Take five seconds to think of all the most interesting women in history with a mystery attached to them. If you know your history, or your famous women, you might think of Emilia Erhart, Mata Hari, Joan of Arc, or any number of incredible women who lived lives that left unanswered questions. Allow us to introduce another woman and mystery to you, gentle reader: Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (better known as Nefertiti), who may or may not have been one of the most powerful, and mysterious, female pharaohs in history.
A beauty in her own right, this bust of Nefertiti is known around the world!
Normally we tell you about the early history of this incredible woman, but unfortunately, we cannot. Why? Because nobody knows for sure. Almost nothing is known about Nefertiti before her marriage to her husband Akhenaten. (1) Where she was born, who her parents were, or even the exact date of her marriage to the Pharoah is all up to debate. (1) We can piece together some things. Nefertiti had many titles, like one does when you become a ruler of Ancient Egypt, but a title that she distinctly lacks is "King's Daughter" or "King's Sister". (2) Because of this, it is speculated that Nefertiti wasn't even a member of the royal family! It is possible that she was a foreign woman who married into this ancient dynasty. (2)
We may not know what she did before she married the Pharoah but we do know that she was a powerhouse at his side. Akhenaten was a Pharoah with a particular vision: that there was only one god, his name was Aten, and everybody should worship him. (3) His reign saw the capital city relocated to Akhetaten (modern-day Amarna), and the flourishing of the wealthiest period of ancient Egyptian history. (4)
Early depictions show Nefertiti operating in a supporting role for her husband. (5) She embraced his religion with apparent enthusiasm and bore him six daughters (one of whom would go on to marry King Tutankhamun!). (6) As time progressed, Nefertiti begins to elevate to a co-regent, holding equal power with her husband. (7) Reliefs show her riding a chariot into battle, smiting Egypt's enemies, and even worshipping Aten like only a Pharoah would! (7) Unfortunately, Akhenhaten's reign was short-lived, coming to a close 16 years after he had ascended to the throne. (3)
This relief shows Nefertiti and her family, and also displays a unique shift in artistic style during the reign of her and her husband
Here is where things get a bit mysterious. After Akhenaten's death, a female Pharoah known as Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten took power for two years. (8) Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it? Akhenaten translated to "Effective for the Aten", and the pharaoh Neferneferuaten went by the epithet Akhet-en-hyes which translates to "Effective for her husband". (8) There's still a lot of uncertainty about the exact nature of who this new pharaoh was, due to a lack of historical evidence. Neferneferuaten's short rule was rapidly followed by (or overlapped with, there is room for speculation here) Smenkare, and then equally as quickly followed by Tutankhamun. (9) Additionally, later pharaohs attempted to remove Akhenaten and Nefertiti from thence of history, by destroying monuments and repurposing them for other uses. (10) The overall result was a span of time that offers many questions, but little data to provide answers.
Our flagship product line, The Jewel of the Nile, pays homage to four female rulers from ancient Egypt, including Nefertiti (which you can check out HERE). With a nod to her name ("The Beautiful Woman Has Come") (1), the highlight ingredients chosen are ones that were widely available and widely used at the time of Nefertiti's reign (either medicinally or culinarily), as well as ones that have long been used both for beauty and sensuality. Happily, we don't have to import all of our highlight ingredients all the way from Egypt- in fact, most of them are sourced very close to home
Avena sativa - Oats : Morganics Family Farm (Hillsborough Township, NJ)
Cinnamomum cassia - Cinnamon: Indonesia (Cinnamon is unable to grow in the NE United States)
Foeniculum vulgare - Fennel : The ferals (Bucks County, PA)
Linum usitaissimum - Flax : The Ferals (Bucks County, PA)
Prunus amygalus dulcis - Sweet Almond : Spain (Almonds are unable to grow in NE United States)
Rosa damascena - Rose : flowers (India - we are currently growing our rose patch!)/ hips (The Ferals; Bucks County, PA)
colored with rose hips and rose clay; scented with jammy Morrocan rose, sweet cinnamon leaf, and fresh fennel seed!
There is one particularly lovely ingredient that may not be thought of as iconically Egyptian, but has a long history of use in the region, both in historical and modern times- rose! Revered for their beauty and aphrodisiac scent, roses are more than just pretty flowers. Be sure to stop by on Wednesday to meet the stunning and popular flower of love, the Rose!
A LITTLE BIT OF LIGHT READING
Nefertiti. (2023, February 14). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nefertiti
Dodson, A., & Hilton, D. (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt [Print]. Thames & Hudson.
Akhenaten. (2023, February 15). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhenaten
De La Bédoyère, G. (2023). Pharaohs of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of Tutankhamun’s Dynasty. Simon and Schuster.
Tyldesley, J. A. (1998). Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen. Viking Adult.
Dodson, A. (2009). Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian Counter-reformation. Oxford University Press.
Redford, D. B. (1987). Akhenaten, the Heretic King. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press.
Neferneferuaten. (2023, January 25). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neferneferuaten
Smenkhkare. (2023, February 13). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smenkhkare
Hoffmeier, J. K. (2015). Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism. Oxford University Press, USA.