the reign of Neferkheperure Amenhotep because Tushratta seems to think that the new Monarch simply doesn't know in details how were the relationships between him and the previous Sovereign [Amenhotep III].

EA 27 follows. I would say as soon as Tushratta realized that: Tiye wasn't able to influence the son about the matter of the golden statues and Neferkheperure Amenhotep was a full ruling Monarch. May be still in Year 1 or at the beginning of Year 2. This means that he was still Amenhotep and there is even the possibility that Nefertiti wasn't with him [but we cannot state this with certainty, Nefertiti had to get married with Neferkheperure Amenhotep quite early]. For sure there was Tadu-Heba as his wife [may be only common wife. Let's remind that in the tomb of Vizier Ramose Neferkheperure Amenhotep is without Royal Wife, there is Ma'at with him in a context where a Great Royal Wife accompanied the husband]. This could allow to think that there is a possibility to identify Tadu-Heba with Kiya ... but it's just an option like others.

Note:
[1] Tushratta, son of Shuttarna II, was King of Mitanni during the second part of the reign of Amenhotep III and during the reign of Akhenaten.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#8
The presence of a sister[1], Mutbenret, doesn't help to understand the origin of Nefertiti. As Nefertiti could have changed name arriving from Mitanni, the sister could have done the same. But, if it's an Egyptian name it would indicate a connection with Mut [the name "Mutbenret" means "sweet Mut", being Mut a goddes, a mother goddess]. There was a precinct of Mut [a sacred area dedicated to that deity] where Amenhotep III [Akhenaten's father] was really active [he ordered to put there not a few statues of the goddes Sekhmet for not so clear reasons].

Here you can see her with Nefertiti's daughter and she has presented as sister of the Great Royal Wife Nefertiti Neferneferuaten.



Note:
[1] The word for "sister" in Ancient Egypt had used to indicate natural full sisters but also other female relatives. The matter of fact that Mutbenret was present in an official occasion with Nefertiti's daughter suggests that she was a full sister, but we cannot be totally sure.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#9
The role of Nefertiti at the beginning of the reign of Amenhotep IV.

Now, since the first years of Akhenaten's reign Nefertiti played a quite "enlarged" role, overall in the religious field. Akhenaten built a temple dedicated to the Aten at Karnak and in the compound he realized a temple for Nefertiti [the "hwt-benben"] where she acted exactly like the husband with her daughter Meritaten [who was not rarely present also where there was Akhenaten with the wife]. The temple was made of talatat and this meant that they simply dismantled it to recover construction materials. A little part has been reconstructed, anyway it's possible to detect the presence of Nefertiti alone with Meritaten [and without Akhenaten] worshipping in the temple. As Jacquelyn Williamson underlines the depictions of Nefertiti in that temple suggest that she had a quite particular status in the liturgy. An other correct osservation is that, being the second daughter absent, it's probable that the representation is from Year 5 or 6[1].

If we put this together with the fact that Akhenaten, in the Earlier Proclamation[2] [engraved on the boundary stelae] stated that Nefertiti would have had her own palace [3] ... we should wonder why, since from the beginning, the Great Royal Wife enjoyed such a remarkable status.

Note:
[1] Alone before the God: Gender, Status, and Nefertiti's Image.pdf
[2] Akhenaten ordered to engrave on those stones what today we would define a political program. He simply ordered to write what he was going to do.
[3] The rock tombs of El Amarna : Davies, Norman de Garis, 1865-1941 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,889
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#10
So Nefertiti moved to Akhetaten with the husband. Regarding the city wanted by Akhenaten we've got some early works by Petrie, Pendlebury, Woolley, Peet and others [all available on the net] which help us to reconstruct the scenario of the Royal Family. I'm going to consider an other very important source of information: the collection of jar labels which tells us a lot about estates, economy, productions, years of reign ...[1]

As said there were two palaces and Nefertiti lived in the North one. This detail is not irrelevant since it allows us to give a possible meaning to an oddity noted by Pendlebury.

Rgarding the Northern suburbs of Akhetaten Pendlebury found almost all the main personages [MEEF 40 Frankfort, H; Pendlebury, JDS - The City of Akhenaton II (1933) : Frankfort, Henri (1897-1954); Pendlebury, John Devitt Stringfellow (1904-1941) : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive]. II.A.6 is Meritaten, III.B.2 is Nebmaatre [2]... IV.E.7 is Nebkheperure[3]. Then we've got Amenhotep, Neferkheperure[4], Ankhkheperure ... And also Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare on a clay sealing [MEEF 40 Frankfort, H; Pendlebury, JDS - The City of Akhenaton II (1933) : Frankfort, Henri (1897-1954); Pendlebury, John Devitt Stringfellow (1904-1941) : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive].

But overall, we have to obverve carefully the lintel of the house of Hatiay[5] where someone erased the cartouches of Akhenaten leaving the cartouche of Nefertiti Neferneferuaten. Right page MEEF 40 Frankfort, H; Pendlebury, JDS - The City of Akhenaton II (1933) : Frankfort, Henri (1897-1954); Pendlebury, John Devitt Stringfellow (1904-1941) : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Here we see a clear political act. It seems that Nefertiti Neferneferuaten had Egyptians in her "court" [we have to keep in mind that ther were two palaces, Nefertiti had even her own Harem ...], while Akhenaten had no problems to hire foreign mercenaries. This actually can be a clue about the origin of Nefertiti: why was she so near to the people?

It would be odd for the daughter of a Monarch. The daughters of a Monarch live far from the people. Or not?

When and in which circumstances a daughter of a Monarch was in the conditions to gain popular favor?

Which was the only place where a daughter of a Monarch had a possibility to meet physically the people? In a temple. If daughter of Amenhotep III or not, Nefertiti had to have gained popular support despite her marriage with Amenhotep / Akhenaten [who probably wasn't that beloved ... overall thinking that he used also children and teens to build his new city]. As I've already noted, the name of her sister makes me think to the precinct of Mut.

But let's leave this a part for now.

It's clear that the political weight of Nefertiti went beyond her august husband, I'd say in the final part of his reign. And this is quite something.

Note:
[1] a very useful work: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjqsdjI2MrkAhUEKFAKHdJDC58QFjAAegQIARAC&url=http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:528049/FULLTEXT01.pdf&usg=AOvVaw110k3zegBltYaOtQO7PHJ0
[2] Nebmaatre was the Sedge and Bee Name [Throne Name] of Amenhotep III. The Monarchs had 5 great names, the main ones were the Throne Name [Sedge and Bee] and the Son of Ra Name [Sa Ra].
[3] Nebkheperure was the Throne Name of Tutankhaten / Tutankhamen
[4] Neferkheperure was the Throne Name of Akhenaten
[5] Hatiay was not an uncommon name, anyway they found an inscription about "the estate of Hatiay, overseer of the works".
 
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