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The Quest to find Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile


Nefertiti is one of the most famous queens of ancient Egypt, second only to Cleopatra. While many aspects of her life are well-documented, there are many mysteries surrounding her death and burial. While hundreds of royal mummies have already been recovered in Egypt, Nefertiti’s mummy has remained elusive.

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti lived from 1370 BC until 1340 BC. She was married to the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, who gave her many titles, including: Great Royal Wife,  Hereditary Princess, Great of Praises, Lady of Grace, Sweet of Love, Lady of The Two Lands, Great King’s Wife, Lady of all Women, and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt. Nefertiti was known for being very beautiful, and her name means “the beautiful one has come.” While little is known about Nefertiti’s origins, it is believed that she was from an Egyptian town known as Akhmim and was closely related to a high official named Ay. Others believe Nefertiti came from a foreign country.

The Wilbour Plaque -Nefertiti

The Wilbour Plaque, Brooklyn Museum. Nefertiti is shown nearly as large as her husband, indicating her importance. Image source: Brooklyn Museum.

Nefertiti is well-known as one of the most powerful female leaders from ancient times. Akhenaten considered her to be an equal counterpart, and went to great lengths to ensure that others saw her as such. She is shown in reliefs smiting her enemies in battle, or wearing the pharaoh crown. However, about twelve years into Akhenaten’s reign, Nefertiti’s image disappeared from the depictions entirely. The reason for her disappearance is unknown, although there is speculation. Some say that Nefertiti died. Others say that she was elevated in status to be equal to the pharaoh, in which case she may have begun dressing like a man.

In 2012, the discovery of an inscription dating to Akhenaten’s reign may have answered some questions about what happened to Nefertiti. The badly legible text indicated that Nefertiti was alive in the second-to-last year of Akhenaten’s reign, and that she was not ruling at the level of a pharaoh at that time.

However, the greatest mystery surrounding Nefertiti to this day is the location of her mummified remains. There have been several mummies found that could potentially be the remains of Nefertiti, but none that have been conclusively identified.

In 1898, an archeologist named Victor Loret found two female mummies that could likely be the remains of Nefertiti. The two mummies were found inside the tomb of Amenhotep II in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings. The two mummies were named “The Elder Lady” and “The Younger Lady.” In 2001, it was suggested that The Elder Lady was, in fact, Nefertiti. This was based on evidence that the estimated age of death was around the late 30s or early 40s, which is in alignment with Nefertiti’s likely age upon death.  Some also said that the face of the mummy matched busts of Nefertiti.

Tomb KV35

Tomb KV35 was found in the well-known Valley of the Kings. Image source

Later tests suggested that the mummy was actually that of Akhenaten’s mother, Queen Tiye. This left open the possibility that “The Younger Lady” was Nefertiti.  On June 9, 2003, archaeologist Joann Fletcher, a specialist in ancient hair from the University of York in England, announced that the “Younger Lady” showed a number of characteristics that pointed to it being Nefertiti. Fletcher referred to her doubled-pierced ear lobe, which was a "rare fashion statement in Ancient Egypt"; a shaven head; and the clear impression of a tight-fitting brow-band worn by royalty.

The remains of the "Elder Lady" and “Younger Lady”

The remains of the "Elder Lady" and “Younger Lady”, along with an unknown male. Image source.

Fletcher's team claimed that the mummy they examined was damaged in a way suggesting the body had been deliberately desecrated in antiquity. Mummification techniques, such as the use of embalming fluid and the presence of an intact brain, are suggestive of an eighteenth dynasty royal mummy. Other features support the identification were the age of the body, the presence of embedded nefer beads, and a wig of a rare style worn by Nefertiti.

Could the mummy of the “Younger Lady” be Nefertiti?

Could the mummy of the “Younger Lady” be Nefertiti?

However, most Egyptologists dismiss Fletcher's claims as unsubstantiated, stating that a mummy cannot be identified based on circumstantial evidence such as hairstyle or fashion features. The eighteenth dynasty was one of the largest and most prosperous dynasties of ancient Egypt, and a female royal mummy could belong to any number of the royal wives or daughters from the dynasty's more than 200 years on the throne. Therefore, in order to conclusively confirm whether the Younger Lady is indeed Nefertiti, detailed DNA analysis must be conducted, and this has not yet taken place.  

The quest to find the famous queen highlights the fact that the desert sands of Egypt have not yet given up all their secrets.

Featured image:  The iconic bust of Nefertiti, discovered by Ludwig Borchardt, is part of the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin collection, currently on display in the Altes Museum. Image Source.


Nefertiti: biography –

Nefertiti Found? – Time Magazine

Nefertiti: Will the real mummy please stand up? – Mummy Tombs

Nefertiti – New World Encyclopedia

Nefertiti, Great Royal Wife and Queen of Egypt –

By April Holloway



For several weeks now there has been quite a lot of publicity around a group of archaeologists who through high tech scanning have identified what they believe is a tomb behind the wall of Tutenkhamun tomb, which they say is the tomb of Nefertiti. It would be a wonderful discovery if the tomb is in tact as the scan shows and if it really does belong to Nefertiti. As has been pointed out her mummy has never been positively identified, even though Joanne Fletcher may have been close to identification with the Younger Lady in 2009. She did not have all of the tools to identity her, but since then the DNA has shown the Yonger Lady to be the mother of King Tut. But who is the Younger Lady? She has now been identified as Kira, another wife of Akhenaten, a sister of Nefertiti, a daughter of Queen Ty, or the sister and mother of King Tut. Is there no way to identity this poor women conclusively? I hope Nefertiti is actually in her tomb. The problem is access, as the wall of King Tuts tomb cannot be knocked down. I hope a way is found to access it from the other side. I really hope the team make this breakthrough.

Tsurugi's picture

This is somewhat off-topic, but it has always bugged me that Akhenaten's profile looks so similar to an Easter Island Moai.

I note that the famous painted bust of Nefertiti has ONE Earring whole in her ears... and the mummy "Young Girl" has two Earring wholes in the ears. If the painted Bust is a TRUE representation of Nefertiti...then the Mummy ' Young Girl" is not her...the ears are different! I small distinction, but an important one!

The sculpture of Nefertiti has an elongated head, not as a result of any deformation or extraterrestrial origin, but because it was easier to attach a crown to a sculpture if it had something to rest upon.

I had read somewhere that she wore that type of hat like she wearing in the sculpture is because she also had an elongated skull? Is that true or did I just dream it or something? Also wasn't Akanaten misshapen as well? Did Tut' body show either of these deformaties?


aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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