Egyptian experts say Discovery Channel hasn't found Nefertiti

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

CAIRO, Egypt -- A mummy displayed on the Discovery Channel as the probable remains of Queen Nefertiti is actually a male skeleton, according to Egyptian state archaeologists.

"Examinations show that it was that of a male, between the ages of 16 and 19," the spokesman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Hassan Nasrallah, said Monday.

The Discovery Channel broadcast pictures of the mummy in June, quoting archaeologist Joann Fletcher of Britain's York University as saying there was a "strong possibility" the mummy was that of Nefertiti.

A queen famed for her beauty -- her name meant "the beautiful woman has come" -- Nefertiti was married to the Pharaoh Akhenaton, who ruled 1379-1362 B.C. Two statues of Nefertiti, now in the Egyptian museums in Cairo and Berlin, depict her with high cheekbones, full lips, almond-shaped eyes and a long neck.

The mummy was found more than a century ago in a tomb containing other mummies known as KV35 in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, southern Egypt.

Fletcher took a new interest in the mummies after she found a royal wig in the tomb.

The Discovery program said the mummy had a double-pierced ear lobe and a bent arm, considered signs of ancient Egyptian royalty. It also "bore a striking profile and swanlike neck comparable to the famed beauty Nefertiti," the program said.

The head of the Supreme Council, Zahi Hawass, said at the time of the Discovery broadcast that any similarity between the mummy's face and Nefertiti's statues would not be valid because in the 18th dynasty, "art was idealistic and not realistic."

Asked about Egypt's assertion that the mummy is that of a male, York University's archaeology department held to their opinion. Stephen Buckley told The Associated Press via e-mail that the pelvic bones and evidence of collapsed breasts showed the remains to be those of a woman between the ages of 18 and 30.

Nefertiti is believed to have died in her 30s.

Supreme Council spokesman Nasrallah said the pelvis was that of a male: "The width of the hips points to a male, not a female."

The debate over the skeleton's sex is longstanding.

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