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The Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti, Ruler of the Nile

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Nefertiti was the chief consort of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV), who reigned from approximately 1353 to 1336 BC.  Known as the Ruler of the Nile and Daughter of Gods, Nefertiti acquired unprecedented power, and is believed to have held equal status to the pharaoh himself.  However, much controversy lingers about Nefertiti after the twelfth regal year of Akhenaten, when her name vanishes from the pages of history.

In Akhenaten's new state, religion centred on the sun god, he and Nefertiti were depicted as the primeval first couple. Nefertiti was also known throughout Egypt for her beauty. She was said to be proud of her long, swan-like neck and invented her own makeup using the Galena plant. She also shares her name with a type of elongated gold bead, called nefer, that she was often portrayed as wearing.

Long forgotten to history, Nefertiti was made famous when her bust was discovered in the ruins of an artist's shop in Amarna in 1912, now in Berlin's Altes Museum. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt.

The iconic bust of Nefertiti

The iconic bust of Nefertiti, discovered by Ludwig Borchardt, is part of the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin collection, currently on display in the Altes Museum. Image Source: New World Encyclopedia

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

Nefertiti's parentage is not known with certainty, but it is generally believed that she was the daughter of Ay, later to be pharaoh after Tutankhamen. She had a younger sister, Moutnemendjet. Another theory identifies Nefertiti with the Mitanni princess Tadukhipa.

Nefertiti was married to Amenhotep IV around 1357 BC and was later promoted to be his queen. Images exist depicting Nefertiti and the king riding together in a chariot, kissing in public, and Nefertiti sitting on the king's knee, leading scholars to conclude that the relationship was a genuine one. King Akhenaton's legendary love is seen in the hieroglyphs at Amarna, and he even wrote a love poem to Nefertiti:

…And the Heiress, Great in the Palace, Fair of Face, Adorned with the Double Plumes, Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favors, at hearing whose voice the King rejoices, the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, May she live for Ever and Always…

The couple had six known daughters, two of whom became queens of Egypt: Meritaten (believed to have served as her father's queen), Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten/Ankhesenamen (later queen to Tutankhamun), Neferneferuaten Tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre.

A "house altar" depicting Akhenaten and Nefertiti

A "house altar" depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and three of their daughters; limestone c. 1350 B.C.E., Ägyptisches Museum Berlin. Image source: New World Encyclopedia.

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 older temples and promoting Aten's central role. Nefertiti had played a prominent role in the old religion, and this continued in the new system. She worshiped alongside her husband and held the unusual kingly position of priest of Aten. In the new, virtually monotheistic religion, the king and queen were viewed as "a primeval first pair," through whom Aten provided his blessings. They thus formed a royal triad or trinity with Aten, through which Aten's "light" was dispensed to the entire population.

During Akhenaten's reign (and perhaps after) Nefertiti enjoyed unprecedented power, and by the twelfth year of his reign, there is evidence that she may have been elevated to the status of co-regent, equal in status to the pharaoh himself. She is often depicted on temple walls in the same size as him, signifying her importance, and is shown alone worshiping the god Aten.

 The Wilbour Plaque

The Wilbour Plaque, Brooklyn Museum. Nefertiti is shown nearly as large as her husband, indicating her importance. Image source: Brooklyn Museum

Perhaps most impressively, Nefertiti is shown on a relief from the temple at Amarna smiting a foreign enemy with a mace before Aten. Such depictions had traditionally been reserved for the pharaoh alone, and yet Nefertiti was depicted as such.

Akhenaten had the figure of Nefertiti carved onto the four corners of his granite sarcophagus, and it was she who is depicted as providing the protection to his mummy, a role traditionally played by the traditional female deities of Egypt: Isis, Nephthys, Selket and Neith.

Nefertiti’s Disappearance

In the regal year 12, Nefertiti's name ceases to be found. Some think she either died from a plague that swept through the area or fell out of favour, but recent theories have denied this claim.

Shortly after her disappearance from the historical record, Akhenaten took on a co-regent with whom he shared the throne of Egypt. This has caused considerable speculation as to the identity of that person. One theory states that it was Nefertiti herself in a new guise as a female king, following the historical role of other women leaders such as Sobkneferu and Hatshepsut. Another theory introduces the idea of there being two co-regents, a male son, Smenkhkare, and Nefertiti under the name Neferneferuaten (translated as "The Aten is radiant of radiance [because] the beautiful one is come" or "Perfect One of the Aten's Perfection").

Some scholars are adamant about Nefertiti assuming the role of co-regent during or after the death of Akhenaten. Jacobus Van Dijk, responsible for the Amarna section of the Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, believes that Nefertiti indeed became co-regent with her husband, and that her role as queen consort was taken over by her eldest daughter, Meryetaten (Meritaten) with whom Akhenaten had several children. (The taboo against incest did not exist for the royal families of Egypt.) Also, it is Nefertiti's four images that adorn Akhenaten's sarcophagus, not the usual goddesses, which indicates her continued importance to the pharaoh up to his death and refutes the idea that she fell out of favour. It also shows her continued role as a deity, or semi-deity, with Akhenaten.

On the other hand, Cyril Aldred, author of Akhenaten: King of Egypt, states that a funerary shawabti found in Akhenaten's tomb indicates that Nefertiti was simply a queen regnant, not a co-regent and that she died in the regal year 14 of Akhenaten's reign, her daughter dying the year before.

Some theories hold that Nefertiti was still alive and held influence on the younger royals who married in their teens. Nefertiti would have prepared for her death and for the succession of her daughter, Ankhesenpaaten, now named Ankhsenamun, and her stepson and now son-in-law, Tutankhamun. This theory has Neferneferuaten dying after two years of kingship and being then succeeded by Tutankhamun, thought to have been a son of Akhenaten. The new royal couple was young and inexperienced, by any estimation of their age. In this theory, Nefertiti's own life would have ended by Year 3 of Tutankhaten's reign. In that year, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun and abandoned Amarna to return the capital to Thebes, as evidence of his return to the official worship of Amun.

A gold plate found in Tutankhamun’s tomb

A gold plate found in Tutankhamun’s tomb depicting Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamen together

As the records are incomplete, it may be that future findings of both archaeologists and historians will develop new theories vis-à-vis Nefertiti and her precipitous exit from the public stage. To date, the mummy of Nefertiti, the famous and iconic Egyptian queen, has never been conclusively found.

The article ‘The Mysterious Disappearance of Nefertiti, Ruler of the Nile’ is adapted from the article: Nefertiti. (2008, December 2). New World Encyclopedia.

Top image: Nefertiti with a magic sistrum. Credit: mari-na.

By April Holloway



A synopsis of the lives of both AknAten and NeferTiti (NabihAton and Nefare) along with mention of the two bastard sons of AknAten (the second became Tut), his mother Towi of the Sacred Mysteries, and of Meriten is to be found in The Kolbrin Bible, Book of Manuscripts 34:29-71. Nefare departed in the 15th year of AknAten's reign, and went to Lebados. The young Tut went with her. She never returned, but rather resumed her life as a devotee of the Sacred Mysteries at the shrine there to the Great God, the Light behind the light of Sol. Meriten poisoned herself rather than endure life as her dad's wife and queen. After Nefare departed NabihAton, he fell apart and was repossessed by a demon. Today he might be diagnosed as epileptic. It was strictly forbidden the royals to procreate with their own children, but not for siblings.

Recently, Nefare's tomb was identified in Turkey (Anatolia). See the scoop here with Dr Carmen Boulter

She existed. egyptians had no, alter ego's. She was disgraced first by those she upset most, they came in her tomb, ruined her mouth with an axe, it is considered disgraceful to have a damaged face in the after life.And they found one just like that, with long-gated neck, I strongly believe it is her.

Was Nefertiti was married to Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten? Did she actually physically exist?
DNA of mummies found in Tutankhamun's tomb shown his mother (not known but no Nefertriti), father (Akhenaten) and grandmother (Queen Tiye).
In the emptied tomb at Amarna we have an androgynous images of Akhenaten and images of Nefertiti. A famous bust buried under rubble in the sculptor's quarters.
Akhenaten dies, Nefertiti disappears with no physical proof of her existence.
Nefertiti could have been Akhenaten's female alter ego, the feminine image of himself.
Just a thought.

The pharaoh, Akhenaten knew that the sun gave unlimited power. However, his wisdom of solar power was hidden by the elite of ancient Egypt: which includes technologies, such as those found near Luxor, at the archeological site of an ancient technology promotional park known as “The city of the Horizon of Aten.”

Akhenaten's City of the Horizon of Aten, contained a story of a tantalizing technology of ancient Egypt that was so Top-Secret that the priesthood of Amun of during the reign of the pharaoh Horemheb, dismantled that city piece by piece. Then those broken stones were shuffled and hidden within the Great Pylons of Karnack to conceal their prized technology: a stone riddle that could only be revealed by an earth quake and reassembled by modern computer wizardry. Orb of Aten, was a Low-Tech solar energy device that is only today becoming wide spread.

Akhenaten, showed Aten as a solar orb, a sun-globe with rays which end in tiny human hands holding golden mirrored ankhs. The Egyptians use sunshine and golden mirrors to create Low-Tech solar energy devices. However you may ask: “where is the Historical evidence?” All over Egypt, on its temple walls, its papyrus, its jewelry and especially Karnakh. Sadly, the process has been misinterpreted for centuries and hidden in the pharaoh, Horemheb's pylon.

However, Henri, Chevyer started the excavation of the pharaoh, Horemheb's pylon in 1926, finding thousands of stones that were shuffled and disjointed that had lay without a cipher for many years. The pylon had been used as a waste dump for the cleansing done by the priesthood of Amun to purge any remembrance of the city called, the Horizon of Aten. A promotional park, where the pharaoh, Akhenahten and his queen, Nefertiti, loved the pomp and ceremony: where they would bask as they showed off the power of this solar technology. Therefore, when Horemheb, became pharaoh, he took great pleasure in the disassembling of Akhenaten's solar energy promotional park, even to the point of hiding the stones inside the Pylon of Karnack. However, centuries later an earth quake would shake and crumble Horemheb's pylon to reveal the stones of that forgotten city, thousands of jumbled stone blocks that held a lost technology. However, in 1965 a group of archaeologists, including R.W. Smith began a program, to reassemble a representation of that city through photographs and a computer referencing programs. A curriculum, that would reveal the secret power, that belonged to the Aten enigma.

This giant jigsaw puzzle showed Aten Orb with three attributes, first light, secondly, heat and thirdly, in this case the golden mirrored ankh’s true representation. This stone jigsaw puzzle revealed a system of concentrating sun shine. An experiment that can be done by any child, by taking two mirror and redirecting their reflections of the sun to the same point: where you double that heat and light. If you keep doing that with more mirrors you can produce some real heat, consequently, you can use the power of the sun that is easily controlled with a few magic mirrors, a form of energy that is fresh and clean. Heat, which was Aten's, second attribute. A technology that is now known as solar furnaces or heliostats. These mirrors were made of gold or of copper with a silvery, mercury finish. Reflectors that were common in other technologies of Egypt, such as in their communication system, and these mirrored ankh were a powerful tool in Egypt's concealed science.

I've always wondered about their elongated skulls. It seems that Royalty are always depicted with elaborately large headwear.


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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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