NEFERTITI by Joyce Tyldesley


Egypt's Sun Queen
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In Hatchepsut (1996), Tyldesley (Archaeology/Liverpool Univ., England) brought to life an obscure female ruler of ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. Here she does the same for a legendary woman of the same period—the queen of monotheist pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti (literally meaning, “a beautiful woman has come”) became famous with the 1912 discovery by archaeologists of a breathtaking painted bust of her. What little was known of her story suggested dramatic potential: the wife of an intellectual ruler who rejected Egypt’s traditional polytheistic cult in favor of an austere monotheistic religion, Nefertiti was a central figure in the capital city, Akhetaten (now Amarna), founded by her husband. But her life, and his, ended with a mysterious oblivion. As if they had merely vanished, records made no mention of the royal couple. Without resolving the cluster of historic mysteries surrounding Nefertiti, Tyldesley evokes the turbulent reign of Akhenaten, whose cult threatened the power of Egypt’s priesthood and undermined the kingdom’s customary religion. Marshaling archaeological and textual evidence, the author depicts Akhenaten’s family as close-knit, with their idyll interrupted by the sudden death of the couple’s daughters, attributed by Tyldesley to the plague. Reviewing some of the scholarly theories for Nefertiti’s disappearance—that she grew too powerful, ruled Egypt in her own right, or committed a heinous crime and was banished—Tyldesley concludes that insufficient evidence exists to support these theories. More likely, as his consort, Nefertiti simply shared in Akhenaten’s fate when successor Horemheb, a traditionalist, tried to eradicate all memory of the monotheist pharaoh and his descendants. A thoughtful and well-researched re-creation of an extraordinary ancient personality. (16 pages b&w photos, 38 figures, 2 maps)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-670-86998-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999


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