Zahi Hawass, an archaeologist who has been in the field for decades, has announced that he may have discovered the mummy of famed queen Nefertiti of Ancient Egypt.
Well-respected archaeologist Zahi Hawass has come up with an amazing claim which, if true, will shake the world of Egyptology to its core.
The former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and Director of Excavations at Giza, Saqqara, Bahariya Oasis, and the Valley of the Kings says that he and his team may have discovered the mummy of Nefertiti, the famous queen of Egypt.
Hawass is working on an exhibition called “Daughters of the Nile” which turns the spotlight onto women in pharaonic Egypt.
Nefertiti, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, was a queen who was also referred to as Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti and whose heyday was 14th century BCE.
She was the wife of King Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV; reigned c.1353–36 BCE), and some scholars, including Hawass, believe she ruled Egypt after his death, before her son Tutenkhamen rose to the throne.
"I am still looking for two things: [Nefertiti's] grave and her body," Hawass said. "I really believe that Nefertiti ruled Egypt for three years after Akhenaten's death under the name of Smenkhkare."
Hawass and archaeologists working with him and before him have uncovered the tombs and found mummies of several pharaohs and significant personalities of the time, but the remains of Nefertiti have yet to be found.
"We already have DNA from the 18th dynasty mummies, from Akhenaten to Amenhotep II or III and there are two unnamed mummies labelled KV21a and b," he says.
"In October we will be able to announce the discovery of the mummy of Ankhesenamun, Tutankhamun's wife, and her mother, Nefertiti. There is also in tomb KV35 the mummy of a 10-year-old boy. If that child is the brother of Tutankhamun and the son of Akhenaten, the problem posed by Nefertiti will be solved."
"I am sure that I will reveal which of the two unnamed mummies could be Nefertiti," Hawass suggests.
Mummification is a process that took 70 days, and was performed by qualified priests who both preserved the body and performed rites on it. After the body’s internal organs – save for the heart – were removed, the body was dried out, to be then wrapped with hundreds of metres of linen.
Archaeologists believe that there are still large numbers of undiscovered mummies and treasures from Ancient Egypt, even though there have been excavations that have been carried out over the past couple of centuries.
"We have barely found 30 percent of everything that is underground. A few days ago a mission found tombs inside several houses in Alexandria," Hawass said. "Modern Egypt is built on the Ancient. And that is why the heritage that remains hidden is immense."
Hawass warns that some of the undiscovered treasures of Ancient Egypt may be destroyed before archaeologists and scholars can get to them:
"I sincerely believe that [the main threat to the conservation of Egyptian heritage] is climate change," he says.
"The question is: How can the tombs of the Valley of the Kings be protected? If we leave the situation as it is now, in a century, all the graves will have completely disappeared.
“We have to equip ourselves with a protection plan especially for tombs and temples. Once a year I usually take a picture of the Kom Ombo temple walls and every time I go back 5 percent of the reliefs have faded. We must work to control climate change."
Working in tandem with Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism, Hawass promotes Egypt’s tourism globally. Yet he knows that unchecked crowds can spell the death of all that tourists have come to visit:
"There must be a centre to control climate change and tourism," he says.
"Tourism is the enemy of archaeology, but we must seek an intermediate point between the need for tourism for the economy and the preservation of Egyptian monuments. It is something extremely important."
THUMBNAIL AND HEADLINE PHOTOS: File photos of a bust of Nefertiti taken at the New Museum in Berlin, Germany. (AP/Markus Schreiber)