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Le 23 avril 2019 ‒ Valérie Angenot, professor of art history and specialist in visual semiotics at UQAM, announced the discovery of a new Egyptian queen at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt, held April 12-14 in Alexandria, Virginia.

The discovery was presented several months after the close of the Queens of Egypt exhibition at the Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montreal and during the run of the exhibition King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh in Paris.

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It had been known for fifty years that a queen ascended the throne of Egypt between the death of the pharaoh Akhenaton and the accession of his son, the renowned Tutankhamun (1336 - 1327 BC). The analysis of several pieces from the child-king’s treasure, discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter, revealed that Tutankhamun had usurped a generous portion of the funeral material of this queen named Neferneferuaton Ankhkheperure.

Egyptologists have long disputed the identity of this mysterious queen. Some believed that she was Queen Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaton, self-proclaimed "king" upon the death of her husband; others thought that she was the eldest daughter of Akhenaten, Princess Meritaton. While there were arguments in favour of either of these hypotheses, both presented gray areas.

Through painstaking iconographic analysis, researcher Angenot was able to demonstrate that not one, but two of the daughters of Akhenaton sat on the throne after the death of their father. Their little brother Tutankhamun, then four or five years old, was too young to assume the reins of power.

Tutankhamun’s sisters on the throne.

Akhenaton, who had fathered six daughters and, later in life, a son with a delicate constitution, had married his eldest daughter, Meritaton, to prepare her for the succession and to legitimize her. Certain epigraphic documents seem to indicate that he then conferred power on a second daughter, Neferneferuaton Tasherit as "king" of Egypt. The two women would have ascended to the throne together upon his death, under a joint coronation, thus causing considerable confusion among Egyptologists.

Professor Angenot explained that certain sculptures of anonymous royal heads identified as relating to Akhenaton or Nefertiti are in fact portraits of the princesses. This is the case of a particularly fine head with female features preserved at the Kestner Museum in Hanover, Germany, and previously identified as a "young Akhenaton", although dated stylistically to the end of his reign.

The UQAM art historian noted the resemblance of this statue’s features to those of the magnificent brown quartzite head in the Berlin Museum, found in the same sculptor's studio as the famous bust of Nefertiti. Other statues of princesses, including an ushabti, a funerary statuette identifying Queen Nefertiti, and statuettes from Tutankhamun’s treasure also have features matching those of the royal head in Hanover.

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Comparison of the Hanover royal head and the princess head, Berlin ÄM 21223, using the Formwerk 3D model created by generalist Eik Jagemann. Other than the eyes, which were treated differently to receive inlays, the general shape of the face, the chin, the lips and the nose are a perfect match.

The hypothesis of two Queen Pharaohs on the throne of Egypt, never before considered by Egypt specialists, casts a new light on a number of artifacts that have been the subject of debate for nearly a century. The key figures on a stele in the Berlin Museum, for example, have been identified in turn as Akhenaton reigning with a male co-regent; Akhenaton and his father Amenhotep III; and Akhnaton and his wife Nefertiti raised to the rank of "king".

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Two women reigned on the throne
Using semiotic analysis of Egyptian gestures, Professor Angenot discovered that the act of "caressing the chin" depicted on the stele appears in the Egyptian iconographic repertoire only for the daughters of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. She also demonstrated, through the concepts of intericonicity and citation in art, that the Berlin stele attempts to transpose the princesses’ traditional iconography into a royal context. This led to the conclusion that the two Egyptian princesses had indeed ruled simultaneously as "pharaohs".

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This UQAM discovery thus relaunches the debate, which had been stalled for years, as to the identity of Akhenaton’s mysterious female successor(s). It would seem that Nefertiti has now been ruled out in favour of his two daughters.

Family photos

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Bust of Nefertiti, mother of the two queens, discovered in the workshop of the sculptor Thutmose at Tell el-Amarna, Berlin ÄM 21.300

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Plaster model of King Akhenaton, father of the two queens, discovered in the workshop of the sculptor Thutmose at Tell el-Amarna, Berlin ÄM 21.451

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Stylized faces of the two queens, possibly Meritaton on the left and Neferneferuaton on the right, on statuettes looted by Tutankhamun, Cairo Museum JE 60715 and JE 60710 (photograph ©Marie Grillot)

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Bust depicting Princess Meritaton, Louvre Museum E 14.715 (photograph©Marie Grillot)

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Funeral mask of Tutankhamun, brother of the two queens, stolen from one of them, Cairo Museum JE 606672

 

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Source
Julie Meunier, Press Relations Officer
Press Relations and Special Events Division
UQAM Communications Service
Phone: 514 987-3000, extension 1707
meunier.julie@uqam.ca

 

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