Thursday, 19 May 2005

The Legend of Nefertiti

Ancient bust of Nefertiti
Computer reconstruction of Nefertiti's face from skull

Queen Nefertiti of Ancient Egypt, was said to be one of the most beautiful women of her time. Much of the details of her life are shrouded in mystery as are the circumstances of her death and where indeed her mummy was burried.

She was the wife of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who later on called himself Akhenaten. Her name means "the beautiful one has come", which makes archaeologists wonder whether she had actually come to Egypt from elsewhere and was not Egytian at all. Others say she was the daughter of the nobleman Ay, who later became Pharaoh himself. No matter what her genealogy was, Nefertiti became a legend.

When her husband, after 4 years on the throne, decided to start worhiping the Aten a new god whose sympbol was the sun-disk, dismiss all other gods and moved the capital to the middle of the desert, building there a new city called Amarna, that really rubbed the priests of Amon up the wrong way. The royal couple made many enemies as they had brazenly changed the status quo in the most dramatic and unconformist way possible.
There is evidence to suggest that they reigned as co-rulers, something which really broke tradition as it was almsot unheard of at that point for a woman to be Pharaoh as well. In being Pharaoh, Nefertiti was also the most powerful as well as teh most beautiful woman of her time.

Shortly after the 14th year of their reign, Nefertiti's name dissapears from historical records and we can only assume that she died. However, there are those who believe that she reigned as Pharaoh under the name Smenkhare.

In June 2003 scientists led by Joann Fletcher from York University, claimed they had found the mummy of Nefertiti. However opinions on this matter remain divided. (See links below)


ResoluteReader said...

I'll say opinions are divided! Funny how the discover channel articles don't mention that Joan Fletcher was accused by Zahi Hawass, head of Egypts Supreme Council of Antiquities of pushing theory as fact.

He also said "the British team violated a contract that obligates archaeologists to announce any discoveries through the council and not independently."

You can read him here.

A pretty damning quote comes from Dr. Rosalie David in the same article. David writes

"Apart from electron microscopy of a head-louse found within one of the hairpieces that Joan Fletcher was studying, there was no specific scientific content to the research or the thesis. The electron microscopy was carried out by the university's electron microscopy unit (not by Joan Fletcher herself) and she was allowed to use the results in her thesis... Joan Fletcher received no training in anthropology or biomedical Egyptology or any other scientific techniques related to human remains, she was never involved in any of the work or research undertaken by the Manchester Egyptian Mummy Project, and indeed she showed no interest in the anthropological and biomedical research on the mummies that were undertaken at that time."

It would seem to me that in the rush to make a TV program and announce sensational information, proper academic procedures were neglected.

Alterior said...

I saw that Dicsovery Channel documentary last night on Channel Five. It was indeed sensationalist and annoying as bits of information and specific phrases were repeated over and over again, as if they assumed the viewer is suffering from Alzeheimer's disease or something and cannot remember what the thing he/she is watching is about! Obviously tv producers have a very low opinion of viewers, feeling that they have a very short attention span and deserve to be treated thus...

I thought there was something strange about Fletcher and when I foudn out that she is a hair expert and not an Egyptologist I started to wonder. She struck me as someone who was too passionate about her subject, hence not considering all the available facts. Her methods were not very scientific as she came to a conclusion on the basis of an assumption and then in the end had to admit, most humiliatingly, that there is no real evidence to indicate that this mummy is indeed that of Nefertiti. I felt like I had wasted my time watching this..

ResoluteReader said...

I suspect you probably had wasted your time :-)

Alterior said...

No point crying over spilt milk now... :-)))

Light said...

Egyptian history freaks me out; I have a hard time dealing with the idea of a culture that was as ancient to the Romans as the Romans are to us today.

Alterior said...

Try this: The first dynasty in Egypt was in 3,100 B.C., by 2,613 B.C. the Step Pyramid of Djoser had been built and by 2,494 B.C. the Great Pyramid of Khufu (known as the Great Pyramid of Giza) had been built and the great temples at Luxor and Carnak had been built by 1,213 B.C.

Freaky isn't it...


Anonymous said...

There is a famous quote about the importance of history:

"To not know what happened before you were born is to forever be a child"

Beck's life said...

I'd say the bust of Nefertiti and the skull from which the computer reconstruction is based are two very different-looking women.

The bust looks to be of a woman from the East, which would explain her name - "the beautiful one has come" - which you say has made archaeologists wonder whether she had come to Egypt from elsewhere.

The skull looks to be North African... possibly Egyptian, of course, possibly from a nearby country.

Both are very beautiful, but with very different types of features, showing very different genetic origins.

Ketutar said...

Well... considering that
- Discovery channel is very a commercial channel focusing on popular science, which is very populistic
- Hawaz is an idiot
- amateur archaelogists from different areas of life have made discoveries earlier, not appreciated by "real" achaeologists. Just think about Heinrich Schliemann. I think the world is too focused on papers and rules and "this is the way we have always done it".

Now we know the mummy was not Nefertiti, but Nefertiti's sister-in-law, but that's pretty close for a "hairdresser" I think :-D

Nevertheless, Nefertiti is an interesting person.