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Nefertiti - The beautiful queen of Egypt

Nefertiti bust now in Berlin museumThe name Nefertiti means "The beautiful one has come" in the Egyptian language reveals the extraordinary beauty of an Egyptian queen whose bust was discovered in Amarna in Upper Egypt.

Although Nefertiti was the great wife of Akhenaton her origin has been the subject of much speculation and some historians claim that she was married or intended for Amenhotep III. Most historians today believe Nefertiti was the daughter of Aye the trusted adviser of Akhenaton. Aye was the brother of queen Tye the great wife of Amenhotep III.

Nefertiti and Akhenaton had six daughters. Their family affection was clear enough from the family portraits.

Nefertiti played an important role in assisting her husband in his efforts to convert Egypt to monotheism which was a religious revolution at the time.

There were multiple Egyptian Gods and Goddesses worshiped  by common people. Each city had its own deity and an individual might feel attached to a certain God but no one questioned the existence of other Gods.

Akhenaton decided to go against tradition and convert Egypt to monotheism to worship the one God Aton (or Aten) the Sun Disc . Nefertiti was a great supporter of Akhenaten to spread the new religion. They had closed the other Gods' temples and moved the capital city to a remote part of the land Amarna.  Atenism was largely irrelevant to the common people and the temples to other gods were closed. Workers were sent to erase the name of Amun wherever it appeared. Akhenaten appeared to lose interest and authority in the country at large.

By the 14th year of Akhenaton's reign Nefertiti had disappeared from view. There is no record of her death nor her mummy has been found. Some historians believe that Nefertiti changed her name to Smenkhkare, adopted the guise of a man and ruled as co-regent with her husband.  The majority view is that Nefertiti died of natural causes (possibly the plague).

Akhenaton died after 17 years of his reign in mysterious circumstances and his mummy has not been found.

Smenkhkare appears to have been co-regent for three years and to have died either just before or just after Akhenaton.  Tutankhamun inherited the throne next and in his reign Egypt began the process of restoring the old religion.

 

Nefertiti and Akhenaton
queen Nefertiti with her husband Akhenaton

Nefertiti bust

The fame that Nefertiti has gained over the years in modern times maybe contributed to a great extent to the discovery of its statue known as Nefertiti bust which was found in Amarna Egypt in 1912. The original famous Nefertiti bust was found among other unfinished busts by the German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt who led a team of the German Oriental company (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft). It was shipped to Germany in 1913 where it was kept in the residence of James Simon the sponsor of the excavation and then moved to the Berlin Museum the same year but was kept a secret until finally displayed in 1924. The bust moved to several locations in Germany. It is currently displayed in the Neues Museum Berlin.

The bust of Nefertiti height is 47 cm and weighs around 20 kg (44 lb). It is made of a limestone core covered with painted stucco layers. The face is completely symmetrical and almost intact, but the left eye lacks the inlay present in the right.

There has been intense discussions about the repatriation of the Nefertiti bust to Egypt. Ever since the unveil of the discovery of the Nefertiti bust, there have been Negotiations between the Egyptian and German governments to return the bust to Egypt as the bust was moved illegally to Germany but it has not been decided yet by the German authorities if the bust would be returned to Egypt.

Both Egypt and Berlin view the Nefertiti bust as a symbol of  them and as it has been a precious item to possess, each party refuses to step back on its demand to have it on its land.

 

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silver Nefertiti pendant
4.7cm length

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