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Ancient Egypt

Nefertiti Mummy Found

Edited from BBC News, 10 June 2003

Scientists in Egypt announced in 2003 that they may have discovered the mummy of Queen Nefertiti, one of the most famous figures of ancient Egypt.

A group of scientists believed that she was one of three mummies to be discovered in a secret chamber of a tomb known as KV35 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in Luxor. The tomb was originally located and catalogued in 1898, but the mummies were sealed up and apparently forgotten, until scientists drilled through to the room.

There was a very strong possibility that this was in fact the great female Pharaoh Nefertiti herself, according to British mummification expert, Joann Fletcher. She led the expedition which was sponsored by the Discovery Channel. The whereabouts of the remains of Nefertiti, perhaps the most powerful woman in ancient Egypt, had for many years been one of archaeology's most enduring mysteries.

However, critics were quick to point out that without DNA evidence to verify the claims, it was unlikely to be the remains of the queen (or, in translation, even if they were, such a claim would not be accepted).

'Heretic' couple

Queen Nefertiti, along with her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten, ruled between 1352-1334 BC during the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egyptian rulers. Virtually all traces of the queen and her 'heretic' husband were erased after his unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the pantheon of Egyptian gods and replace worship of them with the sun god Aton, in one of the earliest known practices of monotheism.

Ms Fletcher said that she became interested in the mummy after identifying a wig which had been found by three mummies which were catalogued by scientists. It was a Nubian-style wig favoured by royal women in the 18th Dynasty. Further examination of the mummy in the side room revealed that the remains of the younger woman had a doubled-pierced ear lobe, shaven head, and the clear impression of the tight-fitting brow-band worn by royalty.

Wishful thinking?

The mummy - which had been defaced and mutilated - also had an arm removed, which was found in its wrappings, bent at the elbow, a possible sign that it had originally held a royal sceptre. The other two mummies, a teenage boy and an older woman, had not yet been identified.

Other scientists expressed the usual doubts that the remains could be that of the famous queen. They claimed that physical evidence known and published prior to this expedition indicated the unlikelihood of it being the mummy of Nefertiti, according to Egyptologist Susan James. Without any comparative DNA studies, statements of certainty were merely wishful thinking, she claimed.

  Physical evidence known and published prior to this expedition indicates the unlikelihood of it being the mummy of Nefertiti

Egyptologist Susan James  


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