For over a decade, Nefertiti, wife of the heretic king Akhenaten, was the most influential woman in the Bronze Age world; a beautiful queen blessed by the sun-god, adored by her family and worshipped by her people. Her image and her name were celebrated throughout Egypt and her future seemed golden. Suddenly Nefertiti disappeared from the royal family, vanishing so completely that it was as if she had never been. No record survives to detail her death, no monument serves to mourn her passing and to this day her end remains and enigma - her body has never been found. Joyce Tyldesley here provides a discussion of the life and times of Nefertiti, Egypt's sun queen, set against the background of the ephemeral Amarna court.
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Nefertiti (c.1350 BC) is widely known from the exquisite painted bust of her in the Berlin Museum. But beyond this image we know little about her. Wife of Akhenaten, the monotheistic pharaoh, adored by her family, blessed by the sun god, and worshipped by her people, Nefertiti suddenly and completely vanished from the record. Was she banished by her husband or raised to rule as his equal? Did she reign, under another name, in her own right? Could she have been the `eminence grise' behind the young Tutankhamun, her son-in-law? Tyldesley draws on archaeological, textual and artistic evidence in a detailed discussion of Nefertiti's life and times at the ephemeral and heretical Amarna court.Review:
She was the beloved wife of "heretic king" Akhenaton, who defied ancient custom by practicing monotheism and by elevating Nefertiti far above the role of subservient consort previously played by Egyptian queens. Her image has ravished Western viewers ever since a magnificent limestone bust unearthed at the royal retreat of Amarna went on display in Berlin in 1924. But frustratingly few facts are known about this woman who lived more than three millennia ago. As she did in Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh, British archeologist Joyce Tyldesley makes a virtue of necessity by writing a book that is as much a cultural history as a biography. As Akhenaton swept away the plethora of old gods, dismaying many of his subjects, he needed a strong female figure to soften the abstract austerity of Aten, the sun deity; his beautiful queen was celebrated in official art and inscriptions that focused on the domestic life of the royal family. Tyldesley meticulously analyzes this iconography to evaluate Nefertiti's position in Egypt and her importance to her husband, who clearly cherished her beyond the demands of propriety or political necessity. The author cannot give readers a strong sense of Nefertiti's personality--the evidence simply isn't there--but she paints a wonderfully evocative picture of life at the civilized heart of the ancient world. --Wendy Smith
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