Queen Nefertiti is one of two most famous queens of ancient Egypt, the other being Cleopatra. Her beauty, revealed in her famous limestone portrait busts - the loveliest masterpieces of Egyptian sculpture - has made her widely known around the world. Yet, in spite of her fame, historians are not unanimous about her origins. There appears to have been a deliberate attempt in ancient Egypt to erase the existence of her memory due to reasons that will be elaborated in this article.
Nefertiti is a mysterious figure. Some say, who she was, or who her parents were, is unknown and that she was just a commoner. Others have suggested that she was a Hittite princess, or that she was a Mittani princess from a neighboring kingdom, or a daughter of Ay, one the viziers to the pharaoh. However clarifying the matter would help to clarify other significant aspects of ancient Egyptian civilization.
An aspect of genetics, that appears not to have been given the attention it deserves, can help resolve this mystery. It is the elongated skull or the dolichocephalic heads that many members of the eighteenth Egyptian dynasty possessed. One of the reasons that historians ignored this feature at first is because some thought that it was just a feature of stylized art. Some have suggested that elongated skulls are not an unusual feature and prevail in some African and Nordic tribes. However here, it is not a question of just a long skull that some Africans or ancient Nordics could possess. Those are within the limits of normal human variation albeit on the longer side. Here we are talking of a skull shape that goes well beyond the normal human shape, to the point that biologists have attributed it to rare diseases, some even to extraterrestrial sources. Studies have shown that it is a rare occurrence indeed. Certain African tribes such as the Mangbetu and the Zande produce long skulls by binding the heads of young but this latter type of elongation produces quite a different effect. Moreover studies on Egyptian royal mummies have proved conclusively that the royal Egyptian dolichocephalic head is not a result of binding but rather a genetic family trait. The skull shape is so pronounced that many initially thought it was just an artistic feature until the actual mummies with such skulls were discovered. Some modern doctors postulated that this might be a result of a rare deforming disease. However that too has been ruled out since the trait is shared in the family by inheritance. Research work by David Childress in Peru, Adriano Forgione in Malta and Andrew Collins, (Andrew Collins. Gods of Eden. London: Headline Book, Pub. 1998) has led to a greater knowledge of the elongated skull. The first is that this is a rare anomaly that has been found since ancient times in other parts of the world as well. If those possessing the elongated skull belong to a certain race that has now become extinct cannot be said with certainty. Such skulls have been discovered not only in Egypt but also in Peru, Malta and the Mittani belt of northern Iraq and Syria and those possessing such skulls appear to have been associated with the royal or priestly classes. Except for Peru the other four locations are in close geographical proximity therefore the possibility that all of them arise from the same genetic source cannot be ruled out. The genetic source of the Peru skulls may also be the same since there does appear to be an old world origin of American civilizations.
Nefertiti too possessed such a skull and therefore the possibility of her being a commoner becomes unlikely. The second speculation that she was a Hittite princess is also ruled out by reference to available historical records. Rather she appears to be a Mittani princess daughter of the Mittani king Dashrath. The confusion has arisen because in historical records the Mittani have been confused with Hittites on occasions. Both Hittites and the Mittani belong to the Indo-European speaking Aryan races.
The Mitanni were a people of Aryan origin who ruled a vast kingdom with a largely Hurrian population in West Asia in the second millennium BC, for a brief historical epoch, sometime after 1500 BC. It was a feudal state led by a warrior nobility in which apparently the royal women were trained along with men in horse riding, chariot racing and warfare. This training was provided for the eventuality that they might be called upon to rule if widowed. Such accounts are found in the Puranas and Vedas, ancient historical records of the community that the Mittani kings belonged too. The Rig-Veda, an ancient scripture of Mittani rulers recounts the story of a warrior, Queen Vishpla, who lost her leg in battle, was fitted with iron prosthesis, and returned to battle. The Mittani kingdom in Syria was a foreign and brief one lasting for about 150 years. During their brief reign the relationship they established with Egypt has left a significant mark in history. It was a mutually beneficial alliance that permitted the Mittani to continue in foreign surroundings and provided a buffer to the Egyptians against Hittite incursions. The Mittani kingdom was eventually weakened by Hittites and returned to Syria in approximately 1330 BC.
While they ruled in the area, the Mittani Royal house developed close amicable relations with their western neighbors, the Egyptian Royal house through intermarriages as well as financial, military and religious alliances. For a period they became as one family. There appear to have been some alliance amongst the priestly class as well. The daughter of King Artatama was married to Thutmose IV, Akhenaten's grandfather. His son, King Shuttarna in the early fourteenth century BC sent his daughter Kiluhepa to Egypt for a marriage with Pharaoh Amenhotp III. And the daughter of the King Dasharatha, the son of Shuttarna, Princess Tadukhipa, became the queen of Akhenaten. The Egyptian Pharaohs also introduced horses and chariots in Egypt because of their relationship with the Mittanis.
The archeological finds at Amarna shed light on the relationship between the two royal families. In one Amarna letter, written to Akhenaten's mother, Tiye, my sister, the Mitannian king complains that Akhenaten has not sent gifts that his father had promised, "I had asked your husband for statues of solid cast gold, but your son has sent me plated statues of wood. With gold being dirt in your son's country, why have they been a source of such distress to your son that he has not given them to me? Is this love?" Dushrath wrote to Tiye instead of to the pharaoh himself because he was more comfortable in writing to his sister than the king. The letter is hardly a diplomatic or royal letter. It is a family communication.
The origin of queen Tiye, like that of Nefertiti are also shrouded in controversy. It is very possible that the priests did not approve of the Egyptian family connection with Mittanis. They had good reasons for it. Primarily it was the introduction of foreign gods and unorthodox customs into Egypt as a result of these foreign queens. Queen Tiye too has been recognized for her unorthodoxy like Nefertiti. Historians have however admitted that there appears to be a relationship between Tiye and Nefertiti. There was. Tiye was Nefertiti’s aunt – the sister of her father Dashrath. The Amarna letters prove the close family ties between Dashrath and Tiye. Another reason for the discomfort of the priesthood was that before the appearance of the Mittanis, the priestly clan often supplied brides to the pharaohs. That helped them to maintain their power in Egypt, but this new source of royal brides must have been a source of much anguish to the priestly clan. They may have responded by claiming that the new brides were not royal but just from a common tribal source that had managed to grab a neighboring kingdom. This last assumption may have arisen from their ignorance of Mittani royal roots that have a history perhaps longer than even the Egyptian civilization as illustrated by their sacred texts, the Vedas.
Some historians have claimed that Tiye was the daughter of Yuaa, a priest of Mittani origin that her mother Tuaa, was of royal descent, from the royal family of Mittani. If this latter was the case then it would make Tiye a cousin of king Dasharath rather than a blood sister. However, the utter informality of communications between Dasharath and Tiye, along with historical records indicating that the Mittani kings had provided the Egyptian pharaohs with their daughters as queens suggests that Tiye was a blood sister of Dashrath, the Mittani princess Kiluhepa. In either case the Mittani royal origin of Tiye, and by extension that of Nefertiti appears to be of little doubt. Both bore a resemblance as revealed from their statues. Physical resemblance of relatives within the Mittani and Egyptian households appears to have been accentuated by inbreeding to the point that even Nefertiti and her husband bore a striking resemblance to each other. As compared to humans of other races, Akhenaten appeared effeminate and some suggested that he had no sexual organs because a nude statue of him depicted him without any. Akhinaten fathered many children and the absence of sexual organs in his statue is more likely a result of modesty. The ancient Egyptians were not as open about male frontal nudity as the Greeks were in a later civilization. In reality Akhenaten may have been rather well hung. However there is a possibility that his sexual chromosomes were XXY rather than XY, a result of inbreeding. The possibility arises because of the speculation that the elongated skull is primarily a feature imparted by the X chromosome and that its presence in males is only likely with an extra X. However a confirmation of this last hypothesis must await further advances in genetic science.
Betsy Bryan, a professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins, found a statue of Tiye, Akhenaten’s mother, at the Mut temple. When the statue was removed it revealed itself as a queen of Amenhotep III, whose name appears repeatedly on the statue's crown. Schwappach-Shirriff curator of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in California told Discovery News that it is significant that the statue was found buried within a temple. " It shows that she indeed had strong religious ties because she was found in a temple ” she explained. Women at the time could not serve as priestesses, but both Bryan and Schwappach-Shirriff think the emerging evidence, such as this statue, indicate that at least some women may have been more central to certain Egyptian religions than previously thought. This new role of women in Egypt appears to be due to the foreign Mittani origin of these queens.
The Mittani royal families appears to be the source from which elongated skulls arrived in the Egyptian royal family. Thutmose III and Thutmose IV grandfather of Akhinaten did not possess such a skull as revealed by their statues at Luxor and Cairo Museums but his grandmother Queen Mutemwiya , Great Royal Spouse of King Thutmose IV and royal daughter of Artatama I, King of Mittani probably did. The Mittani queens were given new Egyptian names after their marriages to the Pharaohs. The change in names added to the fact that the Pharaohs had more than one wife has lead to the confusion as to which is which. Add to this the propaganda circulated by the priests who were the principal scribes of the time and the clouding of history becomes certain. The Pharaoh Akhenaten, who too possessed the elongated head, could have got this trait from his father, mother or grandmother. His daughters and son King Tutankhamen possessed the same skull as well. There was considerable inbreeding in the royal families and this tends to establish a genetic trait. The elongated skull was probably a common feature of the Egyptian and Mittani royal households and this would have lead them to consider that they had become one family. Akhenaten had two wives Kiya and Nefretiti and scholars are unsure as to which of the two is the Mittani Princess. However, if one were to go by the elongated skull then it has to be Nefretiti who was the Mittani princess. Add to this the fact that she was a warrior queen who has been shown participating in chariot races and wielding weapons. She was not the typical Queen of Egypt. She was shown in very prominent positions in the Amarna art, and has even been shown in the warlike position of the Pharaoh - grasping prisoners' hair and breaking their skulls with a mace. Order in ancient society was maintained by ruthless punishments. This was very unlike Egyptian princesses but not unexpected of a Mittani Aryan one.
In ancient times it was not uncommon for queens and princesses to have a personal nurse who stayed with the princesses well into adulthood often accompanying them into a new household after their marriage. The nurse often played the role of a substitute mother if the real mother was not available. If a princess came from the Mittani kingdom, it is expected that she be not sent alone to a foreign land but along with maids and her personal nurse. That is the least a royal father could do when sending his daughter to another country. Did such a nurse accompany Akhenaten's Mittani wife into Egypt? One lady in the palace did claim to be her nurse. It was Tey who never claimed to be the queen’s mother but did claim to be her nurse. Tey is also known to have had her own daughter Mutnodmjet born from a marriage to the prominent Egyptian Aye. Nefertiti would have regarded the daughter of Tey in a sisterly way and one inscription reads, "Mutnodjmet, may she live like Re forever, sister of the King's Great Wife. Therefore, it is clear that Nefertiti regarded her Nurse’s daughter as her sister. There is little doubt that Mutnodjmet was Aye’s daughter because there are prominent depictions of the two together. The fact that Nefertiti had a personal nurse, who is well known in Egypt, is also evidence against her being from a common or unknown background. If it was claimed by some that Nefertiti’s background is not known in spite of the fact that her nurse continued to be present as the wife of a prominent personality is an indication that a deliberate attempt has been made to ignore Nefertiti’s background. Aye even became a Pharaoh at a later stage after the death of the last heir of the eighteenth dynasty.
There are other bits of evidence that support the theory that Nefertiti was a Mittani princess. Nefertiti means the beautiful one who has come, signifying a princess from afar. During his rule Akhenaten probably due to the Aryan influence of his mother and wife attempted to establish a new religion, that of monotheistic worship with the Sun as the symbol of God’s power, to the utter dismay of the priesthood. This attempt resulted in an open revolt by the priestly class.
The striking resemblance between Nefertiti’s portraits and those of her young husband has prompted some scholars to suggest that she was his half, or even his full sister. Brother and sister marriages were common in Egypt. But we know from historical records that this was not the case here. Rather if the princess were the daughter of Dushratta, then her aunt would be the mother, and her grandmother the sister of the grandmother of the King, a relationship even closer than cousins and there would be nothing strange in their resembling each other as brother and sister.
Their reign was brief. Akhenaten ruled just 17 years, and within a few years after his death in 1336 B.C., Neferititi too died, apparently murdered, struck from behind at an unguarded moment. Tut ruled for about ten years before he died in 1322 B.C. The Egyptian vizier Aye was perhaps the de facto ruler initially using King Tut as the figurehead on the throne. As Tut grew up it is likely that he, like his father, was starting to have ideas of his own. His mentors particularly Aye, could not tolerate another heretic and may have organized his murder by poisoning or another device. Aye is portrayed as a person who acted in a fatherly manner to Nefertiti but this may have been just a cunning front that Aye main