Ancient Egyptian Queens - Ahmose Nefertari
The Second Intermediate Period and the Hyksos Invaders
Was Queen Ahmose Nefertari the mother of Ancient Egypt's glittering 18th dynasty? The 17th dynasty in Ancient Egypt was a time of turmoil and conflict. It was a time in Egypt known as the Second Intermediate Period when Lower Egypt was ruled by a group of invaders called the Hyksos, who were an Asiatic people. They were also known as ‘the Shepherd Kings" or "Desert Princes." It was the Hyksos that introduced the chariot and the horse into Egypt. The Hyksos had initially infiltrated the Eastern Delta and created their capital at Avaris. They extended their rule as far as Middle Egypt, but never gained control of Lower Egypt which remained under the control of the Kings in Thebes. It was the last couple of these Theban Kings of the 17th dynasty who went to war and expelled the Hyksos invaders. But one of the truly remarkable things about this period is some of the strong and talented women who helped to rule the country and defeat the invaders,
Birth & Family of Ahmose Nefertari
One of these women was Queen Ahmose Nefertari, who was known as the mother of the 18th dynasty. She lived between 1550-1525 BC and was the daughter of Pharaoh Sequenenre Tao II and Queen Ahhotep I. Her father Sequenenre Tao II was probably killed in battle as his mummy has evidence of severe head wounds. Sequenenre Tao II and Queen Ahhotep I also had two sons who both became Pharaohs, Kamose and Ahmose I.
Ahhotep I assumed the Regency on the death of Kamose as Ahmose I was still too young to rule alone. She was celebrated as a warrior as is shown by the golden flies of honour found in her tomb, and helped Kamose and then Ahmose to finally drive the Hyksos out of Egypt. Ahmose Nefertari married her brother Ahmose I, as was customary in the Egyptian Royal Family at that time.
Titles of Queen Ahmose Nefertari
The royal couple had several children including the future Pharaoh Amenhotep I, and the Princesses Mutnofret, Ahmose Meritamen and Sitamen. Ahmose-Nefertari and her husband Ahmose I ruled together for twenty-five years and Ahmose I is the first Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.
Ahmose Nefertari was lauded on inscriptions throughout Egypt from Sai to Tura. She held many important titles and her husband Ahmose I bought for her the title of Second Prophet of Amen and gave it to his wife along with lavish gifts.
The title of Second Prophet of Amen carried with it responsibility for all of the temple properties, administration of the estates, the administrative staff, workshops, and treasuries. This is known from the so-called ‘Donation Stela’ at Karnak, but there is debate as to whether or not the queen ever accepted the title. However, she kept the gifts and these endowments may then have been passed on to her title of God’s Wife. She set up a college of temple musicians and singers with some of the land and the staff.
The title of God’s Wife was the most important one that she held, and she was the first living woman to be known as ‘Gods Wife of Amen’. This title of God’s Wife went on to be a hereditary title only held by Royal women and the Gods Wife was the highest ranking priestess in the temple of Amen at Karnak. The God’s Wife wielded considerable political influence and would have closely worked with Pharaoh in temple rituals and festivals. Of all her titles, God’s Wife seems to be the one Queen Ahmose Nefertari preferred to use the most.
Queen Ahmose Nefertari and Pharaoh Ahmose I
She is also thought to have been involved with Ahmose I’s building projects and her name appears at the alabaster quarries of Assiut and the limestone quarries at Memphis. In addition on a stele found at Abydos, the inscription states that Ahmose I asked for her approval before he erected it in honour of his grandmother Queen Tetisheri.
She was also prolific in giving offerings to temples and the listed ritual offerings at the temples by Queen Ahmose Nefertari have been found in the temples of Karnak, Abydos, Deir-el-Bahri and Serabit-el-Kadim in Sinai.
When her husband Ahmose I died, she became Regent and ruled with her young son Pharaoh Amenhotep I. Ahmose I had probably been around 10 when he succeeded to the throne and reigned for 25 years, which is corroborated by his mummy which shows him to be around 35 years old when he died.
During her regency with Amenhotep I, they inaugurated the workman’s village at Deir el-Medina on the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor. There is a temple at Deir el-Medina dedicated to Amenhotep I and Queen Ahmose Nefertari. It stands on the terrace above the Ptolemaic temple enclosure.
The Deified Queen Ahmose Nefertari
Both were deified by the villagers after their deaths, and were the focus of the religious life of the village. Amenhotep I was known a ‘Lord of the Village’.
The joint cult of Ahmose Nefertari and Amenhotep I lasted until the late Ramesside period and more than 50 tombs of private individuals in the Theban necropolis have inscriptions that include the queen's name.
The deified king had many feast days during the year when the temple priests would carry his statue in procession.
The deified Amenhotep I was called upon to resolve disputes particularly those involving property. The King’s statue responded either positively or negatively to the question presented. Little remains of the original, small temple and many of the surrounding walls are later additions. Numerous statutes of the royal mother and son have been found at the site.
Ahmose Nefertari is almost always depicted with black skin. This could be for several reasons, one of which was that she was actually of Nubian origin. However, it could also be that she was shown in images with dark skin as a symbol of her fertility and to emphasise her position as the mother of Egypt.
Egypt was also called Kem ‘the black land’ and the colour black in Egypt was associated with fertility, rebirth, death, and Egypt herself. Also, the god Amen was often shown with black skin. The colour black represented new life to the Egyptians. She is generally depicted wearing the vulture headdress of Nekhbet.
The Death of Queen Ahmose Nefertari
She lived to be a very elderly woman by Ancient Egyptian standards where the average age of death was 25. She appears to have outlived her son Amenhotep I, who ruled alone for a further 21 years after the end of the Regency period. She is known to have still been alive in the first years of Amenhotep I’s successor Thutmosis I.
Queen Ahmose Nefertari was probably buried in the royal cemetery of the 17th Dynasty at Dra Abu el-Naga on the West Bank at Luxor, although the exact position of her tomb is unknown. Her mummy and gigantic outer coffin found its way into the royal mummy cache tomb DB 320 and is now located in the Cairo museum.
The mummy of Queen Ahmose Nefertari shows that she was around 65 when she died. Her mortuary temple, known as the ‘men-set’, was built in the vicinity of Dra Abu el-Naga and was probably not too far from her tomb. The ‘men-set’ contained a statue of the queen that was covered in black bitumen and was designed to be carried in procession by the priests. This seems to be the image that inspired all the other black images of Queen Ahmose Nefertari from that time on.
Her mummy does not confirm that she actually did have black skin, although she did have well-worn teeth and a balding scalp at the time of her death. In death, she was worshiped as ‘Lady of the West’ and ‘Mistress of the Sky’. Her high status in death was equal to her unusually high status in life, and she was revered by the Ancient Egyptians for generations.
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