The Search for Nefertiti: The True Story of an Amazing Discovery

The Search for Nefertiti: The True Story of an Amazing Discovery

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by Joann Fletcher

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Her power was rivaled only by her beauty. Her face has become one of the most recognizable images in the world. She was an independent woman and thinker centuries before her time. But who was Egypt's Queen Nefertiti?

After years of intense research, Dr. Joann Fletcher has answered the questions countless researchers before her could not. While studying


Her power was rivaled only by her beauty. Her face has become one of the most recognizable images in the world. She was an independent woman and thinker centuries before her time. But who was Egypt's Queen Nefertiti?

After years of intense research, Dr. Joann Fletcher has answered the questions countless researchers before her could not. While studying Egyptian royal wigs, she read a brief mention of an unidentified and mummified body, discovered long ago and believed to belong to an Egyptian of little importance. This body happened to have a wig, which Dr. Fletcher knew was a clear sign of power. After examining the hairpiece and the woman to which it belonged, to the astonishment of her colleagues she identified this body as the missing remains of Queen Nefertiti.

The search for Nefertiti had ended. She had been found. But the questions were just beginning.

Nefertiti first rose to prominence in Egyptology in 1912, when a three-thousand-year-old bust of the queen was unearthed and quickly became a recognizable artifact around the world. But pieces of Nefertiti's life remained missing. The world had seen what she looked like, but few knew about her place in history.

Virtually nothing is recorded about Nefertiti's early years. What is known about her life starts with her rise to power, her breaking through the sex barrier to rule as a virtual co-Pharaoh alongside her husband, Akhenaten. Upon his death she took full control of his kingdom. The Egyptian people loved her and celebrated her beauty in art, but the priests did not feel the same way. They believed Nefertiti's power over her husband was so great that she would instill her monotheistic beliefs upon him, rendering their own power obsolete. Egyptologists concur that it was these priests who, upon Nefertiti's death, had her name erased from public record and any likeness of her defaced. This ultimately led to her being left out of history for three thousand years.

In The Search for Nefertiti Dr. Fletcher, an esteemed Egyptologist, traces not only her thirteen-year search for this woman, whose beauty was as great as her power, but also brings to the forefront the way Egypt's royal dead have been treated over time by people as varied as Agatha Christie and Adolf Hitler. She also explores how modern technology and forensics are quickly changing the field of archaeology and, in turn, what we know about history.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Egyptologist Fletcher (honorary research fellow, archaeology, Univ. of York) recently gained fame through her proposed identification of a mummy sealed in a side chamber of the tomb of Amenhotep II in the Valley of the Kings as Queen Nefertiti. Her quest became the subject of a 2003 documentary on the Discovery Channel. Written for the nonspecialist, this excellent companion book provides all of the background information needed to understand the significance of Fletcher's theory. The author approaches her research from a somewhat different angle, specializing in ancient Egyptian hairstyles, clothing, and adornments. Unlike Joyce Tyldesley's more traditional Nefertiti: Egypt's Sun Queen, Fletcher bases her reconstruction of Nefertiti's career on the theory proposed by J.R. Harris and Julia Samson in the 1970s that claims she was made coregent with her husband, the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, and reigned alone as king after his death. The author carefully presents the precedents for queens who reigned as kings in ancient Egypt, her experience working with mummies, an overview of the 18th dynasty, and an account of her two expeditions to examine the mummy in question. The narrative conveys Fletcher's enthusiasm for her work and is supplemented with an excellent bibliography. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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The Search for Nefertiti
The True Story of an Amazing Discovery

Chapter One

The First Glimpse

As the early morning mist began to rise slowly from the silent waters, our boat crossed over to the Land of the Dead. It was here on the west bank of the Nile that the pharaohs had been buried some four thousand years ago, and we were on our way to the most famous cemetery in the world, the Valley of the Kings. With little more than three hours' sleep, I felt unprepared for what was to come. It was the stuff of dreams, the fulfilment of a lifetime's ambition and an opportunity given to very few. I hardly dared think of what we were about to do, let alone who we were about to see, having waited twelve long years for an audience with perhaps the most familiar figure in the history of ancient Egypt.

Lost in a world of my own, I made my way down the narrow gangplank to where the water lapped the shore. As the sun made its first appearance of the day, I stepped into the bus. I'd made this journey so many times before, but now it was very different, and nerves began to play with my mind. What if the tomb was empty? What if there was nothing there? And what if the official permissions we'd worked so hard to obtain from the Egyptian authorities had been withdrawn at the very last minute? It did happen.

I comforted myself with the knowledge that the perceived identity of the one we were about to meet was to all intents and purposes 'unknown', and, together with the two other bodies which had been laid to rest close by, protected by anonymity. When mentioned at all, they tended to be passed over as minor members of a royal house who'd played little part in ancient Egypt's story, so my request to see them was not particularly controversial.

As the ancient landscape whizzed past my window and the two colossal stone figures of Amenhotep III loomed up in front of us, I could almost hear the blood pumping through my head. I had to stay calm, I kept telling myself. I was about to meet Egypt's Head of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, who was at this very moment flying in from Cairo to meet me inside the tomb. It was important at least to try to maintain an appearance of professionalism -- not that I'd ever been much good at playing that game. The word 'nervous' doesn't even begin to describe it.

We passed lush green fields fringed with palm trees, farmers off to work and overburdened donkeys trotting along beneath great bales of sugarcane, all of them reassuringly familiar on this otherwise emotionally fraught morning. Even the bleary-eyed children getting ready for school still managed a smile or a wave at the funny-looking hawajaya (foreigner) with her big orange hair and little black glasses looking at them from the bus.

The hillside of Qurna stretched up before us, a fabulous backdrop of colourful houses built alongside the ancient tombs. Turning right, the bus sped on past the temple of Ramses II, Shelley's Ozymandias, and then to Deir el-Bahari, built by one of Egypt's great female pharaohs, the mighty Hatshepsut. Today, however, my mind was firmly fixed on one who came after her, and who wielded no less power.

In case I needed any reminding why the Valley of the Kings was a place familiar to everyone, we turned left at 'Castle Carter', home of the twentieth century's most famous archaeologist. Howard Carter, the man who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922, has always been something of a hero for me, a working-class lad made good who stuck two fingers up at the sneering establishment by making the greatest archaeological discovery of all time. Carter and Tutankhamen are very much part of this story, both of them closely linked to the three who now awaited us in the valley whose barren, limestone sides loomed on either side. As the bus rattled on and the summer temperature began to rise steadily towards its 40°C June average, I spared a thought for Carter and his trusty donkey.

Slowing down, the bus stopped at the first of numerous security checks, the legacy of the terrible events of 1997 when Islamic extremists had murdered foreigners and Egyptians alike in their attempt to destabilise Egypt's secular government. And in today's political climate another attack can never completely be ruled out. But thanks to a stack of official paperwork and security clearances, we were waved through the barrier where vehicles normally have to stop to offload their passengers, and drove right up to the entrance gates of the Valley itself. Carrying nothing more dangerous than a camera, torch and my trusty umbrella, I began the final walk up to the tomb.

I had first come here as a dumbstruck teenager, unable to take it all in as tomb after tomb revealed some of the most beautiful images I had ever seen. Their hidden chambers and sealed doorways only fired my long-held determination to become an Egyptologist, and by the time of my second visit I was an Egyptology student at last, able to start making sense of the complex blend of wall scenes, passageways, corridors and side chambers unique to each tomb. Many more visits followed, initially for postgraduate research, then accompanying groups of tourists, students and television researchers, and most recently as part of a team excavating KV.39, quite probably the first royal tomb to have been built here. Yet today was something else, a visit to a very different royal tomb. Unlikely to be repeated, it was surely my one and only chance to confirm what I had believed for so long.

Approaching the small group of officials and police who clustered around the tomb's entrance, I was greeted by the local antiquities inspector and his staff, smiling nervously and chain smoking as they awaited their new boss ...

The Search for Nefertiti
The True Story of an Amazing Discovery
. Copyright © by Joann Fletcher. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Dr. Joann Fletcher is an honorary research and teaching fellow at the University of York, where she teaches Egyptian funerary archaeology and mummification. The author of numerous articles and books, she also lectures widely. She lives in Yorkshire, England.

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Search for Nefertiti: The True Story of an Amazing Discovery 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Gregor1066 More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was very good and enjoyed the story. Joann Fletcher not only describes her quest to become an Egyptologist, but also provides the basis of her search for Neteritit, history of egyptology, life in Amanra, rituals of the prists and a great deal more. However, I gat it a 3 star rating because the Nook verision does NOT HAVE THE FIGURES THAT THE BOOK REFERENCES. This was very diasppointing to me. Therefore, I would get the book but NOT THE NOOK version. I have nothing bad to say about the books story or the way Ms Fletcher writes. Loved it can did not want to put it down. Only wish I had saved my money and got the paper version. Hopefully, this review can help you make your decision.
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Kiki_SanGregorio More than 1 year ago
I've had a difficult time putting this book down. Joann's story is compelling, as are the stories of all her mummified discoveries. I wish the Nook version included the figures that are referenced, but I'm still happy with my purchase.
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waltjs More than 1 year ago
takes you back in history to the real story of a person that was a part of history. and to search for the tomb that she was buried in was very exciting. very interesting