Researchers have long tried to piece together the life of the stepmother of Tutankhamun since the artefact was found in Tell el-Amarna a century ago. The ancient ruler, who was married to the Boy King’s father – Akhenaten – died in 1331BC, but neither her tomb nor body has ever been discovered. This has left several unanswered questions about her life and reign over the New Kingdom of Egypt, but Egyptologist Professor Aidan Dodson detailed during the HistoryExtra podcast how researchers are learning more.
He said: “There are various myths around, some of which surrounded her origins.
“Some have insisted that she was a royal princess, or they have tried to make her a foreign princess because her name does mean ‘the beautiful woman has arrived’.
“Some have made too much of that, when actually it’s a perfectly common Egyptian name of that period.
“Beyond that, until fairly recently, Nefertiti has been regarded almost as a cypher.
“The beautiful bust of her, which was found in 1912, has made her an international ‘glamour puss’ rather than actually a person who had thoughts and influence.“
Prof Dodson explained how these misconceptions have been unravelled recently.
He added: “It’s not really until the past few years that we’ve started to realise there was rather more to her – and also how her career actually went beyond being simply a king’s wife.
“During her period as Akhenaten’s wife, we find Nefertiti depicted smiting Egypt’s enemies, which is something which is never found for any other queen of Egypt.
“We also find Nefertiti on the corners of her husband’s sarcophagus, rather than the figures of the traditional goddesses of the dead, who you normally find in that position.
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“It wasn’t clear whether that was an undiscovered part of Tutankhamen’s tomb, or a separate tomb or something else under the ground completely hidden.
“There have been excavations ongoing in that area for the last year or two – I assume those have been stopped since the pandemic hit.
“If I had to predict where that is going to go, I think those excavations will continue and, eventually, they will be able to prove or disprove if there is anything under the surface.”
Researchers continue to probe the life of the woman who reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of ancient Egyptian history.