June 20, 2001
6:06 PM   Subscribe

Queen Nefertiti found in the attic. Well, not exactly but the mummy of Nefertiti, the most famous queen of ancient Egypt except for Cleopatra, has been found kicking around in a museum unrecognized for a hundred years. Also, you can own your own Nefertiti for only $39.99 (gold costs a lttle more).
posted by lagado (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't even describe how excited I am about this story. I've been fascinated with Ancient Egypt since I was a kid, and I'd love for them to conclusively prove Elder Lady is Nefertiti. Then again, I have to wonder with such buzz and excitement about it, if some of the facial reconstructions they're talking about might not be subconsciously swayed by the possibility and rendered inaccurate?
posted by headspace at 6:55 PM on June 20, 2001

Talk about skeletons in the cupboard, that Queens been in the closet for donkeys years. Beat that college kids.
posted by Kino at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2001

Donkey's years?!? What is that supposed to mean?
posted by donkeymon at 7:44 PM on June 20, 2001

posted by Kino at 7:58 PM on June 20, 2001

English English for 'f*ckin aaaaaaaages'. We were forced to develop the term back in the days when we could be hung, drawn and quartered for cussing when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.
posted by Kino at 8:00 PM on June 20, 2001

Really? That is cool. I guess you learn something every day. Anyway, back to Nefertiti, that is really crazy that she would be called the Elder Lady when her estimated age was only 29. I could be sitting some fire telling stories right now instead of working like a sucker. What was the average lifespan in ancient Egypt?

Also, is it me or did the article fail to present much evidence that the mummy was specifically Nefertiti and not just possibly Nefertiti? Like, how do they know? Could they ever really know for sure?
posted by donkeymon at 8:50 PM on June 20, 2001

she was found with a boy and a girl; might "elder" refer to her age in relation to them?

as I understand it (braudel's structures of everyday life), that "average age" business is very misleading.

most people died during childhood; the average age is low as a result of that. if you made it through childhood, you were healthy and hearty, and you lived to be very old. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 8:55 PM on June 20, 2001

Hey look Donkeymon.. we DO learn something new everyday. Well done Rcb - i've never considered that. [Puts his tongue under his lower lip, stares deep into a mirror and lets out a long, hard DUH! at himself]
posted by Kino at 9:54 PM on June 20, 2001

Good point Rebecca; or rather, two good points. Average life spans are indeed deceptive. But I still wonder how long an Egyptian ten year old could reasonably expect to live. I have always been under then impression that life spans at that point in history were fairly close to 30. Of course, I have no information regarding why I believe that.
posted by donkeymon at 9:55 PM on June 20, 2001

Not to be morbid, but I'm fascinated by the photograph of that mummy (be it Nefertiti or not). It's astonishingly well preserved - truly, you can tell that it's the body of a most beautiful person.

Fascinating . . .
posted by aladfar at 10:20 PM on June 20, 2001

pervert! (joke!!)
posted by Kino at 10:23 PM on June 20, 2001

They got her "good side" in the profile.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:23 PM on June 20, 2001

From what I understand, the "average" lifespan in Egypt was about 30, but that's vastly low because of the high infant mortality rate, and the fact that the Khmet were constantly at war. Menes reigned for 67 years, Djer reigned for 57, Hetepsekhemwy for 36, Pepi II assumed the throne at age 9 and reigned for 94 years. Ahkenaten (Nefertiti's husband) himself died in the 18th year of his reign- his son Tutankhamun was 8 when he died. It's rumored that Nefertiti took a new mourning name, Smenkhkara, and ruled Egypt for several years after Akhnaten's death, but because of the massive backlash destruction of the Amarna sites, it's hard to say if we'll ever know for sure.
posted by headspace at 5:28 AM on June 21, 2001

Don't mean to be nitpicky, headspace, but Tutankhamun actually died at around 18, not 8. I'm assuming that it was a typo, since you seem to know your stuff.
posted by witchstone at 6:35 AM on June 21, 2001

Ooops, you're right! I phrased myself poorly- Tutankhamun was 8 when his father Akhenaten died. I suspect that I was going to say something about how most of the pharaohs who died early usually died in battle, or by suspicious means as did Tutankhamun, but my train of thought derailed.
posted by headspace at 7:35 AM on June 21, 2001

[Ding Dong... The train now arriving at platform 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 is coming in sideways. Thankyou].
posted by Kino at 7:55 AM on June 21, 2001

Not to get too far off the excellent info about Egyptology, but if you want to read something cool about mummies, check out this Discover Magazine article about "The Incorruptibles".
posted by briank at 8:23 AM on June 21, 2001

great article briank.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:30 AM on June 21, 2001

Why isn't anybody mentioning the fact that the headline should read "mummy said to look like statues of nefertiti found in museum with strong financial incentive to claim so"...The article itself contains cautionary statements to the conclusivity of this "discovery"....
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 10:46 AM on June 21, 2001

ps and yes, I'm interested in egyptology too, but I'm also a scientist rather than a romantic.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 10:46 AM on June 21, 2001

Sure, there's lots of incentive to believe that this mummy might be Nefertiti, but even without DNA, there's plenty of scientific vetting that can go into a circumstantial case yea, or nay. However, I do think it's compelling that the Amarna period artwork is the only truly naturalistic artwork done in Egypt up to that time-period, and that this mummy just coincidentally bears a strong resemblance to the Amarna bust of Nefertiti.

While it's true that the bust could be inaccurate, I would find it somewhat odd if it were. After all, there was no compunction for artisans in Akhenaten's time to "make the queen prettier," or to stylize her appearance, when the pharaoh himself, and his daughters were both portrayed naturalistically, and not in a particularly flattering light- he with his soft, flabby body, elongated joints, and irregular features, they with the same and more.

If a royal mummy is dated to the time period in question, is the right age and description, and resembles a realistic bust of Nefertiti, I don't think that's a lack of scientific foundation. I'm not saying it is or isn't Nefertiti, I don't know yet, but I will put some stock into the resemblance and the facial reconstructions because this is the one time prior to the Ptolemaic Dynasty that human beings were depicted in a natural way.
posted by headspace at 11:29 AM on June 21, 2001

[Applauds] Headspace, you managed to weave a curious blend of enthusiasm, knowledge, insight and logic and present it in a seductively readable capsule of zesty confabulation, bravo!. Or, of course, i could just be hitting on you!
posted by Kino at 12:08 PM on June 21, 2001

Couldn't it be both, Kino? And to think you've made me both laugh -and- blush today. That's some talent you've got right there.
posted by headspace at 12:15 PM on June 21, 2001

Oh noOoOo Headspace.. I've blew it! - The handbook clearly states that i shouldn't give you reason to suspect i'm a genius until after our first domestic!!. Now i'll have to skip to the chapter that deals with post-breakup re-enticement techniques in preparation.. Urghgh, this bits all sticky!!
posted by Kino at 12:32 PM on June 21, 2001

I'm sorry! Does it help if I tell you I don't like domestic?
posted by headspace at 1:05 PM on June 21, 2001

Yuck... Me neither Headspace, me neither; in fact - any brand of bleach makes me vomit.. I think perhaps i've got an allergy to it. Maybe i should switch nightcaps. It'd finally put paid to that ghastly rumour about me being a bit sick in the bedroom, if nothing else.
posted by Kino at 3:37 PM on June 21, 2001

headspace has incidentally written are really interesting entry in her blog.

The story of Akhenaten and Nefertiti is interesting because it is the earliest story we have of a monarch trying to establish a monotheistic religion. It may well have been influential on a certain group Semitic tribes who were living just next door.

After his death there was a backlash and his memory was erased from Egyptian history by his successors who labelled him a heretic.

As to the mummy, it's true that there little evidence to go on but it seems likely that the mummy discovered is either Nefertiti or a very close relative. Here's another article about the find from a few days earlier.
posted by lagado at 8:39 PM on June 21, 2001

The story of Akhenaten and Nefertiti is interesting because it is the earliest story we have of a monarch trying to establish a monotheistic religion. It may well have been influential on a certain group Semitic tribes who were living just next door.

Is that true? I always thought the influence went the other way. My grasp on dates in the Middle East is pretty iffy, obviously.
posted by rodii at 8:46 PM on June 21, 2001

Nice piece Headspace. In fact: Nifty site. The index page layout/design makes my monitor feel about 5 inches bigger.. wish i could say the same for.. no, i wont. Oh hang on, i think i just did..(snip).. (ouch!)

Legado: Would that be the first erasement from history of a person/event too? Or was Orwell even less ahead of his time?
posted by Kino at 9:03 PM on June 21, 2001

Would that be the first erasement from history of a person/event too?

How would we know?
posted by rodii at 9:14 PM on June 21, 2001

Rodii, i wasn't aware you'd brought your imaginary friend to the party. Besides - i was asking Legado; The history books are full of cases of first known events - why should this be any different? (Note: i wasn't necessarily asking for the first event, merely if he knew of any before it - two different things), and with the scope of knowledge present in this thread i was pretty sure i could get either A/ a satisfying answer or B/ a follow on reply about the practice in general, perhaps in the Egyptian period, because it's a rather intriguing practice. So there. [Sulks, swallows a caffeine pill and refrains from making conversation until it kicks in] Ahhh.. Caffeine pills: The midnight snack of champions!\O__/\_
posted by Kino at 9:53 PM on June 21, 2001

It's not the first time in Egyptian history, by any means. See, one of the reasons for the disposition of the dead in mummification and tombs depicting their great acts and image, was because they had to be complete to go on to the underworld. Everything they needed in life, they'd also need in death- from their name, to their bodies (so it wouldn't do to let them rot) to food, and playthings. If their name and their image died to the living world, their ka could not return and they would be lost forever.

Thus, heretics' and political enemies' tombs would be defaced- sometimes chipping away only the target's name and image, but leaving the rest. Before Akhenaten's time (but in the same dynasty, the 18th) Hatsepshut ruled with her stepson Tuthmosis III, then edged him out of the picture for a while. He didn't appreciate her taking the throne from him much, and when she died, her name and image was stricken from the official records, and the steles and friezes depicting her were chipped away. Directly after Akhenaten's reign came Tutankhamun- his name and image was also destroyed, as well as those of Ankhensenamun, his wife. (Part of the reason the discovery of his tomb was such a shock- he was a bit of a myth in Egyptology circles!) There are other instances in the Khmet history, but I can't recall them off the top of my head.

As to rodii's question- as far as I know, Akhenaten's heresy was the first monotheism. Historians generally agree that the Biblical Egypt correlates to the 19th and 20th Egyptian Dynasties and the ruling of a long string of Ramesses. Prior to that, the Semitic tribes were polytheistic, though not to the same extent as the Egyptians. Their pantheon was made up of a Father Storm God as the center, and various minor deities who answered to the storm god. It's somewhat similar in structure to the Roman Catholic God and Saints frame- the Father Storm God was the boss, and the minor deities did his bidding on earth, so they were already set to slide into monotheism and the Amarna heresy may have influenced that.

The 18th Dynasty is generally dated as beginning somewhere around 1539 BC and ending at 1295 (the Amarna period falling between 1352 and 1336,) and the first reign of a Ramesses began in 1295, only 41 years later; the next Ramesses (whom I believe is the one generally attributed to being Moses' foster father) comes at 1279, 63 years after the Amarna heresy.
posted by headspace at 7:51 AM on June 22, 2001

Rodii, i wasn't aware you'd brought your imaginary friend to the party.

Kino, I realize things are whirling pretty fast in that head of yours, but: it was a joke. A fairly obvious one, I might add.
posted by rodii at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2001

Good god, of course Roddii!! The sooner canned laughter makes the leap from sitcoms to the net the better. Then i wouldn't miss all the best jokes! [apologises profusely, to you and the hatstand!]

Headspace, are you an archeologist or an historian, because its pretty obvious you should be getting paid for this stuff!.
posted by Kino at 10:51 AM on June 22, 2001

No, I'm just a schmo with a fondness from childhood for all things Ancient Egyptian. I thought I was going to be an archaeologist when I grew up, but that was before I discovered all the *shudder* math involved.
posted by headspace at 11:12 AM on June 22, 2001

Oh, that's a pity Headspace. Perhaps if we join forces and utilize my skills for.. erm.. handling figures and your skills for preserving them we'd have a long and fruitful existence [gets on the phone and orders five trucks of Viagra]. Actually, an archaeologist would be the perfect partner: The older you get the more interested she is in ya!

A renowned archaeologist named Vern,
One day unearthed an Egyptian clay urn,
But he found himself devastated
When the markings, translated..
Clearly read, 'No Refill/No Return!'.
posted by Kino at 11:54 AM on June 22, 2001

rodii, on montheism what headspace said (what a great source of knowledge she has, a welcome addition to Metafilter).

There's little evidence that this monotheism was in any way influential outside of Egypt and it was a very brief flirtation with the idea. I don' t think the Egyptian masses took very kindly to having their religion trashed by such a egomaniac and the restoration was pretty swift.

Semitic monotheism is likely to have been an independent invention, although its subsequently enormous popularity makes me think that it was the idea had to wait for its time (and probably the invention of the alphabet and mass literacy, that other great semitic innovation).
posted by lagado at 4:40 AM on June 23, 2001

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