Museum piece #5 – MMA 26.7.767

MMA 26.7.767 A gold stirrup ring probably depicting Akhenaten and Nefertiti as Shu and Tefnut (Metropolitan Museum of Art Online Collection).

MMA 26.7.767 is a gold finger ring from the reign of the well-known Amarna period pharaoh, Akhenaten. The ring probably depicts Akhenaten and his great royal wife, Nefertiti, as the deities Shu and Tefnut.

This ring, together with the various other depictions of the king and queen as Shu and Tefnut, reveals much about Atenism, the new religion that was introduced by Akhenaten. Akhenaten attempted to create a religion in which there was one main god, the Aten. The Aten was the visible form of the sun disk. Other solar deities were still recognised, for example, Re, the sun god, however Akhenaten attempted to eradicate many of the other deities of the Egyptian pantheon.

Shu and Tefnut were the son and daughter of the creator god, Atum, in the Heliopolitan creation myth, and a part of the Ennead, a group of nine gods worshipped at Heliopolis. Together with Atum, the pair created a divine triad. Divine triads were a traditional feature of ancient Egyptian religion, and triads possessing a female element possessed the ability to reproduce. This is demonstrated by the Ennead of the Heliopolitan creation myth – in the triad of Atum, Shu and Tefnut, Shu and Tefnut create Geb and Nut, who then go on to create the next generation of the Ennead. In the Atenist religion, Akhenaten and Nefertiti formed a divine triad with the Aten.

Creation myths were an essential part of the Egyptian worldview. The worldview of any society is the means by which a civilisation can understand their origins, their nature and their relationship to their surroundings, through the perception and interpretation of their reality, in order to gain a greater understanding of the way in which their world works. Creation myths explain the origins of the world and humankind, and assist in the understanding of the way of the world. The also provide a framework of morals, and distinguish between good and evil . With the introduction of Atenism and the attempted eradication of the pantheon of gods, the traditional creation myths had no grounding in the new religion as their creator gods and their offspring were rejected. By representing himself as Shu, and Nefertiti as Tefnut, Akhenaten was able to give himself a main role in creation, highlighting his close association with the Aten, and restore the possibility of creation to the Atenist religion. The divine triad of Aten, Akhenaten, and Nefertiti was equated with that of Atum, Shu, and Tefnut.

Further reading:

Freed, R., D’Auria, S., Y. Markowitz, eds. 1999. Pharaohs of the sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts.

Hornung, E. 2001. Akhenaten and the religion of light. Ithace and London: Cornell University Press.

Reeves, N. 2005. Egypt’s false prophet, Akhenaten. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

te Velde, H. 1971. “Some remarks on structure of the Egyptian divine triads.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 57, 80-86.


17 comments on “Museum piece #5 – MMA 26.7.767

  1. Beautiful and evocative – thanks for posting this!

  2. The Queen on the ring is not Nefertiti at all , it is her mother Queen Ti who wears the double plumed crown which nefertiti did not wear.

    • That is an interesting theory but you are forgetting the very early Amarna style of art. In this depiction of Akhenaten, Nefertiti and two of the daughters adoring the Aten, Nefertiti is depicted wearing the double plumed crown:

  3. Honestly you are confusing the two queens, Queen Ti also had two daughters to AkhenAten and also two sons I,E TutAnkh, Neferneferu, Metryt and Meket Aten and it is Queen Ti who is worshipping the aten with MerytAten (Maya Ti) and MeketAten (KiYa) aka MerytAten Junior.

    • I’m sorry but I don’t agree. And neither do scholars.

      Nefertiti is named in the inscription on the stela that I gave you the link for – it is her that is depicted, not Tiye. Tiye was Akhenaten’s mother – are you confusing her with his other wife, Kiye? It is she who is believed to be the mother of Tutankhamun.

      Either way, it is Nefertiti that is named and depicted on the stela, wearing the double plumed crown.

  4. Kiye or Kiya is Tut’s younger sister aka Meketaten who married her father and died about 8 to 9 years old ,as he is older there is no way she gave birth to him, and I’m not sure those are nefertiti’s cartouches on the stelae as I see (1) little Meketaten (Kia), Merytaten (Mayati) Queen Ti and Akhenaten in this stelae and believe Nefertiti to be much taller than Queen Ti who is really short in comparison? Thank you though for the knowledge of this ring (y)

    • You’re welcome – can I just ask from where you have taken your information? I have never read anywhere that Kiye is actually Meketaten. I’m interested to know where this theory comes from.

  5. On a block from Maru Kiya is the Kings bodily daughter, Merytaten junior and on a block from Hermopolis she is the King’s bodily daughter born to the King’s wife and again on a stela fragment from the maruaten complex it is confirmed also

  6. I will get back to you about the source I recorded this ages ago and have to think where the source came from as I made many copies of it over the years.

  7. I just found it on the net under the heading Queen Kiya

  8. well when I find that original source I will certainly let you know that info, sorry I just checked it out on the net and thought ‘d let you know 😀

  9. from what i can remember it was on a web page about Akhetaten

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