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Queen consort of Egypt
Great Royal Wife
God's Wife of Amun
Queen Ahmose-Nefertari Neues Museum 26042018 2.jpg
Ahmose Nefertari as depicted in tomb TT359
SpouseAhmose I
IssueAmenhotep I
Ramose ?
Mutnofret ?
Dynasty18th Dynasty
FatherSeqenenre Tao
MotherAhhotep I
ReligionAncient Egyptian religion
Ahmose-Nefertari in hieroglyphs

Ahmose Nefertari
Jꜥḥ ms Nfr trj
Born of Iah, the beautiful companion

Ahmose-Nefertari (Ancient Egyptian: Jꜥḥ ms Nfr trj) was the first Great Royal Wife of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. She was a daughter of Seqenenre Tao and Ahhotep I, and royal sister and wife to Ahmose I. Her son Amenhotep I became pharaoh and she may have served as his regent when he was young. Ahmose-Nefertari was deified after her death.


Ahmose-Nefertari was a daughter of Seqenenre Tao and Ahhotep I and the granddaughter of Senakhtenre and queen Tetisheri.[1] Ahmose-Nefertari was born in Thebes, likely during the reign of Senakhtenre Ahmose.[2][3] Ahmose-Nefertari had quite a few siblings and half-siblings, including her future husband Ahmose and King's Son Ahmose Sapair, and her many sisters: Ahmose-Henutemipet, Ahmose-Tumerisy, Ahmose-Nebetta, Ahmose-Meritamon, Ahmose-Henuttamehu, Ahmose, and Ahmose-Sitkamose.[1]

Ahmose-Nefertari may have married Pharaoh Kamose but, if so, there is no record of such a marriage.[2] She did become the great royal wife of Ahmose I, with whom she had at least three sons. She is depicted on a stela from Karnak with a son named Ahmose-ankh and a son named Siamun was reburied in the royal cache DB320. But it was her son Amenhotep I who would eventually succeed his father to the throne. She was also the mother of two daughters who became Royal Wives, Ahmose-Meritamun and Ahmose-Sitamun. She may also have been the mother of Mutnofret, the wife of Thutmose I. A prince named Ramose included among the Lords of the West and known from a statue now in Liverpool, may be another son of Ahmose-Nefertari.[1]


Posthumous stele of Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari making an offering to Osiris.

Ahmose-Nefertari was born during the latter part of the 17th Dynasty, during the reign of her grandfather Senakhtenre Ahmose.[2] Her father Seqenenre Tao fought against the Hyksos and may have lost his life during a battle. He was succeeded by Kamose.[1] It is possible that Ahmose-Nefertari married Kamose, but no evidence exists of such a marriage.[2]

After the death of Kamose the throne went to Ahmose I. Pharaoh Ahmose was very young and queen-mother Ahhotep I served as regent during the early years of his reign. Ahhotep would have taken precedence at court over her daughter Ahmose-Nefertari, who was the great royal wife. Ahmose I became the first king of the 18th Dynasty, and a pharaoh ruling over a reunited country.[2]

Queen Ahmose-Nefertari held many titles, including those of hereditary princess (iryt-p`t), great of grace (wrt-im3t), great of praises (wrt-hzwt), king's mother (mwt-niswt), great king's wife (hmt-niswt-wrt), god's wife (hmt-ntr), united with the white crown (khnmt-nfr-hdjt), king's daughter (s3t-niswt), and king's sister (snt-niswt).[4] However, her preferred title was that of god's wife.[5] The queen was revered as "Goddess of Resurrection" and was arguably the most venerated woman in Egyptian history.[6]

A donation stela from Karnak records how king Ahmose purchased the office of Second Prophet of Amun and endowed the position with land, goods and administrators. The endowment was given to Ahmose-Nefertari and her descendants, though she was the most prominent God's Wife of Amun. Separately the position of Divine adoratrix was also given to Ahmose-Nefertari.[7] Records from a later era indicate that in this position she would have been responsible for all temple properties, administration of estates, workshops, treasuries and all the associated administration staff.[8]

Amenhotep I came to power while he was still young. As his mother, Ahmose-Nefertari may have served as regent for him until he reached maturity.[7][9] Because of her position as regent for her son, some speculate that she started the Valley of the Kings.[10]

Ahmose-Nefertari is shown to be alive during the early years of the reign of Thutmose I. She is depicted in Nubia next to the Viceroy of Kush Ahmose called Turo in the company of the newly crowned king and Queen Ahmose. A vase fragment found in KV20 was inscribed with the double cartouche of king Tuthmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari and the epithet indicates the queen was alive. A large statue of queen Ahmose-Nefertari from Karnak may be one of the last statues created in her honor before she died.[11]

Death and deification[edit]

Presumed mummy of Ahmose-Nefertari, from DB320

Ahmose-Nefertari likely died in approximately the fifth or sixth year of Thutmose I. Her death is recorded on the stela of a wab-priest called Nefer. The text mentions that "the divine consort Ahmose-Nefertari, justified with the great god lord of the West, flew to heaven". Helck proposed that the annual cult holiday (II Shemu 14) dedicated to Ahmose-Nefertari at Deir el-Medina may have commemorated the day of her death. The father of Nefer, who was likely overseer of the royal works Ineni, oversaw her burial.[11]

She was likely buried in Dra Abu el-Naga and had a mortuary temple there. Her mummy is assumed to have been retrieved from her tomb at the end of the New Kingdom and moved to the royal cache in DB320. Her presumed body, with no identification marks, was discovered in the 19th century and unwrapped in 1885 by Émile Brugsch, but this identification has been challenged.[12][a] The mummy emitted such a bad odor that Brugsch had it reburied on museum grounds in Cairo until the offensive smell abated. Ahmose-Nefertari died in her 70s. Her hair had been thinning and plaits of false hair had been woven in with her own to cover this up. Her body had been damaged in antiquity and was missing her right hand.[7] In April 2021 her mummy was moved to National Museum of Egyptian Civilization along with those of 3 other queens and 18 kings in an event termed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade. [14]

When Ahmose-Nefertari died, she was deified and became "Mistress of the Sky" and "Lady of the West".[7][15]


Representation of the deified queen Ahmose-Nefertari, the Great Royal Wife of Ahmose I. From Tomb TT359 at Deir el-Medina, Egypt. Neues Museum
Ahmose-Nefertari, 18th dynasty, Louvre Museum

In the Theban region – and especially in the village of Deir el-Medina – Ahmose-Nefertari is mentioned or depicted in at least 50 private tombs and on a large number of objects which are datable from the reign of Thutmose III to the end of the 20th Dynasty.[9][16]:201–2

In the tomb of Tetyky (TT15), the queen is depicted wearing a brow ornament with two ureaei instead of a double gazelle.[17][18]:11  According to Eaton-Krauss, this is the "earliest occurrence of the double uraeus, which is a standard part of queenly regalia thereafter."[19]

Michel Gitton notes that while in most artistic depictions of the queen, she is pictured with black skin,[18]:84 there are other cases in which she is shown with a pink, golden, blue, or dark red complexion.[18]:74–5 As observed by Gardiner, in some instances Ahmose-Nefertari's skin is blue,[20] a popular color symbolizing fertility, birth, rebirth and life and usually used to depict water and the heavens.[21]

In 1981 Gitton called the issue of Ahmose-Nefertari's black color "a serious gap in the Egyptological research, which allows approximations or untruths".[18]:2 He pointed out that there is no known depiction of her painted during her lifetime (although she is depicted with the same light skin as other depicted individuals in tomb TT15, before her deification); the earliest black skin depiction appears in tomb TT161, circa 150 years after her death.[18]:11–12, 23, 74–5[1]:125 Barbara Lesko wrote in 1996 that Ahmose-Nefertari was "sometimes portrayed by later generations as having been black, although her coffin portrait gives her the typical light yellow skin of women."[22]

Scholars such as Joyce Tyldesley (2006), Sigrid Hodel-Hoenes (2000), and Graciela Gestoso Singer (2011) state that her black or blue skin color is indicative of her role as a goddess of resurrection, since black is the color of death, the underworld, rebirth and fertility, as well as the fertile land of Egypt. According to this view, her black skin was thus symbolic of fertility, as well as "a reference to her position as the mother of Egypt".[7]:90[23][6] In 2003, Betsy Bryan wrote in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt that "the factors linking Amenhotep I and his mother with the necropolis region, with deified rulers, and with rejuvenation generally was visually transmitted by representations of the pair with black or blue skin – both colours of resurrection."[24] In 2004 Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton recognized in a later depiction of the queen, "the black skin of a deity of resurrection" in connection to her role as a patron goddess of the Theban necropolis.[1]:125 In 2009 Emili Vassilika, noting that in a wooden statuette of the queen (now at the Museo Egizio) the face is painted black but the arms and feet are light in color, argued that the reason of the dark complexion was religious and not genetic.[25]:78–9 In 2014, Margaret Bunson wrote that "the unusual depictions of Ahmose-Nefertari in blue-black tones of deification reflect her status and cult."[26] In a wooden votive statue of Ahmose-Nefertari, currently in the Louvre museum, her skin was painted red,[27] a color commonly seen symbolizing life or a higher being, or elevated status.[21]

In the early 20th century, some archaeologists speculated on possible reasons why Ahmose-Nefertari was painted with black skin in some murals.[b] In 1974, Cheikh Anta Diop described her as "typically negroid."[33]:17 In the controversial book Black Athena, the hypotheses of which have been widely rejected by mainstream scholarship, Martin Bernal inferred that Ahmose-Nefertari was black.[c]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ When Brugsch and Gaston Maspero first unwrapped and examined the supposed mummy of Ahmose-Nefertari, they ascribed her to the "white race".[13]
  2. ^ In the early 20th century, Flinders Petrie spoke of "a black queen",[28][29]:9 Ahmose-Nefertari, who was the "divine ancestress of the XVIIIth dynasty". He described her physically as having "an aquiline nose, long and thin, and was of a type not in the least prognathous". He also stated that "a possibility of the black being symbolic has been suggested".[30] In 1925, Norman de Garis Davies observed that the tone of the queen's depicted skin is not always coal-black, but also "a purplish black, reached by painting black over red". He added that, "it might only indicate a very dark complexion, such as now often occurs in Egypt".[31]:33 In 1940, Alan Rowe believed that the queen's black skin tone on some depictions could be traced to African ancestry.[32]:39 In 1961, Alan Gardiner wrote of the paintings of Ahmose-Nefertari that she was "depicted for some unaccountable reason with a black countenance, but also sometimes with a blue one; if she was a daughter of Kamose she will have had no black blood in her veins."[20]
  3. ^ Bernal stated that: "many of the most powerful Egyptian dynasties which were based in Upper Egypt - the 11st, 12th, 18th - were made up of pharaohs whom one can usefully call black." In the same work, he added that, "It is generally, and reasonably, agreed today that if the members of the royal family of the 18th Dynasty were foreign, they were Nubian." According to him, "from their portraits they would seem to have been Blacks."[34]:384 According to historian Christina Riggs, "archaeology, Egyptology and classical scholarship rejected much of Bernal's evidence and, implicitly or explicitly, his central thesis."[35] Lefkowitz and Rogers wrote that, as a consequence of his lack of scholarly method, "Bernal's work has been almost universally rejected by Egyptologists, archaeologists, linguists, historians, and other scholars best acquainted with the material evidence. Most regard it as beyond the boundaries of legitimate scientific inquiry."[36]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dodson, Aidan; Hilton, Dyan (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05128-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e Forbes, Dennis C. Imperial Lives: Illustrated Biographies of Significant New Kingdom Egyptians. KMT Communications, Inc. 1998. ISBN 1-879388-08-1
  3. ^ Sébastien Biston-Moulin, "Le roi Sénakht-en-Rê Ahmès de la XVIIe dynastie", ENIM 5, pp. 61–71, 22 mars/march 2012 [online: [1]
  4. ^ Grajetzki, Ancient Egyptian Queens: A Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Golden House Publications, London, 2005, ISBN 978-0-9547218-9-3
  5. ^ Alameen-Shavers, Antwanisha (2018-05-20). "Not a Trophy Wife: (Re)Interpreting the Position Held by Queens of Kemet During the New Kingdom as a Political Seat". Journal of Black Studies. 49 (7): 647–671. doi:10.1177/0021934718773739. ISSN 0021-9347. S2CID 150017339.
  6. ^ a b Graciela Gestoso Singer, "Ahmose-Nefertari, The Woman in Black". Terrae Antiqvae, January 17, 2011
  7. ^ a b c d e Tyldesley, Joyce. Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2006. ISBN 0-500-05145-3
  8. ^ "The Great Goddesses of Egypt", Barbara S. Lesko, p. 246, University of Oklahoma Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8061-3202-7
  9. ^ a b Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-19-280458-8
  10. ^ Fletcher, Joann (2014). The search for nefertiti : the true story of an amazing discovery. Morrow. ISBN 9780062106360. OCLC 877888764.
  11. ^ a b Louise Bradbury, 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, Vol. 22 (1985), pp. 73-95
  12. ^ The so-called Royal Cachette TT 320 was not the grave of Ahmose Nefertari [2]
  13. ^ Maspero, Gaston (1889). Les momies royales de Deir el-Bahari (in French). Paris. p. 536.
  14. ^ Parisse, Emmanuel (5 April 2021). "22 Ancient Pharaohs Have Been Carried Across Cairo in an Epic 'Golden Parade'". ScienceAlert. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  15. ^ Tyldesley, Joyce (1996). "Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh", p.62, Viking, ISBN 0-670-85976-1.
  16. ^ Grimal, Nicolas (1992). A History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Blackwell Books. ISBN 9780631174721.
  17. ^ Dils, Peter (1989). "Review of Patterns of Queenship in ancient Egyptian Myth and History". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 26: 242–244. doi:10.2307/40000714. ISSN 0065-9991. JSTOR 40000714.
  18. ^ a b c d e Gitton, Michel (1981). L'épouse du dieu, Ahmes Néfertary : documents sur sa vie et son culte posthume (2 ed.). Besançon: Université de Franche-Comté. ISBN 2-251-60172-0 Check |isbn= value: checksum (help).
  19. ^ Eaton-Krauss, M. (1998). "Four Notes on the Early Eighteenth Dynasty". The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. 84: 205–210. doi:10.2307/3822217. ISSN 0307-5133. JSTOR 3822217.
  20. ^ a b Gardiner, Alan H. (1961). Egypt of the Pharaohs: an introduction. Oxford: Oxford University press., p.175
  21. ^ a b Wilkinson, Richard H. Symbol & magic in Egyptian art. New York, N.Y. ISBN 0-500-23663-1. OCLC 30536926.
  22. ^ The Remarkable Women of Ancient Egypt, by Barbara S. Lesko; page 14; B.C. Scribe Publications, 1996; ISBN 9780930548131
  23. ^ Hodel-Hoenes, S & Warburton, D (trans), Life and Death in Ancient Egypt: Scenes from Private Tombs in New Kingdom Thebes, Cornell University Press, 2000, p. 268.
  24. ^ Betsy Bryan; pg 213; The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt; edited by Ian Shaw; OUP Oxford, 2003; ISBN 9780192804587
  25. ^ Vassilika, Emili (2009). I capolavori del Museo Egizio di Torino (in Italian). Florence: Fondazione Museo delle antichità egizie di Torino. ISBN 9788881179503.
  26. ^ Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt; by Margaret Bunson; Pg 17, Infobase Publishing, 2014; ISBN 9781438109978
  27. ^ https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/former-queen-ahmose-nefertari-protectress-royal-tomb-workers-deified
  28. ^ Digital Collections, The New York Public Library. "(still image) Neues Reich. Theben [Thebes]: Der el Medînet [Dayr al-Madînah Site]: Stuckbild aus Grab 10. [jetzt im K. Museum zu Berlin.], (1849 - 1856)". The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  29. ^ Petrie, Flinders (1896). A history of Egypt Vol. II The XVIIth and XVIIIth dynasties.
  30. ^ The Making of Egypt; by William Matthew Flinders Petrie; Sheldon Press; 1939; pg 155
  31. ^ Davies, Norman de Garis (1925). The tomb of two sculptors at Thebes.
  32. ^ Rowe, Alan (1940). "Newly-Identified Monuments in the Egyptian Museum Showing the Deification of the Dead together with Brief Details of Similar Objects elsewhere". Annales du service des antiquités de l'Égypte. 40: 39.
  33. ^ Mokhtar, G. (1990). General History of Africa II: Ancient Civilizations of Africa. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 1-118. ISBN 978-0-520-06697-7.
  34. ^ Martin Bernal (1987), Black Athena: Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785-1985, vol. I. New Jersey, Rutgers University Press
  35. ^ Unwrapping Ancient Egypt; by Christina Riggs; 2014; page 162; Bloomsbury Publishing; ISBN 978-0-85785-498-8
  36. ^ Black Athena Revisited, edited by Mary R. Lefkowitz & Guy MacLean Rogers; pg 292; UNC Press Books, 2014; ISBN 978-1-46962-032-9

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