Nefertiti, great royal wife of Amenhotep IV (better known by the name he adopted later in life, Akhenaten), is one of history's most recognized mysterious figures. Glowing passages describe her radiance, like the one found engraved on a stela at Amarna, Egypt, that said: "The leading woman of all the nobles, great in the palace, perfect of appearance, beautiful in the double plume, the mistress of joy who is united with favor, whose voice people rejoice to hear, great wife of the king, his beloved, the great mistress of the two lands— Neferneferuaten, Nefertiti, granted life for ever, and for eternity!"
Her husband radically changed Egypt, transforming its polytheistic state religion to the worship of one deity, the solar disk Aten. He also moved the Egyptian capital to a new city he built named Akhetaten, meaning “horizon of the god Aten.” Akhenaten’s revolution was short-lived: Egypt would return to its old faith after his reign. His successors tried to erase his name and legacy. His capital was abandoned, and artworks featuring his likeness and name—and that of his family, including Nefertiti—were defaced. Their legacy would stay buried for millennia.
Although the description of Queen Nefertiti is no doubt embellished, the claim that she was beautiful, “perfect of appearance,” seems to be borne out by the depictions of her that have survived to today. One work of art in particular has become emblematic of female beauty. After more than three millennia in obscurity, its discovery, in the early 20th century, brought Nefertiti world renown.