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Unfinished Head of Nefertiti

Unfinished Head of Nefertiti

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The unfinished head of Queen Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaton

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Presenting Nefernefruaten Nefertiti

In her initial portraits Nefertiti adopted the same features as her husband, but can be distinguished from him by wearing two cobras on her brow (a double uranus) as opposed to one. This portrait type is best illustrated by the colossal statues from Karnak (see below). However, in time a new portrait type emerged.

One of the colossal statues from Karnak representing Akhenaten.

There are still many questions remaining with regard to how long Nefertiti ruled for and whether she was replaced by her daughter as the principal Royal Wife. As a consequence, where statues were uninscribed it can be difficult to say with any certainty which royal female they represent. This problem is compounded by new artistic developments in the production of stone sculptures, whereby artists began to produce composite pieces carved out of different pieces of stone rather than a single block. The identification of the statue below is questionable. It is clearly from the so-called Amarna period and it could represent Nefertiti. Or it may represent one of the other royal daughters.

Limestone statue representing the principal royal wife, Nefertiti, or a princess. Copyright: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

You will notice the elongated head, which was characteristic of the early royal representations during this period. A natural comparison with the practice of head binding amongst for example the Mangbetu people is often made. However, I would urge caution because we cannot show a direct continuum from one culture to the other. What we can deduce is that this feature was an important enough to include in the early representations of this Kemite royal family.

The unfinished head of Nefertiti

It seems to happen with amazing regularity in Egyptology: a wonderful discovery made by lucky accident.

 John Pendlebury was a British archaeologist, who in early 1933 was working in the ruins of Akhenaten's failed dream, Amarna. This was the city dedicated to the worship of his supreme deity, the Aten.

 Pendlebury's goal for that season was to clear the Great Aten Temple. However things changed quickly on the 9th January 1933. Helping with the excavations was the wife of Hilary Waddington from the Antiquities Department of Palestine. Mrs Waddington was walking near the famous complex of the sculptor Thutmose, in whose workshop was found the famous bust of Nefertiti, now in Berlin. When a pottery sherd caught her eye and she overturned it, she discovered part of a plaster head. Mrs. Waddington had chanced upon another sculptor's workshop, and a side-project was born.

As Pendleburywrote: 
"Most impressive of the finds was undoubtedly the lifesize head in quartzite…This is unfinished, the ink marks are still there for guiding lines and part of the left-hand side of the face is still rough. The sculptor, however, was unable to resist painting the lips, even before he had finished. At the base of the neck is a dowel for fitting onto a body of a different material." Composite statues like this were common in the Amarna Period statuary.

The facial features of this head match closely to the Berlin bust, and it no doubt represents the famous Queen Nefertiti. However unlike the Berlin bust, which seems to have been a model used to teach junior sculptors, the unfinished head looks like it was very much a work in progress.

The unfinished head is now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (JE 59286).

Nefertiti's tomb has never been discovered, and Nicholas Reeves is now in Luxor to meet with Ministry of Antiquities officials to discuss his theory that Nefertiti was the original owner of Tutankhamun's tomb. Next week they will examine the painted tomb walls for signs of a hidden door that Dr. Reeves proposes hides the intact burial of the queen.

Egyptian Chronicles

Last week, that video went viral in the world for a good reason. It gave the world for the first time after nearly 3400 years how legendary beauty Queen Nefertiti may have looked like thanks to 3D imaging and forensic reconstruction.

Originally produced by Travel channel’s Expedition Unknown, Josh Gates and his team borrowed the skull of Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo where her mummy is.

Queen Nefertiti after 3D reconstruction
Travel Channel
The mummy of Queen Nefertiti was discovered reportedly in 1898 by French Egyptologist Victor Loret at tomb KV35 in Luxor’s Valley of the King.
Many archeologists and Egyptologists believe that a mummy labeled in the tomb as “The Younger lady” was the famous Queen Nefertiti despite her DNA says that she was the mother of King Tutankhamun.
Queen Nefertiti is said to give birth to six princesses only.
Anyhow the photo of the younger lady mummy’s head made me believe that she was Nefertiti thanks to her elongated head.
Maybe She has a magnificent bust in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin that must return back to Egypt but she also got other beautiful busts in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo.

I will seize this opportunity and take a short break from Presidential elections news as well that new Comprehensive Military operation against terrorism in Egypt to post a couple of beautiful photos for beautiful Queen Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum of Cairo.

Queen Nefertiti's unfinished bust at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo

Queen Nefertiti's unfinished bust
There was the usual debate between African Americans in particular and white Americans as well Europeans about whether Her ancient Roya Highness was black or White, well she was an Egyptian from North Africa and the Middle East. She is not black nor white.
From her busts whether in Berlin or Cairo Museums, I would say that she seemed to be olive.
Another unfinished bust of Queen Nefertiti at Cairo's Egyptian Museum
There is no whitewash of anything here. Ancient Egyptians are like Modern Egyptians came in every size, shape and color.
Nefertiti's 3D reconstruction on the left and an Egyptian
lady peasant from 1970s "Magnum agency" on the right
When I think about the ancient history of Egypt and see what happened to the dynasty of Akhenaten in the Modern Kingdom and how the Amon priests and military like Horemheb intended to erase their complete existence from history without knowing that they actually immortalized them ironically !!

By hiding their tombs and erasing their names, their faces, their statues and the capital of Amarna as well the Amon priests thought that they erased Akhenaten and his revolutionary monotheistic Aten beliefs.

Ironically thousands of years later, we found the tomb of Tutankhamun untouched as well the tombs of Akhenaten and Nefertiti with their statues and treasures that dazzled the whole world.
Tutankhamun is more famous than Horemheb, hell that teenager became the most famous ruler of Egypt. Akhenaten is considered a revolutionary figure with his religious beliefs and he became more famous than his military commanders and Amon priests altogether.

05. Unfinished head of a statue of Queen Nefertiti. From Amarna. Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.

Without doubt one of the best Egyptian Museums in the world !

And photography without flash is allowed in almost all its rooms, as it is in all really important archaeological museums in the world (with the disappointing exception of the Cairo Museum)

In the Light of Amarna - 100 Years of the Nefertiti Discovery Neues Museum

Fri 7 December 2012 - Sat 13 April 2013

To mark the anniversary of the discovery of the bust of Nefertiti on 6 December 1912, the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection will be presenting an extensive special exhibition on the Amarna period at the Neues Museum on Berlin's Museum Island. The exhibition focuses on never-before-seen discoveries from the collections of the Berlin museums, supplemented by loans from other museums abroad, allowing Nefertiti's time to be understood within its cultural-historical context. All aspects of this fascinating period are illuminated and explained in detail. Not only are the often-discussed topics of the period's theology and art covered, but also everyday life in the city.

The name 'Amarna' refers to the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Akhetaton, which today is known as Tell el-Amarna. This city was founded by Pharaoh Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) in order to establish a new capital with places of worship for his own 'religion of light', whose sole deity was the god Aton. The city was built within three years and was populated in the year 1343 BC. At the beginning of the 20th century, extremely successful excavations took place there under the direction of Ludwig Borchardt, and the finds were shared between Cairo and Berlin.

The exhibition places the discovery of the bust of Nefertiti within the context of Borchardt's excavations in 1912 and 1913, thus providing a deeper archaeological understanding of the excavations and the city of Akhetaton. Visitors can experience the Amarna period as a social, cultural-historical and religious phenomenon. The exhibition illuminates the context of the discovery of the bust of Nefertiti in the sculpture workshop of the ancient Egyptian artisan Thutmose, along with numerous related objects, including even the pigments and tools used by the sculptors. Along with the exhibition's main focus on archaeology, it also critically examines the history of the depiction of the bust of Nefertiti both as an archaeological object and as a widely marketed ideal of beauty.

During the excavations in Amarna, between 7000 and 10,000 objects were discovered, 5000 of which are now located in Berlin. Most of them have not been restored or studied, even to this day. So far, those that have been exhibited have been a few key objects, such as the famous model heads made of stucco, as well as some sculptures. By contrast, this anniversary exhibition will offer a comprehensive overview of life during this fascinating period using objects from the collections of the Berlin museums. For example, ceramics, jewellery, inlays, fragments of statues and architectural elements will be painstakingly restored, and in some cases expanded upon using additions and models, offering visitors a deeper and more vivid understanding of the city, its buildings and its residents. The exhibition comprises approximately 400 objects, including 50 loans from museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre and the British Museum.


When Nefertiti's bust spent the initial years after its discovery in the private collection of philanthropist James Simon, though he eventually donated his collections to various museums in Berlin and had been on public display since 1923.

During WWII, Nazi's hid the bust in a salt mine so Hitler could include it in his museum collection. However the museum was damaged significantly during the war, and Nefertiti's bust now sits in a place of honor in the Neues Museum in Berlin.

When Mary was in power, gowns would be found in dull colors. Once Elizabeth took the throne, gowns became more vibrant. Fabrics were dyed an infinite number of colors and became symbolic. For example, black stood for grief and green was symbolic of love. Even as she grew older, she applied pounds of makeup to conceal her aging face.&hellip

The intent: to capture the kindness and beauty this significant woman has demonstrated throughout her life. Van Gogh created the portrait of his mother after receiving a photograph of her from his sister Wilhelmina. His reasoning to do so was expressed in a letter: “I am doing a portrait of Mother for myself. I cannot stand the colorless photograph, and I am trying to do one in a harmony of color, as I see her in my memory.” Although it is clear what van Gogh’s intent was because of his letter to Theo, Manet is less obvious. Manet painted many portraits of women, all which seem to comment more on their place in the world rather than their inner psyche.&hellip

Why and how did the bust of Nefertiti become so famous?

We have to go back to the 19th century: the time of the so-called Big Digs, archaeological excavations on a huge scale. Competition among nations to find great artworks was running rampant!

Germany&rsquos most influential group supporting digs was the German Oriental Society. They were also funding excavations in Babylon that would result in the Ishtar Gate being brought to Berlin. Co-Founder of the society was James Simon, a textile industry magnate in Berlin (for whom the new visitor center on Museum Island, the James-Simon-Galerie, is named). Simon decided to fund an excavation in Egypt, at Akhenaten&rsquos capital, Amarna (then called Akhetaten), with his own personal money and even acquired the excavation permit himself. In return, Simon was granted sole ownership of the German share of the finds. (Back then, finds were often divided between the country where the excavation took place and the country whose archaeologists were working there this arrangment was called partage, from the French word for &ldquosharing.&rdquo)

This was an incredible deal for James Simon, and it would soon become more relevant than anyone anticipated. In the first year of digging at Amarna, 1911, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, Ludwig Borchardt, didn&rsquot find any spectacular objects. But the second year more than made up for it. Borchardt discovered numerous portraits of Akhenaten&rsquos family, a spectacular find.

The Mysterious Nefertiti: History and Reconstruction

'Nefertiti' Reconstruction By Sven Geruschkat

More than 1,300-years before the birth of Cleopatra, there was Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (‘the beauty has come’) – a powerful queen from ancient Egypt associated with beauty and royalty. However, as opposed to Cleopatra, Nefertiti’s life and history are still shrouded in relative ambiguity, in spite of her living during one of the opulent periods of ancient Egypt. The reason for such a contradictory turn of affairs probably had to do with the intentional disassembling and expunging of the legacy of Nefertiti’s family (by successive Pharaohs) because of their controversial association with a religious cult that prescribed the relegation of the older Egyptian pantheon. Fortunately for us history enthusiasts, in spite of such rigorous actions, some fragments of Nefertiti’s historical legacy survived through various extant portrayals, with the most famous one pertaining to her bust made by Thutmose in circa 1345 BC.

Enigmatic Origins of Nefertiti –

As with many well-known and celebrated historical figures, the common thematic element of Nefertiti’s life pertains to enigma and ambiguity rather than hard facts. The puzzling scope starts with Nefertiti’s parentage. While most sources cite Ay (a future pharaoh) as her father and her birth year corresponding to circa 1370 BC, inscriptions also vaguely mention Ay’s wife, Tiye (or Tey) as Nefertiti’s wet nurse (‘nurse of the great queen’), thus complicating the actual nature of Nefertiti’s lineage in context of her supposed parents.

Furthermore, there are (were) other conjectures that tend to identify Nefertiti with Mitanni princess Tadukhipa, which hints at an Indo-Iranian heritage. However, evidence suggests that Tadukhipa was already married to Akhenaten’s father, while there are no discernible sources that could clearly push forth Nefertiti’s alleged ‘foreign’ origins. Simply put, while the Egyptian queen’s parentage is certainly disputed, it might just be a stretch to identify her as a non-native in ancient Egyptian circles.

The Cult of Aten –

Offering made by Akhenaten to Aten.

Quite unsurprisingly, Nefertiti and her sister Mudnodjame were accustomed to the royal court at Thebes from a pretty young age, since their father Ay acted as the vizier to Pharaoh Amenhotep III. In essence, the future queen of Egypt was introduced to the opulent lifestyle expected of the royalty, while also carrying some influence of her own (and her family). Pertaining to the latter, it is interesting to know that Nefertiti was possibly already an initiate of the cult of Aten before her marriage to the son of Amenhotep III.

This cult later became the focus of an almost monotheistic (or possibly henotheistic) mode of religious affiliation across all of Egypt, with the worship centered around Aten. The controversial religious revisions were made during and after the 5th year of the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (the son of Amenhotep III and husband to Nefertiti), later known as Akhenaten (‘Effective for Aten’), who went on to proclaim that Aten, often personified as the disc of the sun as visible from the earth, was to be venerated above the other Egyptian gods as the ‘true’ creator of the universe, in circa 1348 BC (or 1346 BC).

The ‘Coup’ on the Egyptian Pantheon –

Akhenaten offering a duck to the aten. Source: Utah State University

The aforementioned parcel of history expectedly puts forth hypotheses (from some scholars) as to how Nefertiti herself played a crucial role in possibly influencing her husband to adopt the cult of Aten as a state religion, thereby relegating the older Egyptian pantheon centered around Amun-Ra – leading to the closure of temples across the realm. However, on an objective level, almost every Egyptian from the period, especially of noble background, tended to favor their own ‘endorsed’ divine entity, and this mode of personal worship necessarily didn’t translate to larger political outcomes.

And speaking of political outcomes, while the influence of Nefertiti is unsubstantiated, the contentious decision of relegating the older Egyptian pantheon of gods in favor of Aten was possibly an intentional ploy by the ambitious Amenhotep IV to curb the power and money of the priestly class dedicated to god Amun. Simply put, his radical overhauling of the religious system resulted in a more centralized, state-sponsored religion as opposed to affluence (and donations) being shared by a separate class of people.

The Royal Household –

Stele depicting Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti with their three eldest daughters. Courtesy the Neues Museum, Berlin

Nefertiti was married to Amenhotep IV of the Eighteenth Dynasty at the age of fifteen (circa 1355 BC) – possibly an outcome of the warm diplomatic relation shared between her father Ay and the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. The royal couple’s union produced at least six daughters, one of whom went on to become the wife to Tutankhamun (originally named Tutankhaten), Amenhotep IV’s son by his other wife (whose name is still not known but is often given the moniker of The Younger Lady). In other words, Nefertiti may not have been the mother of Tutankhamun, since DNA analysis of the mummy of The Younger Lady has not returned any confirmation of such a lineage.

In any case, the royal family lived in affluence, in stark contrast to the religious conflicts raging across Egypt, with their opulent quarters at the palace of Malkata in Thebes that was refurbished and renamed Tehen Aten (‘the splendor of Aten’). And while the Malkata palace was bedecked with intricate reliefs and gold decorations, the royal couple decided to further ‘advertise’ their newfound faith (based singularly on Aten) by founding an entire settlement called Akhetaten (‘Horizon of Aten’), also known as Amarna. Egyptologist Zahi Hawass delved into the socio-religious significance of this symbolic site ‘created’ by Amenhotep IV and Nefertiti, which heralded in what historians know as the short-lived Amarna Period –

It [Amarna] was laid out parallel to the river, its boundaries marked by stelae carved into the cliffs ringing the site. The king himself took responsibility for its cosmologically significant master plan. In the center of his city, the king built a formal reception palace, where he could meet officials and foreign dignitaries. The palaces in which he and his family lived were to the north, and a road led from the royal dwelling to the reception palace. Each day, Akhenaten and Nefertiti processed in their chariots from one end of the city to the other, mirroring the journey of the sun across the sky. In this, as in many other aspects of their lives that have come to us through art and texts, Akhenaten and Nefertiti were seen, or at least saw themselves, as deities in their own right. It was only through them that the Aten could be worshipped: they were both priests and gods.

The Pact of Equality –

Nefertiti in Her Royal Chariot By Fortunino Matania

Beyond symbolism, Amarna also flaunted effective building designs, like the adoption of standardized stone bricks known as Talatats that were easier to manage than unwieldy huge blocks of stone. And interestingly enough, the scenes covered by these brick facades tended to display Nefertiti almost twice as much as her husband Amenhotep IV (by then known as Akhenaten). Some of the representations even project Nefertiti with an air of pharaonic power, like scenes portraying the queen officiating at religious functions, heading diplomatic meetings and even smiting the enemies of Egypt.

Furthermore, Amenhotep IV was known to have merged his royal seal (cartouche) with that of Nefertiti, thereby implying the equality of power shared by the royal couple, in spite of Nefertiti’s official designation as the Great Royal Wife. In practical circumstances, this might have translated to scenarios where Nefertiti fulfilled the traditional duties of a Pharaoh as a co-regent, especially during times when Akhenaten was involved in his radical theological projects concerning monolatry (worship of a single idol).

Nefertiti as an ‘Elusive’ Pharaoh?

By the end of the Amarna Period, and possibly after the death of Pharaoh Akhenaten (husband of Nefertiti) in circa 1336 BC (or 1334 BC), the Egyptian throne passed on to a mysterious figure known as Smenkhkare, whose identity or even gender is not known to Egyptologists – with one lingering conjecture alluding to how this ruler was the alter-ego of Nefertiti (although many also consider that to be an anachronistic theory). In the chronological scope, Smenkhkare had a pretty short reign of a few months and was succeeded by yet another mysterious Pharaoh known as Neferneferuaten.

Pertaining to the latter, there is a general notion shared by most academics that Neferneferuaten, by virtue of the name’s feminine traces, was possibly Nefertiti herself (or her daughter Meritaten, who in turn, was possibly married to the earlier Smenkhkare).

Quite intriguingly, Neferneferuaten also used the epithet Akhet-en-hyes (“Effective for her husband”) in her royal cartouche, which rather bolsters the hypothesis of Nefertiti ruling over Egypt as a sole Pharaoh after the death of her husband. It is also entirely possible that Nefertiti, as Neferneferuaten, might have even reversed some of the radical forms of Aten worship in a bid to appease various sections of the ancient Egyptian society.

The Ambiguous Last Years –

Earlier theories in the academic circles painted a picture of how Nefertiti, during the last years of the reign of Amenhotep IV, fell out of favor in the royal court, possibly because of her ‘inability’ to produce a male heir. Such conjectures were drawn from the apparent sudden disappearance of Nefertiti’s historical records from around the Year 12 of Amenhotep IV’s reign.

However, Amenhotep IV already had a male heir (Tutankhamun) by one of his other wives (previously thought to be noblewoman named Kiya, but later confirmed to be The Younger Lady). Furthermore, in 2012, archaeologists came across a Year 16 record from Amenhotep IV’s reign that clearly did mention the presence of the “Great Royal Wife, His Beloved, Mistress of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti”.

In any case, Nefertiti probably lived for years after the demise of her husband Amenhotep IV and possibly even ruled as a female Pharaoh before the advent of Tutankhamun – as mentioned in the earlier entry. But in spite of Nefertiti’s status and achievements, her own death is still mired in mystery, with numerous conjectural reasons being put forth, ranging from a plague to natural illness. The year of her death is often presented as circa 1330 BC, thus establishing her age to be 40 (or around the late thirties) during the time of her passing. Unfortunately, archaeologists have not been able to (definitively) identify either her mummy or tomb.

Reconstruction of Nefertiti –

A chance discovery made in 1913 by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt led to the century-old appreciation of ancient Egyptian art and beauty. The discovery in question here pertains to the renowned Nefertiti Bust, a painted gypsum-coated limestone sculpture, currently kept at the Neues Museum in Berlin, that is widely believed to be one of the masterpieces of sculptor Thutmose, dating from circa 1345 BC. The bust with its bevy of intricate facial features favorably depicts the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, possibly at the age of 25.

In terms of the visual look, what we do know about Nefertiti, also comes from the royal portrayals on the numerous walls and temples built during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV. In fact, as we mentioned earlier in the article, the depiction styles (and prevalence) of Nefertiti were almost unprecedented in Egyptian history till that point, with the portrayals quite often representing the queen in positions of power and authority. These ranged from depicting her as one of the central figures in the worship of Aten to even representing her as a warrior elite riding the chariot (as presented inside the tomb of Meryre) and smiting her enemies.

Talking about depictions, reconstruction specialist M.A. Ludwig has taken a shot at recreating the facial features of the famed Queen Nefertiti with the aid of photoshop (presented above). Based on the renowned limestone Nefertiti Bust, Ludwig makes this point clear about the facial reconstruction –

I’ve seen artists try to bring out the living likeness of Queen Nefertiti many times, and some of the most famous attempts, though good in and of themselves, always seem to adjust her facial features to match certain contemporary standards of beauty in some way, which really isn’t necessary because the original bust of Nefertiti is already so beautiful and lifelike. I took the chance of leaving the bust’s features entirely as they are, only replacing the paint and plaster with flesh and bone. The result is absolutely stunning.

Interestingly enough, back in 2016, researchers from the University of Bristol also came up with their recreation of an ancient Egyptian queen, but the project was based on the mummy of The Younger Lady – the biological mother of Tutankhamun (and wife of Amenhotep IV), who was never proven to be Nefertiti herself.

Courtesy of University of Bristol

Featured Image: Nefertiti Reconstruction by Sven Geruschkat.

Watch the video: Is the Bust of Nefertiti a Fraud? The Mysteries of Nefertiti (July 2022).


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