Saturday, February 09, 2008

Neferetiti's Eyes

Archaeology Magazine - Nefertiti's Eyes (Earl R. Ertmman)

Archaeology has a feature in the March/April 2008 issue entitled Nefertiti's Eyes, which you can see online at the above address.

Did the queen's distinctive feature become a symbol of Egyptian royalty?

All eyes were on the Valley of the Kings the morning of February 5, 2006, when our expedition first looked into the chamber now known as KV63, the first tomb found in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since that of Tutankhamun (KV62) in 1922.

Press speculation was rampant over what the tomb might hold. Would our expedition find the mummies of royal women from the late 18th Dynasty, such as Queen Nefertiti, thought by some to be Tut's mother? Or the six princesses she bore to the pharaoh Akhenaten, including Tut's queen, Ankhesenamun? The mummies of these women have either not been found or identified. Perhaps they were removed from Akhenaten's capital at Amarna when a later king, presumably Tut, returned to the traditional capital of Thebes on the Nile opposite the Valley of the Kings. Did Tut rebury them in the Valley?

After taking out several stones blocking the doorway from the tomb shaft into the chamber, we peered through the narrow opening. Inside, we could see many large ceramic jars and several wooden coffins, some with yellow-painted faces. The press speculation was incorrect on all counts. We found no mummies in any of the tomb's seven coffins and no inscriptions to tell us for whom these coffins were initially intended.

But while studying the coffins, I discovered--in the eyes of faces painted on three of them--an intriguing link to Nefertiti, the queen whose name means, simply, "the beautiful one has come." While none of the coffins held Nefertiti's remains, the eyes may tell us something unexpected about her celebrated beauty. Was it in part the result of a genetic syndrome?

See the above page for the full story.

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