Beauty of the Nile
Tell el-Amarna, Egypt -- In the sandy hills of Egypt stand the ruins of an ancient city presently known as Tell el-Amarna.
This is where the famous pharaoh–Queen Nefertiti ruled with her king, Pharaoh Akhenaten. The bust of Nefertiti was found in 1912 by German archeologist Ludwig Borchardt in the workshop of the royal sculptor Thutmose. It is now on display at Berlin’s Altes Museum. Recent discovery has revealed that the bust is just a surface representation of an original art piece.
Radiologists first scanned the bust in 1992 using Computed Topography (CT) Technology, which utilizes X-ray images to create a three-dimensional image of an object. German scientists applied an updated version of the technology and revealed in a study on March 31 that the ‘Beauty of the Nile’ has two faces.
In 2007, a team of researchers led by Alexander Huppertz, M.D., discovered that there is a stucco layer covering a carefully fashioned limestone sculpture of the queen. Their report states, “The comparison to the outer face revealed differences, including the angles of the eyelids, creases around the corners of the mouth on the limestone surface, and a slight bump on the ridge of the nose.”
The changes seem to conflict with the ideas of beauty during the Amarna period. King Akhenaten was Egypt’s pioneer in the new way of expressing beauty.
In the first five years of his reign, ancient royal sculptors depicted the king as a traditional pharaoh with tanned skin, slender waist, and an athletic body.
Eventually, the sculptures and portraits began to evolve. Akhenaten’s art started to portray him with an elongated face, plump breasts, slim waist, and broad hips and thighs. Researchers believe the change resembled the king’s philosophy of Ma’at, which simply means truth. His purpose was to express the truth through his art.
“According to the beauty ideals of the Amarna period, the differences had positive and negative effects and can be read as signs of individualization of the sculpture,” say German scientists.
As the Amarna period progresses over 18th century B.C., the art forsakes Egyptian tradition by capturing women with dark skin and exaggerated features, as apposed to the preferred fair skin of ancient Egyptian traditions.
Looking at the bust of Nefertiti, the outside layer has smooth features and goddess like attributes. With the latest discoveries, questions come to mind as to what she really looked like.
Was this change a request of the king? One can only speculate the reasons for the cover up.
Who is Nefertiti?
Little is known about her past, but it is supposed that she married her king at the age of 12 as his primary wife. Her life is mysterious and incomplete because she vanished from history after Akhenaten’s 12th year as pharaoh. Egyptologists believe she either died or reigned as co-regent with her husband and after his death as Pharaoh herself.
She held an unusually high position for various reasons, including her possible influence in the revolutionary monotheistic religion of the Amarna period. The couple’s controversial reign stirred up tension across the region, upsetting high priests and subjects. Akhenaten outlawed Egypt’s long time polytheism and introduced full devotion to the sun disk god.
After discovering a mummy that could be the queen herself, scientists believe outraged subjects may have raided her tomb and disfigured her face. Many Egyptians believed the body needed to be preserved for the after life. Though the mystery of Nefertiti remains unsolved, scientists come closer to solving it and this new discovery is just a step closer to the truth.
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