Egypt's Golden Empire
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The most powerful woman in Egypt since the Pharaoh Hatshepsut 100 years earlier, Queen Nefertiti was as influential as she was beautiful, a partner in power with her king, Akenhaten.

Although Nefertiti was not born of royal blood, she had grown up close to the royal family. Some evidence suggests that her father was the powerful courtier Ay, advisor to three pharaohs, including Akenhaten, Nefertiti's husband. Like him, Nefertiti would prove to be a key player at court.

Hell hath no fury...

During her marriage to Akenhaten, Queen Nefertiti stood with him at the head of the new regime. Carved images on ancient temples show her killing Egypt's enemies - previously only a role given to the pharaoh.

When Akenhaten moved the government from Thebes to Amarna, Nefertiti moved with him. She was a full participant in important religious ceremonies: when Akenhaten appeared in public to make religious offerings to Aten, the sun god, Nefertiti performed them with him. And when Akenhaten ordered colossal statues of himself, he would order statues of equal size for his 'Great Wife'.

Nefertiti was seen as second only to the pharaoh himself.

Akenhaten's temple at Armana
All you need is love

The reason for this may have been simple: love. In an age when marriages were arranged for political reasons, the partnership between Akenhaten and Nefertiti seems to have been unusually romantic. Nefertiti is also the only Egyptian queen that we know to have been lovingly described by her husband, the pharaoh.

Their home life appears to have been a happy one. She bore Akenhaten six daughters and images still exist of the pharaoh and his wife kissing and playing with their children.

The vanishing

All appeared well. The move to Amarna was a success and life seemed good. Then, in the twelfth year of Akenhaten's reign and at the height of Nefertiti's powers, she vanished from history altogether. Until 1822, when scholars learned how to read hieroglyphics, she simply ceased to exist.

Found again

Despite this breakthrough, Nefertiti remained faceless for almost another century, until 1912. A German archaeologist called Ludwig Borchardt was digging through the remains of Amarna and found a life-sized bust of the long-dead queen. As Borchardt recorded in his diary, "Description is useless, see for yourself." Nefertiti lived up to her name, 'a beautiful woman has come'.

Today, scholars still don't know exactly why she so suddenly disappeared from history more than 3,000 years ago.

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Egypt's Golden Empire