Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Sun Queen

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

Best known for being called "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World," and one of Egypt's more powerful queens to have ruled. Her acclaim is credited to her iconic bust that is on display at The Berlin's Altes Museum.

The lovely sculptured face of Queen Nefertiti was found in the workshop of the famed sculptor Thutmose. In 1913, the German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt, listed it among his findings but mentioned that it was a worthless piece of gypsum and hid it in a box, in an attempt to smuggle it out of Egypt. It now attracts half a million visitors yearly and is regarded as a supreme artifact of the Pharaonic era.

The bust is in fact made of limestone and the queen's features were painted on and still exhibit their vivid colors. She is depicted with full lips embellished with bold red. The perfectly preserved sculpture is flawed except for a broken left ear and the missing crystal inlay of the left eye. Both her eyelids and brows are outlined in black. A significant feature of the bust is her gracefully swan-like elongated neck and the yellow-brown color of her smooth skin. The flat-top crown on her head and her necklace display vibrant colors that set this bust apart from any other.

Queen Nefertiti (1370 BC - 1330 BC) became queen when she was fifteen years old, when she married King Amenhotep IV (later changing his name to Akhenaton). She reigned along side her husband for a mere 12 years but together they managed to make many fundamental changed to Egyptian history.
Little is known about Queen Nefertiti before she came to the thrown, yet she continues to captivate the world with her beauty! Although her parentage is not known for certainty but it is generally believed that she was the daughter of Kheperkheprure Ay, who later became pharaoh after the sudden death of the boy king Tutankhamen.

The name Nefertiti means, "The beautiful, one has arrived," and when she later changed it to consolidate her husband's newly adopted religion, she called herself, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti meaning, “The Aten is radiant of radiance [because] the beautiful one has arrived". She carried many titles, as seen from an inscription at the Temple of Karnak:
Heiress, Great of Favors, Possessed of Charm, Exuding Happiness, Mistress of Sweetness, beloved one, soothing the king's heart in his house, soft-spoken in all, Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, Great King's Wife, whom he loves, Lady of the Two Lands, Nefertiti'.

The major change that Pharaoh Akhenaton and his Queen Nefertiti brought to their people was a new religion. Different from their polytheistic religion, they introduced only one god, Aten, the sun disc, and only through the royal pair could the full blessings of the god bestow the people. They also moved the capitol of Egypt from Thebes, where it had been for centuries, north to Akhetaon in Tell- el Amarna. For these reasons they were fairly unloved by their subjects.

King Akhenaton was known to have suffered form Marfan Syndrome (characterized by unusually long limbs), but Queen Nefertiti devoted herself to loving and caring for her deformed and sickly husband. It was very evident that the pair was inseparable and very much in love, shown in many pictures to be embracing. Nefertiti bore six daughters within 10 years of her marriage. Two of her daughters became queens of Egypt, and she was also step-mother to Tutankhamen.

Queen Nefertiti was like no other queen of Egypt, she may have been one of the most powerful queens to have ever ruled. She was shown to be wearing the crown of a pharaoh and also depicted in scenes of battle, something that was only reserved for male rulers.

But after the 14th year of Akhenaton's rule, Nefertiti disappears from view. To date, the mummy of this famous and iconic queen has not been found. The ultimate fate of Nefertiti's body has long been a subject of curiosity and speculation. There maybe several assumptions for this, the most simple of which is that she died. It is also thought that she may have assumed a male identity and ruled after her husband's death until his predecessor Tutankhamen came of age and took the thrown.

Mystery surrounds Nefertiti, the Sun Queen, but with the many still undiscovered treasures hidden in Egypt, we never know what the future may reveal.

About the Author:
Gawhara Hanem