Queen Nefertari

 

Historical Background

 

Nefertari-merj-em-Mut was the principal queen of Pharaoh Ramses II.

She was married to him before Ramses II succeeded his father Sety I to the throne (c. 1279 BC).

For the next 24 years Queen Nefertari stood by her husband's side. After the 24th year of reign of Ramses II, she disappeared from the historical source texts known to us today. Therefore it is assumed that she died at the age of 40 to 45 years around the year 1255 BC.

She was buried in the tomb QV 66 in the Valley of the Queens, built especially for her. Her tomb is splendidly decorated and is considered one of the most beautiful tombs of ancient Egypt.

Her burial was already plundered in antiquity, the burial equipment stolen or smashed. Remains of gilded coffins, a shattered stone sarcophagus, remains of jewellery with her name and parts of a mummy were found in the rubble.

In 2014 it was decided to investigate whether the mummy remains were really the remains of this famous queen or not.

The team:

  • Michael E. Habicht,

  • Raffaella Bianucci,

  • Stephen A. Buckley,

  • Joann Fletcher,

  • Abigail S. Bouwman,

  • Lena M. Öhrström,

  • Roger Seiler,

  • Francesco M. Galassi,

  • Irka Hajdas,

  • Eleni Vassilika,

  • Thomas Böni,

  • Maciej Henneberg,

  • Frank J. Rühli

Copyright: Maler der Grabkammer der Nefertari, Maler der Grabkammer der Nefertari 004, Creative Commons, details on Wikimedia Commons

The investigation of her remains

 

Copyright: © 2016 Habicht et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

The Egyptian Museum in Turin (Italy) is the home for remains attributed to Queen Nefertari since they were found in the debris of her tomb in the Valley of the Queens (QV 66) in 1904.

 

Our international team had the opportunity to investigate them for the first time scientifically in February 2014. 

X-ray and sampling for chemistry, radiocarbon dating was done.

The results were published in November 2016:

Habicht ME, Bianucci R, Buckley SA, Fletcher J, Bouwman AS, Öhrström LM, et al. (2016) Queen Nefertari, the Royal Spouse of Pharaoh Ramses II: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Mummified Remains Found in Her Tomb (QV66). PLoS ONE 11(11): e0166571. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166571

The diagnosis

 

The anthropological investigation revealed the following:

 

  • All epiphyses are fused, which implies that the remains belong to an adult individual.

  •  Minimal osteoarthrosis or osteopaenia are considered, then the eventuality that the individual underwent minimal physical labour as a consequence of a high status

  • There might be a calcification in the arteriae tibiales, possibly caused by arteriosclerosis or media calcinosis (Mönckeberg’s sclerosis)

  • The age was assessed to be c. 40 - 50 years of age

  • The gracility of the bones point to a female individual

All evidence found supports the identification as Queen Nefertari.

 

Copyright: © 2016 Habicht et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Radiocarbon dating

Copyright: © 2016 Habicht et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

At first glance, the radiocarbon dating showed surprisingly high values. These completely exclude secondary burial from later times.

 

The phenomenon that Egyptian mummies date 150 to 200 years older than they should according to historical sources is a systematic and well-known phenomenon.


The cause of the phenomenon is unclear. Substances of embalming, the eating of fish during one's lifetime may play a role. In addition, the new calibration curve IntCal19 has changed the dating in the New Kingdom.

 
 

Reconstruction of her stature

It was quite difficult to reconstruct her stature.

By comparing proportions with other leg bones from antiquity, Prof. Maciej Henneberg estimated a body height of 165 cm.

In the rubble a pair of sandals was found, which the queen probably wore during her lifetime, because foot and toe marks are visible. Based on these data, Dr. Michael Habicht determined with forensic formula a (modern) shoe size of 39 (Europe) which fits a woman of c. 165 cm height.

Copyright: © 2016 Habicht et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Short video sequence how the legs of Queen Nefertari were X-rayed in the museum.

 

The bones are considered sacred in Turin and were never allowed to leave the museum. Therefore, a portable X-ray machine was used. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the museum director Eleni Vassilika for her support.

Copyright: ME Habicht (2014). Uploaded on:

https://www.facebook.com/michael.e.habicht/

 

Global media response

The world media loved the result and over 100 reports were published in late 2016 and through 2017

By clicking on the example picture you will get to the media page where the most important articles are listed.

The Nile Magazine listed the discovery of Nefertari's remains as one of the top 5 discoveries of the Year

2016 Lifescience Nefertari.JPG
 

The Mystery

Some questions could not be answered conclusively even in the multidisciplinary study.
The genetics revealed highly contaminated mummy remains and there are no known mummies related to Nefertari.
Their origin lies in the dark. An object from her grave is often used as an argument to postulate her as a descendant (daughter or granddaughter) of Pharaoh Ay.

Finally, we don't know why the chest button with the throne name Kheper-Kheperu (Pharaoh Ay) was found in her grave treasure. To construct a family connection from this is very daring and was therefore described by our study as a mystery that could perhaps be solved in the future.

Copyright: © 2016 Habicht et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Further research

Although from an archaeological and medical point of view all questions were answered that are possible with this material, the legs of the Queen 2019 were re-examined by the Americans. Their preliminary results did not provide any new information.


The rule that Queen Nefertari's bones are so sacred that they were not allowed to leave the museum in Turin seems to no longer apply, as the mummy remains are sent on a world tour.
The exhibition of mummies from ancient Egypt is ethically rather problematic, since the Egyptians themselves never intended such an exhibition (hence the coffins, sarcophagi and closed tombs to hide the mummies).

 
 

For any media inquiries, please contact:

Medienanfragen bitte via folgende Adresse:

michael.habicht[at]flinders.edu.au 

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