Years after queen Nefertari’s mummy was ripped to pieces and tossed around by the ancient robbers an international team of researchers suggests they may have found the missing 3200-year-old legs in an Italian museum.
Nefertari was the first and favourite wife of the warrior Pharaoh Ramses II, who reigned between 1290-1224 BC during the early 19th Dynasty. She was one of the great and important queens of Egypt in the league of Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra. She is known from the impressive wall paintings of her lavishly decorated tomb in the Valley of the Queens. She gave birth to four sons and four daughters and she attended the opening ceremony of the rock-cut temples of Abu Simbel in the year 24 of Ramses II’s reign, after which she disappeared from history. She probably died around her husband’s 25th year of reign, having reached an age of about 40 to 50 years.
Her tomb, known as QV66, opened in 1905 by an Italian diplomat and archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli, was heavily plundered in antiquity and her mummy was ripped to pieces and tossed around by the ancient robbers. The tomb contained a series of broken remains, including fragments of the pink granite sarcophagus that once held Nefertari’s mummy, a pair of sandals and two fragmented mummified legs. Recent anthropometric reconstruction and assessment of the size of the knees revealed they belonged to a woman whose stature ranged between 165-168 cm. Experts state that in comparison to women from the New Kingdom and 3rd Intermediate Period show she was probably taller than 84 percent of the women of her time. X-rays of the left knee pointed to possible traces of arteriosclerosis, suggesting the legs belonged to an elderly person.
The authors admit the identification can’t be done with absolute certainty as some analysis failed. Moreover, QV66 is not an original undisturbed burial situation. DNA testing was inconclusive as the samples turned to be contaminated and not suitable for analysis. Also radiocarbon dating of the remains brought odd results – the remains would pre-date the assumed lifespan of Queen Nefertari’s by some 200 years. Nefertari’s tomb also contained a pair of sandals made of grass, palm leaf and papyrus, in a style typical of the 18th-19th Dynasties. Fine quality and shape of the sandals suggest they were royal footwear in 39-40 size, fitting Nefertari’s stature.
(after Seeker & Michael Habicht)