East Kent Egyptology Society
Wednesday 11th December 2019: Christmas Party. Our Christmas Social went very well with a good turnout. Diane produced her usual culinary miracles of all things Egyptian, very much appreciated by everyone. Pat served up coffees and teas along with some very welcome mulled wine and mince pies. All of which contributed to a very convivial atmosphere. An enjoyable afternoon had by all.
Wednesday 16th October 2019: Aidan Dodson, Nefertiti.
Note: This report does not include illustrations.
The meeting was very well attended, with a number of new faces. Aidan, who is a well known, highly respected, and popular speaker, gave a detailed and exhaustive presentation which included much new material and illustrations. This information is being gathered together for a new book, which is due for publication next year. Our chairman congratulated him on his recent appointment as a professor at Bristol University.
He began by saying that much previous speculation concerning Nefertiti has been proved to be incorrect, and his purpose has been to try to knit together an updated analysis covering her place in history.
She is not shown in early representations of Amenhotep IV, who later became Akhenaten, in the tombs of Ramose and Kheruef. These nobles were in power during the reigns of both Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, and had tombs on the West Bank at Luxor. She does, however, appear at the Gem-Aten at Karnak, where Akhenaten is portrayed with distorted features but Nefertiti is not. Later depictions of her, the royal children and courtiers, begin to mirror the physical characterisations with which Akhenaten wished himself to be represented. Later, at Karnak, her status has remarkably improved, as she is shown worshiping the Aten without Akhenaten, but accompanied by her eldest daughter Merytaten. She is also portrayed in a “smiting the enemy” role, which is unique for a royal consort in Egypt.
Aidan showed many illustrations demonstrating Akhenaten’s divergence from traditional values, and the growing importance of Nefertiti as his consort at religious ceremonies and state events. It is remarkable that at the four corners of the reconstructed sarcophagus of Akhenaten the figure of Nefertiti replaces the four traditional goddesses, and that she has now adopted that protecting function.
When Akhenaten moved his capital to Amarna in order to isolate his court from the influence of the old religion, he had a royal tomb excavated for his immediate family. Separate suites of rooms were prepared for himself, Nefertiti (not finished), and for certain of his daughters. None of the traditional tomb scenes were included, but they were decorated to show the royal family and the veneration of the Aten only. Eventually Nefertiti had six daughters, but apparently no sons. However, Aidan said that royal sons were not normally portrayed with their fathers, unless they were performing an important function, and that the lack of sons in reliefs did not prove that the couple had none. There is, as a consequence, a chance that Tutankhamun was an unrecorded son of the royal couple, which could be supported by a relief from Ashmuneim which gives him the title “king’s son of his body”. There has been speculation that Kiya was Tutankhamun’s mother, but reliefs show her as only having one daughter. One highly restored and speculative relief Aidan showed appears to depict Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Ankhesenamen and Tutankhamun together, which possibly supports the view that the latter two were already married by that time.
There has been much speculation regarding the “younger lady” found in KV.35, and Aidan suggested that it could be Nefertiti herself. A CAT scan revealed that serious damage to her head had not been caused by tomb robbers, but that it was the immediate cause of her death, and possibly indicates that she had been murdered. The scan shows her to be in her early thirties, which fits with Nefertiti’s probable age. The “elder lady” was almost certainly Tiye, the wife of Amenhotep III and grandmother of Tutankhamun..
Some Egyptologists say that DNA from Ancient Egypt cannot be relied on, and they dismiss its results as being virtually useless (Ed: particularly if it contradicts their own theories!). The validity and results of DNA work done on the Amarna mummies will, however, continue to cause argument and speculation.
Nefertiti’s origin is something of a puzzle. She was not given the title “king’s daughter” or “king’s sister”, so what were her origins? Speculation has been that she was a foreign princess, and possibly Hittite, but this is unlikely as there are no cases where a person of this type of origin could ever have been raised in status to become a joint or sole ruler, as was Nefertiti – though these were unusual times! It has been suggested that her father could have been Ay from an early wife, as his recorded wife was given the title of royal nurse only. Nefertiti did have a sister, Mutnodjme, who was later married to Horemheb.
Nefertiti growing importance is demonstrated in year twelve on the Durbar Relief from Amarna, which shows her as of seemingly equal importance to her husband, and possibly indicating that she has been elevated to be co-ruler.
It is quite probable that a serious plague or disease struck Egypt at some time towards the end of the Amarna period, as it appears that three of the royal daughters died, as is illustrated by reliefs in the Royal Tomb at Amarna. The reliefs showing a nurse holding a baby, Aidan said, could not record the death of Mekytaten in childbirth, as she was probably too young to become a mother. Possibly, Aidan said, the babies portrayed could have represented the idea of rebirth in the afterlife, after the untimely death of the young princess?
Suggestions have been made that Nefertiti fell from favour about year twelve, and that the replacement of names at the Maru-Aten, at Amarna, could represent her names being replaced by those of her eldest daughter Merytaten. However, Aidan suggested that it was actually Kiya who was being disgraced, not Nefertiti. The situation has recently been clarified, however, as a quarry graffito from Amarna records that Nefertiti was still of significance in year sixteen of Akhenaten, a year before his final recorded year, an importance that is emphasised by the fact that she is shown wearing a royal crown.
In the tomb of Meryra at Amarna there is a relief which some have thought shows the mysterious Smenkhkare and Meritaten, while others suggest it is a portrayal of Akhenaten and Smenkhkare, with some even suggesting that the later two were gay! Royal titles of the period are most confusing, however, and the glyph “t” attached to some of Smenkhkare’s titles suggest that “he” is actually a “she”, with some speculating, moreover, that Smenkhkare is actually a differently titled Nefertiti. The identity of this mysterious royal is in continuing dispute, and Aidan’s views on the subject will, no doubt, be addressed in his book.
It seems that Nefertiti had gained the full titles of kingship by the year of Akhenaten’s death, and that she had this title until her own year three. Did she become co-ruler with Akhenaten before his death, or did she rule independently after his death and became co-ruler and ward of the young Tutankhamun? In year four of Tutankhamen, in the Restoration Stele, there is no mention of Nefertiti, so what has become of her? Ed: If there is a yet undiscovered Amarna period tomb in the VOK valley bottom close to that of Tutankhamun, as recent ground penetrating radar studies may suggest, possibly some known-unkhowns will become knowns!