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Who was Nefertiti’s Mother?

Bust of Gods Father Ay
God's Father Ay, Nefertiti's Father and Later Pharoahh

The Tutankhamun Family Project[i], and the work of Kate Phizackerly[ii], has provided strong support for the identification of Ay as Nefertiti’s father[iii], but there is no conclusive proof of the identity of her mother. However, the genetic markers that suggest her daughters may be genetically very similar to Tiye’s daughters[iv] add weight to the idea that she maybe, not only a cousin of Akhenaten on her father’s side, but her mother’s as well. For this to be true she must have been granddaughter of Thutmose IV.

Is there any evidence to support such an identification? There is, but it is circumstantial at best and unless some conclusive additional evidence comes to light, we may never know for certain who her mother was. What follows is speculative, however the available evidence is supportive of such a possible identification.

Kate Phizackerly’s paper provides the genetic markers for Nefertiti, derived from the information provided by the Tutankhamun

Genetic Markers for Nefertiti and Akhenaten, Phizackerly 2010

Family Project and suggests that the mother of Tutankhamun was most likely to be one of Nefertiti’s daughters, rather than one of Tiye’s. To make this identification possible, Nefertiti’s daughters and their aunts (Tiye’s daughters) must have very similar DNA markers. To make this even possible, Nefertiti’s father must be Tiye’s youngest brother, the God’s Father (and later Pharaoh) Ay. However, if Nefertiti were also a granddaughter of Thutmose IV, like her husband Akhenaten, then it provides even stronger support for the idea that the genetic markers of the Younger Lady in KV35 could be either a daughter of Tiye and Amenhotep III or a daughter of Nefertiti and Akhenaten.

It was the striking resemblance between Thutmose mummy in profile and Nefetitit’s iconic bust that first made me think she might be a granddaughter of his, both have the same swanlike neck and a very

Comparison of profiles of Nefertiti and Thutmose IV
Nefertiti and Thutmose IV

similar profile. His nose is squashed by the mummification process, but otherwise their profiles are very similar.

Nefertiti’s title of Hereditary Princess indicates that she is of royal descent, but not a Kings Daughter. The absence of the Title’s King’s Daughter or King’s Sister, mean that she is not a daughter of Amenhotep and Tiye and therefore not a sibling of Akhenaten. The titles of Hereditary Prince and Princess[v] have been demonstrated to indicate descent from a King, probably to the second or third generation only. Therefore, this implies that Nefertiti is the daughter of a child of Thutmose IV. Since we have identified her Father, we are looking for her mother, one of the daughters of Thutmose IV.

Who might her grandmother have been? Thutmose IV had three Great Royal Wives, one wife and one concubine, that we know of[vi]. These ladies are:

  1. Tiaa, his mother, who served as God’s Wife of Amun and Great Royal Wife

  2. Nefertari, a commoner who served as principle wife and held the title also of Great Royal Wife

  3. Iaret, Kings Daughter, and therefore it is implied, Thutmose Sister, she served as Great Royal Wife from year 7 until the end of his reign. While she is not attested with the Title God’s Wife of Amun, Betsy Bryan suggests that on the basis of her being shown with a mace she may have held this title, as all other God’s Wives of the 18th Dynasty were depicted carrying a Mace. Bryan suggests that Iaret replaced her mother in the role of both Great Royal Wife and God’s Wife for her brother from year 7 onwards.

  4. Mittani Princess, daughter of Artatama. This unknown Princess is never given the title Great Royal Wife, this was a diplomatic marriage.

  5. Mutemwia, a commoner with no titles during Thutmose IV reign, she is Kings Mother in the reign of Amenhotep III. There is an unproven theory that she might be identified with the unnamed Mittani Princess. The other theory is that she is related to Yuya, Tiye’s father and therefore promoted Tiye’s marriage to her son.

As noted in my post on Tut’s Parent’s, the title of Great Royal Wife was a functional or cultic title. And it is proven that there is evidence for more than one lady holding the title at a time. Tiaa (like Meretre [vii] before her), acted as Great Royal Wife and more importantly as God’s Wife of Amun for

Stele of Nefertari and Thutmose IV
Nefertari Chief Wife of Thutmose IV

her son Amenhotep II. There is no implication that this role indicated an incestuous relationship between mother and son. Likewise there is no evidence of an incestuous relationship between Iaret, his sister and Thutmose. It appears from the evidence, that Nefertari was Thutmose chief wife in the fullest sense and that Iaret was raised to that position when Tiaa died to continue the cultic aspects of both roles: GRW and God’s Wife. So the most likely grandmother for Nefertiti is Queen Nefertari, this supposition is reinforced by the similarity in their names.

Which daughter might be Nefertiti’s mother? Thutmose had at least four, and possibly more, daughters. Of the four, the most likely candidate to be Nefertiti’s mother and Ay’s first wife, is Princess Tiaa.  She was most probably Thutmose second daughter, as Amenimpet was shown depicted with a diadem on her head and was therefore most likely the Crown Princess. His other two daughters, Tinetamun and Petepihu probably predeceased him. Further weight is given to her identification as Nefertiti’s mother on the basis that of the four known daughters of Thutmose IV, we know the most about Tiaa, owing to the discovery of the burial label with an extended text and fragments of her canopic jars.

The lable reads “The Kings Daughter, Tiaa, of Menkheprure of the house of the Royal Children: those in her following: the Architect Wekay, the doorkeeper Se, the Doorkeeper Nefruerhat, the embalmer Neferrenpet” The men listed were likely assigned to effect her reburial, indicating that in the 21st Dynasty she was recognised as someone of more importance than her sisters, the men attaching themselves to her in order to win for themselves a chance at eternity.

Fragment of a canopic jar of Princess Tiaa
Fragment of a canopic jar of Princess Tiaa

Princess Tiaa was named for her paternal Grandmother, the Gods Wife Queen Tiaa. Bryan suggests she was born in Shedet (the Fayuum), where her nurse Meryt, wife of Treasurer Sobekhotep (TT63) was from, possibly in her grandmother’s house, as Tiaa the elder, is known to have  associations with Shedet. Bryan also suggests that she grew up at Malqatta, Amenhotep III’s palace at Thebes. She is attested to have lived into Amenhotep’s reign. She was reburied in the 21st Dynasty with other princesses in a Tomb discovered by Rhind in 1862[viii].

Tiaa is the right age and of the right lineage to be given as a wife to Queen Tiye’s favourite brother Ay. Perhaps an indulgence granted by the young Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who was known to be much influenced by his powerful wife, Tiye. Perhaps Tiaa’s subsequent death in childbirth made him reverse this policy later when he quipped to a foreign King who demanded one of his daughters as a wife “From time immemorial no daughter of the King of Egypt is given to anyone.”[ix]

Genealogical Table of Nefertiti's Family
Nefertiti's Family

Nefertiti’s name is a combination of both her proposed Grandmother and Mother Nefertari and Tiaa. It is a unique name. Nefertari is attested for at least three well known New Kingdom Queens: Ahmose Nefertari, Nefertari GRW of Thutmose and Nefertari GRW of Rameses II. Tiaa is a variant of Tiye, Ty, Ty, Ti, Titi, or Tete, which harks back to the founder of the 18th Dynasty royal house Queen Tetesheri. Nefertiti is translated as “A Beautiful Woman has come”.

From the evidence it seems likely that Princess Tiaa died in childbirth. Nefertiti’s wet nurse Ty is known to us as she later married Ay and was his Queen when he became Pharaoh.

In summary, while it cannot be proven, I propose that Nefertiti is a granddaughter (Hereditary Princess) of Thutmose IV, being the daughter of Tiaa, his second daughter by Queen Nefertari. Tiaa was given to the ambitious younger brother of Queen Tiye, Lord Ay as his wife. After her death in childbirth, Ay would go on to marry Nefertiti’s wet nurse Ty. I speculate that Ty’s son Nakhtmin was Nefertiti’s milk brother, he would later become Ay’s heir. Ay and Ty would have another daughter Mutnojme and their family would then be complete. Ay and Ty would outlive two of their three children, if Princess Mutnojme is to be identified with Horemheb’s second wife and Queen of the same name.


[iii] See my Post on Who were King Tut’s parents?

[iv] Op cit

[v] See my Post on Hereditary Princess

[vi] Bryan, Betsy The reign of Thumose IV chapter 3 Kings Wives and Daughters p 93ff

[vii] Meretre acted as Great Royal Wife for her son Amenhotep II and is his only known Queen

[viii] Bryan, Betsy The reign of Thutmose IV p 120-122

[ix] Amarna letter EA4, identified as part of the correspondence between Amenhotep III an Kadashman Enlil, King of Karaduniyas (Babylon).

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