Re-Examining Nefertiti's Likeness and Life

Against her will, the couple moved to the new city. In a carriage made of electrum, the couple made their way to the desert valley. The new palace was directly adjacent to the main road, which was 30 meters wide.

The queen attended religious services in the morning, when the sun rose above the cliffs of Amarna. There were hundreds of altars in the large temple to Aton. Large numbers of animals were sacrificed there at dawn.

"Your beams are on the inside of the sea," the great Aton chant, written by the pharaoh himself, begins. "You are lifetime itself. We live through you. The eyes are directed at your beauty, until you set."

The ceremonies contained not a word about the destructive aspect of the sun, about its searing heat, which triggers droughts and famines.

Instead, cuddling was the order of the day. Reliefs show the royal couple kissing and caressing each other. Sometimes they are nibbling on skewers. Then they are sitting at home with the children. Intimacy became part of the political program. Or did the prophets of light simply lose all shame?

In the year 12, a great banquet was held at Amarna. Tribute bearers from Cyprus and Crete, and from Syria and Mycenae, came to Amarna to pay homage to the beautiful queen. Nevertheless, the great queen was not happy. She had given birth to six children -- all girls. A Mysterious Female Pharaoh

This was probably why Akhenaten often strayed in his older years. He was desperate to father a noble-blooded male heir to the throne. There are indications that he initially impregnated his mother and then married three of his daughters. But it was only his own sister who gave him a male heir. The name of the infant was Tutankhamen.

The heretic died soon afterwards, leaving behind a state that was coming apart at the seams. Foreign armies had invaded the country in the north. The old elites -- the priests and the generals -- were in the mood to stage a coup.

Ironically, it was in this situation that Nefertiti apparently ventured to go it alone. It is clear that after Akhenaton's death, a mysterious, female pharaoh took control of the land of the pyramids for 14 months. A case can be made that it was Nefertiti.

She apparently hazarded another political coup that could hardly have been more audacious. To keep her enemies at home in check, she enlisted the help of the king of the Hittites, Suppiluliuma, who lived about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away in Hattusa, in what is now modern Turkey.

The clay tablet state archive discovered in Hattusa contained a letter from a certain "Dahamunzu." The word is derived from "Ta hemet nesw" (Egyptian for "the wife of the king"). Could Nefertiti have written the letter?

"My husband has died, and I have no son," the woman wrote to the king of the Hittites, "but it is said that your sons are numerous." Then she boldly states her request: She wants to marry one of the princes.

A New Story Takes Shape What an offer it was. The Hittites immediately sent their chancellor to the Nile. After months of inquiries, he returned home with another message from the pharaoh, in which she proposed a pact of sorts. After the wedding, her letter reads, "the two great countries will be only one country."

It was high treason.

"The idea that a woman in ancient Egypt would conduct such correspondence is so crazy as to be almost unbelievable," says Egyptologist Bayer.

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