Nefertiti was no pharaoh, says renowned Egyptologist

January 22, 2018 by Mike Addelman, University of Manchester
All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Credit: Ricardo Liberato/Wikipedia

Contrary to popular opinion, one of the most famous women in ancient history did not rule Egypt, according to a new book.

Dr. Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist from The University of Manchester, says Queen Nefertiti was just one of a series of powerful queens who played an influential role in Egyptian history.

It was, argues Dr. Tyldesley, the beauty of her famous limestone and plaster sculpture—reportedly Hitler's favourite piece of ancient art—which propelled her into the public spotlight after it was put on public display in 1923.

It was then that Egyptologists began – wrongly says Dr. Tyldesley—to argue that she was unusually powerful, and maybe even that she ruled Egypt.

The book—Nefertiti's Face: the Creation of an Icon, published by Profile Books next week (25 January) – tells the story of the famous sculpture from its creation to its display today in Berlin.

The bust of the Queen – who was married to the Pharaoh king Akhenaten – was found in 1912 by German excavator Ludwig Borchardt in an ancient workshop which was once part of a house and studio complex belonging to the sculptor Thutmose

It is now on kept at the Neues Museum in Berlin, though Egypt has requested its return.

The missing left eye probably fell out while Borchardt's team was excavating it, says Dr. Tyldesley.

Dr. Tyldesley said: "Though most people and many Egyptologists believe Nefertiti was an unusually powerful royal woman, and possibly even a pharaoh, I believe this was not the case.

"He husband Akhenaten died around 1336 BC; Tutankhamun—who was possibly Nefertiti's son—became pharaoh in approximately 1336 BC. It has been argued that Nefertiti ruled Egypt, filling in this gap and perhaps influencing the early reign of Tutankhamen.

"But she wasn't born a royal, and for a non-royal woman to become king would have been unprecedented. Her daughter Meritaten, however, was indeed born a royal – and so is a more likely candidate for pharaoh, if anyone is."

She added: "It's quite easy to explain why the bust is so appealing and why it has made Nefertiti so famous today: it's a beautiful work of art which seems to cast its spell on anyone who looks at it.

"Some have claimed it's a fake but they are completely wrong. I have no doubt the object on display in Germany is the real thing; it's truly remarkable.

"The sculpture's admirers tend to see their own cultures and interests reflected in her image; Hitler, for example, presumably saw her as Aryan.

"Soon after it went on display in 1923, replica busts were made and circulated, in a sophisticated PR operation that has been going on ever since, helping to establish today's cult.

"But just because she is Egypt's most famous and powerful in our world does not mean she was Egypt's famous and powerful queen in her world."

Explore further: Official says Egypt approves radar for Nefertiti tomb quest

Related Stories

Official says Egypt approves radar for Nefertiti tomb quest

September 22, 2015

The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry granted preliminary approval for the use of a non-invasive radar to verify a theory that Queen Nefertiti's crypt may be hidden behind King Tutankhamun's 3,300-year-old tomb in the famous ...

Egypt pledges fast work amid search for Nefertiti's tomb

October 1, 2015

Egyptian authorities promised Thursday they would move quickly to get new radar equipment needed to search for Queen Nefertiti's tomb amid a new theory it could be in an alleged, hidden chamber behind King Tutankhamun's tomb ...

Search for Egypt's Nefertiti gains new momentum (Update)

September 29, 2015

The search for ancient Egypt's Queen Nefertiti in an alleged hidden chamber in King Tut's tomb gained new momentum as Egypt's Antiquities Minister said Tuesday he is now more convinced a queen's tomb may lay hidden behind ...

Recommended for you

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Anonym
not rated yet Jan 22, 2018
There is no record of what happened at the end of Akhenaten's rule, and no "consensus" among Egyptologists as to what happened. Was he deposed for his Atenist heresy? Did he die of natural causes? Who succeeded him? Tutankaten (who later changed his name to the more politically correct Tutankamun), had an older brother, Smenkare, who was a devout Atenist as Nefertiti was said to be, and may have ruled for a short time after Akhenaten. No one knows what happened to Smenkare. It's certainly possible Nefertiti ruled as co-regent or as a de facto pharaoh since Smenkare was a child at the time of Akhenaten's death.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Jan 22, 2018
And Livia Drusilla was only the wife of an emperor. But look at the power she wielded.
StudentofSpiritualTeaching
1 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2018
Nefertiti had been anything but a remarkable woman of her time, at least when following this version of the story: http://www.future...port_214
According to that, the beautiful bust does not show her, but the twin sister Nephthe of her murdered Doppelgänger Chepris.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.