Archaeology Odyssey 6:5, September/October 2003

Field Notes

By Steven Feldman

Archaeology Odyssey

Is this Mummy the Wife of Akhenaten?

After subjecting an ancient Egyptian mummy to digital x-ray scanning and forensic analysis, University of York Egyptologist Joann Fletcher has tentatively identified the remains as those of Queen Nefertiti, wife of the “heretic pharaoh” Akhenaten (1352–1336 B.C.).

Nefertiti’s sinuous beauty is captured in a famous limestone bust (below) excavated in 1912 at Tell el-Amarna, the site of the ancient capital of Akhenaten (Amenophis IV). Despite post-mortem blows to the mummy’s face, she seems to resemble the sculpted Nefertiti—with a swan-like neck, aquiline nose and high cheekbones.

For Fletcher, however, the evidence is more than skin deep. She decided to examine the mummy—one of three found in the tomb of Amenophis II (1427–1400 B.C.), Akhenaten’s great-grandfather, in the Valley of the Kings—when she recognized a Nubian-style wig lying near the mummies. These wigs were only worn by royal women during the reign of Akhenaten. Closer examination of the “Nefertiti” mummy revealed that her skull had been shaved and her forehead still retained the clear impression of the brow band worn by royalty.

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