Head of Tutankhamun or Ankhesenamun
This plaster face, dating from the reign of Akhenaten or shortly after his reign ended, is thought to represent a child of the king. The British Museum, where this face resides, has the face archived, identifying it with the likeness of either Tutankhamun or his sister-wife Ankhesenamun.
Ankhesenamun, was one of the six daughters of king Akhenaten and Nefertiti. It is believed Ankhesenamun was born in the Theban Capital, around year 4 of her father’s reign, and later grew up in the then newly established Atenist capital of Akhetaten, founded by her father and mother.
The boy king, Tutankhamun is believed to be the son of king Akhenaten and a currently unknown sister-wife of the king. Although it must be noted that the identity of mummy KV55 as Akhenaten is not entirely agreed upon by all scholars. However, what is known for certain and is accepted by all scholars, is that Tutankhamun and his sister-wife Ankhesenamun both originally had Atenist names, which were later changed once Akhenaten’s Atenist revolution eventually crumbled and Tutankhamun reinstated the Amun pantheon.
Tutankhamun’s original name was Tutankhaten, and Ankhesenamun was originally named Ankhesenpaaten.
It is thought this face was made via moulding technique; a liquid plaster filling the mould and creating a solid face once hardened. The face has a “gritty and pitted” texture due to this process.
During the reign of Akhenaten art took a stylistic approach but also a more realistic approach too and this face resembles many of the plaster casting faces that were discovered within the remains of the workshop of the king’s favourite sculptor named Thutmose. A British Museum curator writes of the piece, “This plaster face documents that the distinctive post-Amarna style that dominated the king’s imagery began to evolve already during these last years of a royal presence at Amarna.“
The style of the sculpture is indicative of Akhenaten’s reign. Similarly to the Middle Kingdom, Akhenaten’s style of portraiture, showcased a human touch to the depiction of the royalty. We saw scenes of the families in candid situations, such as mealtimes, and loving moments sat together beneath the Aten (sun disc) rays. But even in sculpture, this softness of depiction and sense of realism meshed with stylistic ideals remained, making the work from Akhenaten’s reign easy to identify. As the British Museum writes; “Stylistically, there is a restrained sensitivity and sweetly melancholic expression of the youthful face. It has a wing-shaped mouth, small chin, and slanted eyes below sharply accentuated brows.”
After the death of Akhenaten, and the mysterious reigns of Smenkhare and Neferneferuaten seemingly came to an end, Akhensenamun (then Ankhesenpaaten) married her brother king Tutankhamun (then Tutankhaten). Formally changing their names, the pair went on to reinstate the traditional Egyptian religious pantheon. Being so very young, it was likely the priesthood and others helped Tutankhamun with this seemingly necessary revolt against Atenism.
Akhensenamun and Tutankhamun were (according to various artistic depictions) thought to be a loving couple, and they attempted to have children, which sadly resulted in the loss of two female stillborn daughters, both of whom were buried alongside their father in his world-famous tomb (KV52).
From what we know thus far, Akhensenamun was Tutankhamun’s only wife, and was widowed when the Boy King tragically died at around 18 years of age.
Akhensenamun was approximately 21 when she lost her husband Tutankhamun to death. It is not known exactly what happened to her but many theories do arise.
My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband… I am afraid.
What you read above is a translation of a letter dating from the Amarna Period, or Late 18th Dynasty of the Ancient Egyptian Empire, which was discovered at the Ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa (near modern Boğazkale, Turkey, within the great loop of the Kızılırmak River).
An Egyptian queen is pleading with the Hittite king to send her a husband, due to the death of her beloved. She informs the king that a ‘son I have not’, meaning, no heir to the throne. This clearly is worrying her, as no heir to the throne means her claim within the royal powerhouse becomes problematic at best. Possible candidates for the author of the letter are Nefertiti, and Ankhesenamun’s sister Meritaten, but Ankhesenamun remains the most likely candidate due to evidences that tell us she was a widow without children.
The king of the Hittites eventually obliged and sent a prince to marry the widowed Ankhesenamun, however, sadly for Ankhesenamun, he was said to have been murdered at the Egyptian border. From then onward, Ankhesenamun is no longer heard of and a man named Ay then became king. Ay was possibly a great-uncle of Ankhesenamun, as scholars believe he may have been the son of Yuya and Thuya, making him a brother of Queen Tiye (Grandmother of Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun) and Anen.
Plaster face of an Amarna royal, possibly Tutankhamun or his sister-wife Ankhesenamun
New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, c. 1352-1323 B.C.
Formerly part of the von Bissing collection, purchased from an Egyptian peasant [‘fellah’] at Amarna; then exhibited in Amsterdam and Stockholm prior to acquisition by the British Museum. EA65517