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Hello, mummy!

This week’s instalment focusses on one of ancient Egypt’s famous female faces, and follows on from last week’s look at Seqenenre Tao II – we are meeting his daughter, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari.

The mummy of Ahmose-Nefertari (Source: Catalogue General Antiquites Egyptiennes du Musee du Caire: The Royal Mummies, pl. 7).

Ahmose-Nefertari was the daughter of the 17th Dynasty pharaoh, Seqenenre Tao II and his wife, Ahhotep I. She was the sister and Great Royal Wife of Ahmose I, the founder of the 18th Dynasty.

Ahmose-Nefertari and Ahmose I are believed to have had three sons – a stela from Karnak depicts the queen with a son named Ahmose-ankh, and the mummified body of a second son, Siamum, was found in the Deir el-Bahri mummy cache. She is also the mother of Amenhotep I, who later became pharaoh. Another prince named Ramose may also be a son of Ahmose-Nefertari. The queen is known to have given birth to at least two daughters, Ahmose-Meritamun (who later became the wife of her brother, Amenhotep I) and Ahmose-Sitamun. Mutnofret, the wife of Thutmose I, may also be the daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari.

The queen held many titles, including ‘hereditary princess’, ‘great of grace’, ‘great of praises’, ‘king’s mother’, ‘great king’s wife’, ‘god’s wife’, ‘united with the white crown’, ‘king’s daughter’, and ‘king’s sister’, which indicate that she held a prominent place at court. Furthermore, the influential offices of ‘Second Prophet of Amun’ and ‘Divine Adoratrice’ were bestowed upon the queen by Ahmose I.

Posthumous stele of Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari making an offering to Osiris (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

When Ahmose I died and his son Amenhotep I inherited the throne, Ahmose-Nefertari is believed to have served as a regent for the new young king.

Upon her death, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari was deified, as was her son, Amenhotep I, and she was known as “Mistress of the Sky” and “Lady of the West” at Deir el-Medina, where she was worshipped as a patron of the tomb builders. This worshipping of the king and his mother is attested by small statues, stela and the decoration in the workmen’s tombs.

BM EA 37994 Fragment of a painting from the tomb of Kynebu in Thebes; 20th Dynasty, c. 1145 BC (Source: British Museum Online Collection).

Worship of the queen continued for hundreds of years after her death. In the 20th Dynasty tomb of Kynebu, almost 400 years after her death, Ahmose-Nefertari is depicted wearing the vulture headdress of a queen, associated with the goddess, Mut. The cobra on her crown and the flail in her hand also indicate that she holds royal status. She is dressed in typically Ramesside clothing rather than clothing from her own era, and she is depicted with black skin (right). Black skin symbolised new life after death and regeneration to the ancient Egyptians.

The mummy of Ahmose-Nefertari was officially discovered in 1881, and unwrapped in 1885 by Émile Brugsch. The body supposedly emitted an odour so foul that Brugsch had it reburied in the grounds of the Cairo Museum until the smell decreased in intensity.

The enormous coffin of Ahmose-Nefertari (Source: The Theban Royal Mummy Project).

The mummy was found in the queen’s enormous original coffin (left) in the Deir el-Bahri mummy cache – the coffin was so large that it could accommodate the coffin (and mummy) of Ramesses III, which were found inside with the mummy of Queen Ahmose-Nefertari! Four canopic jars belonging to the queen were also found in the mummy cache. Some Egyptologist’s believe that the queen’s coffin was moved to the cache during the 22nd Dynasty reign of Shoshenq I to protect it from tomb robbers. Tomb ANB in west of the necropolis of Dra’ Abu el-Naga’ near Thebes is believed by some to have been the intended tomb of Ahmose-Nefertari and Amenhotep I – fragments of vessels bearing their names have been found in the tomb.

Sadly, the queen’s mummy and the coffin had fallen prey to tomb robbers. The coffin had been stripped of its precious adornments. The mummy had also suffered – both hands and part of the right forearm had been broken off and were missing. The embalming incision, stuffed with linen, was visible due to the removal of the embalming plate, the impression of which could be seen in the resin that covered the incision.

Evidence indicates that the queen was still alive during the reign of Thutmose I. She is depicted with the king and his queen in Nubia. Her name also appears on on a vase fragment found in KV20, with an epithet that indicates that she was alive. Her old age is attested by the her mummy which revealed a balding elderly lady with well-worn teeth. Attempts had been made to conceal her balding, and the queen was adorned with a wig of braided human hair. Other braids were attached directly to the queen’s remaining hair.

The mummy of Ahmose-Nefertari now resides in the Cairo Egyptian Museum.

Further reading: 

Cairo, and G. E. Smith. 1912. Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire. Nos. 61051-61100. The royal mummies. Le Caire: Imprimerie de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale. 13-14; pl. 7 – available from: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/eos/eos_title.pl?callnum=DT57.C2_vol59.

The Theban Royal Mummy Project – Ahmose-Nofretarihttp://members.tripod.com/anubis4_2000/mummypages1/Early18.htm#Ahmose-Nofretari.

Dodson, A. and D. Hilton. 2004. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson.

Grajetzki, W. 2005. Ancient Egyptian Queens: A Hieroglyphic Dictionary. Golden House Publications: London.

Tyldesley, J. 2006. Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson.

Bradbury, L. 1985. ‘Nefer’s Inscription: On the Death Date of Queen Ahmose-Nefertary and the Deed Found Pleasing to the King’. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 22, 73-95.

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