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Science File

Just 16, She Looks Like a Queen

June 14, 2003|Allison M. Heinrichs | Times Staff Writer

A British Egyptologist sparked a furor among the archeological community this week by proposing that a mummy in the Valley of the Kings was that of Queen Nefertiti, one of the most powerful female rulers of the ancient world.

Suspecting the mummy's royal identity after investigating a Nubian-style wig found near the body, Joann Fletcher, a British Egyptologist, began to look for other clues. She found that the mummy's double-pierced ears and swan-like neck compared well with carvings of Nefertiti.

But Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and a leading archeologist, disputed Fletcher's evidence, telling Associated Press it's not "good evidence at all." He said that comparing the mummy's face with carvings isn't valid because, during the period Nefertiti is believed to have ruled, "art was idealistic and not realistic."

X-ray images of the mummy's bones may cast further doubt on the identification. The mummy's skeletal structure seems to show that the body is that of a 16-year-old girl. Nefertiti is believed to have been much older when she died.

Willeke Wendrich, an assistant professor of Egyptian archeology at UCLA, said the mummy "certainly doesn't seem to be a grown woman, and Nefertiti bore six children."

A two-hour television program on Fletcher's work is scheduled to air Aug. 17 on the Discovery Channel, which funded the research.

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