Queen Nefertiti not a pharaoh?


MANCHESTER: Queen Nefertiti, one of ancient history’s most famous women, did not rule Egypt, according to a new book by a renowned Egyptologist.

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

“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,” Tyldesley said. “It was the beauty of her famous limestone and plaster sculpture, reportedly Adolf 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 to argue that she was unusually powerful, and maybe even that she ruled Egypt, she said. “Her husband Akhenaten died around 1336 BC; Tutankhamun – who was possibly Nefertiti’s son – became pharaoh in approximately 1336 BC,” Tyldesley said.

“It has been argued that Nefertiti ruled Egypt, filling in this gap and perhaps influencing the early reign of Tutankhamen,” she said. “But she was not 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 a pharaoh, if anyone is,” Tyldesley added.

The book Nefertiti’s Face: the Creation of an Icon tells the story of the famous sculpture from its creation to its display. 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. It is now 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, said Tyldesley.