National Geographic : 1970 Nov
could only be slices removed from soaring pillars. Soon we found, scattered through our thousands of talatat photographs, numerous blocks identifi able as components of pillars. We now have matched hundreds of such stones, enough to confirm that at least 28 pillars must have stood in the courtyard of our temple. Decorations on the pillars consisted exclusively of likenesses of Queen Nefertiti and her princesses. These figures-scores and scores of them-com posed an extravagant and splendid exaltation of femininity. The pillars of this particular courtyard bore not a single figure of Akhenaten, nor even any inscriptional mention of him. In fact, nothing mas culine-not a courtier, a fan-bearer, or even a male animal-appears on the pillar blocks. Nefertiti a Power Behind the Throne? Eventually we were able to establish the dimen sions and placement of the pillars. Our Cairo team labored long and patiently to document the paint ing on the preceding pages. Artist Leslie Greener has re-created the moment when Nefertiti first visited the magnificent pillared courtyard that had been erected in her honor. We are compelled to reappraise the stature of Nefertiti. We believe that, while still in her teens, she was recognized with a large courtyard dedi cated exclusively to her person and containing no hint of the existence of her Pharaoh husband. Such a tribute, to our knowledge, was never accorded any other Egyptian queen, before or after Nefertiti. There is strong evidence that Nefertiti held di vine status at an early age. Prayers were addressed to her, indicating that people believed she had the power of granting human requests. Even her nurse, Tey, was called "the great nurse, the governess of the goddess." With intellect to match her beauty, may not Nefertiti conceivably have been a power behind the throne? I am confident that our work will advance this speculation. Studying the blocks from Nefertiti's courtyard, we noticed that defacements were concentrated on blocks in the Chevrier structures. Rarely did we find defacements on other pillar blocks. As Akhenaten's army commander, Horemheb must have worshiped the Aten. Later, as ruler of all Egypt, he probably suffered embarrassment about this religious background. We believe that, to dis tract attention from his past, he staged in the Sec ond Pylon an ostentatious demonstration of his contempt for the discarded order of things. Well and good-but why Nefertiti as a victim? On the collapse of the Aten regime a special stigma quite possibly attached to Nefertiti, perhaps even more strongly than to Akhenaten. Some students 648 Frowning Pharaoh Horemheb (far right) directs the desecration of stones from Nefer titi's courtyard in this painting based on the author's studies. Scratching out the former queen's face and slashing the hands of the Aten, the sun god, precede the ignominious burial of sections from Nefertiti's columns inside the Second Pylon. Horemheb rose to power within 15 years of Akhenaten's death. As a military officer under Akhenaten, he doubtless once worshiped the Aten. Now, with the old gods again in vogue, he may have wished to erase the memory of his early devotion-and express his contempt for the dead queen.