Owner of Mummified Legs Likely to Be Nefertari, Favorite Queen of Ramses II

Owner of Mummified Legs Likely to Be Nefertari, Favorite Queen of Ramses II


They are not very pretty to look at now, but a pair of mummified legs are now believed to have belonged to a much sought after queen of ancient Egypt who had been buried in an elaborate and beautifully decorated tomb in the Valley of Queens.

Queen Nefertari was the favorite wife of ancient Egyptian monarch, Ramses II, as indicated by the wealth and beauty of her tomb. A pair of mummified legs were found in her tomb in 1904, however, researchers were never sure if they belonged to her as they could have come from a second occupant in the tomb. New research published in the Journal PLOS One has tentatively identified them as hers.

Nefertari is famous for her elaborate tomb and her possible royal ancestry and lineage from King Ay, who could have been either her father or grandfather. She was the second wife of Pharaoh Ramses II, wed to him when he was still crown prince under his father Sety I. Ramses II went on to marry three of his and Nefertari’s daughters.

PLOS One explains:

“Based on the legible/decipherable inscriptions on a fragment of a faience knob head or pommel found in her tomb, speculations were raised,” says the article, written by Michael E. Habicht and a team of medical, scientific and archaeological academics. “The item carries the throne name ‘Kheper-Kheperu-Ra’ and, is, therefore, connected with King Ay, who ruled Egypt for a few years after Tutankhamun. However, Nefertari did not carry the title ‘Daughter of a King’, which suggests that she was probably not from the main royal line.”

The faience knob head that states the throne name of Kheper-Kheperu-Ra or King Ay, possible grandfather of Nefertari. This knob head was found in her elaborate tomb that was looted in antiquity.

The faience knob head that states the throne name of Kheper-Kheperu-Ra or King Ay, possible grandfather of Nefertari. This knob head was found in her elaborate tomb that was looted in antiquity. (PLOS One photo)

The article states that the mummified legs dated back to around 1250 BC, and belong to an individual who died at around 40 years of age.  They were found alongside artifacts that “robustly support the burial of Queen Nefertari”.

Nefertari, a consort, had eight children – four sons and four daughters. Her sons were preferred to Queen Isisnofret’s for succession, but the crown went to Isisnofret’s son Merenptah.

Queen Nefertari attended the opening ceremony of Abu Simbel in the 24th years of her husband’s reign, around 1255 BC. Thereafter, she disappeared from mention. She did not attend the large festival to mark Ramses’ 30th year as king and probably died around his 25th year as king. She likely lived to about 40 to 50 years.

After her death, Ramses II married three of the daughters he fathered with Nefertari: Bint-Anat, Merytamun and Nebettau, the article states.

Nefertari, in a relief at Abu Simbel, is shown the same size as her husband, Ramses II, to show her important status in his New Kingdom reign.

Nefertari, in a relief at Abu Simbel, is shown the same size as her husband, Ramses II, to show her important status in his New Kingdom reign. (PLOS One photo)

The aim of the team’s research was to answer a question that has long simmered in Egyptology: Are these the legs of Queen Nefertari?

The researchers concluded they likely were, but there were still other hypotheses:

  • They were the remains of one of her daughters. Likelihood: considerably low because her daughters had their own tombs in the Valley of Queens.
  • They were the remains of a secondary burial of another personage from the 3rd Intermediate Period. Sometimes tombs were reused. Conclusion: unlikely.
  • The remains washed in from another burial. Conclusion: not likely as this tomb was higher than those around it.

The legs and some of her things are on display at the Museo Egizio Turin, or the Egyptian Museum of Turin in Italy, where some of the researchers are from.

Top image: Mummified legs found in Queen Nefertari’s tomb, possibly those of the queen herself, recent research shows. Her tomb, which had been looted centuries before, was opened in the Valley of Queens in 1904. A scholarly debate has been simmering since about whom the legs belonged to.

By Mark Miller

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Denisova cave, some 150 km (93 mi) south of the city of Barnaul, is the only source of Denisovan's remains. Pictures: The Siberian Times
The distance from the only currently known home of the Denisovans in Altai region to the nearest point of Australia is roughly akin to the length of the Trans-Siberian railway, and yet it is looking increasingly likely that these ancient species of humanoids somehow made this epic journey deep in pre-history, perhaps 65,000 years ago.

Myths & Legends

A vase-scene from about 410 BC. Nimrod/Herakles, wearing his fearsome lion skin headdress, spins Noah/Nereus around and looks him straight in the eye. Noah gets the message and grimaces, grasping his scepter, a symbol of his rule - soon to be displaced in the post-Flood world by Nimrod/Herakles, whose visage reveals a stern smirk.
The Book of Genesis describes human history. Ancient Greek religious art depicts human history. While their viewpoints are opposite, the recounted events and characters match each other in convincing detail. This brief article focuses on how Greek religious art portrayed Noah, and how it portrayed Nimrod in his successful rebellion against Noah’s authority.

Human Origins

Sumerian creation myth
Sumer , or the ‘land of civilized kings’, flourished in Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq, around 4500 BC. Sumerians created an advanced civilization with its own system of elaborate language and...

Ancient Technology

The School of Athens
Much of modern science was known in ancient times. Robots and computers were a reality long before the 1940´s. The early Bronze Age inhabitants of the Levant used computers in stone, the Greeks in the 2nd century BC invented an analogue computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. An ancient Hindu book gives detailed instructions for the construction of an aircraft –ages before the Wright brothers. Where did such knowledge come from?

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article