Experts Identify Mummified Legs as Those of Egyptian Queen Nefertari

The legs were discovered in 1904 in Nefertari's tomb, which had been extensively looted and contained mummy parts mixed up with other human remains.

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A painting depicting Queen Nefertari playing the game of Senet.
A painting depicting Queen Nefertari playing the game of Senet.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A pair of 3,200-year-old mummified limbs probably belonged to Queen Nefertari, one of ancient Egypt's most famous beauties, an international team of experts has concluded.

The legs were found in Nefertari's tomb in 1904 and have been in an Italian museum for decades. After running a series of tests, which included radiocarbon dating, paleopathology (the study of ancient diseases) and genetics, the experts said that the findings "strongly speak in favor" of the legs being those of Nefertari, the Science Alert website reported.

Nefertari was the first wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II, who reigned from 1279 to 1213 B.C.E. She died in 1255 B.C.E. and her body was laid to rest in the Valley of the Queens in a tomb known as QV66, where the mummified remains were found.

However, the tomb was extensively looted in ancient times and the mummy had been torn into pieces by grave robbers. There are also suspicions that remains from other, older tombs could have been washed into QV66 by rain and mudslides.

The fragments analyzed by the archaeologists included parts of thigh bone, a kneecap and a proximal tibia, the part just below the knee.

Sandals made from grass, palm leaf and papyrus found at the scene are typical of the style of Nefertari's time, according to the experts, and equal to a current U.S. size 9, which is consistent with someone of the queen's height and build.

"The most likely scenario is that the mummified knees truly belong to Queen Nefertari," said Egyptologist Michael Habicht of the University of Zurich in Switzerland. "We have the fact that the remains were found in her tomb, together with objects naming her alone and no one else."