Nefertiti Resurrected

By Kris Moffett

Considered by many the most classically beautiful woman of the ancient world, Nefertiti, whose very name is often translated as "The Beautiful Woman Cometh," remains a mystery. New interest was sparked in recent months when British archaeologist Reeves reported the discovery of rooms beyond the original site discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter. Reeves speculated that this might prove the true tomb of "King Tut's" beloved wife while others believed it might be the Boy king's royal mother. Whatever the research results uncover in future examination, new investigations remind the world that newly discovered artifacts, fresh interpretaions - and interconnected disciplines - create dynamic, vigorous versions of yesterday’s history. (edmalpass)

Movie JacketNefertiti Resurrected is a very fascinating and visually pleasing Discovery Channel documentary produced in 2003. It was written by Shaun Trevisick and directed by Matthew Wortman. The film is approximately 120 minutes long and follows Dr. Joann Fletcher (Field Director of York University's mummy research project) on her mission to validate her theory that a mysterious mummy buried along with two others in a tomb known as King's Valley Thirty-Five that she calls Lady X is in fact the long lost Queen Nefertiti. Dr. Joann Fletcher In an effort to solidify her claim to the archeological community and the world at large, Dr. Fletcher gathers together a team of experts from a variety of different fields to aid her in definitively establishing the identity of this mysterious mummy. In addition to this pursuit, Dr. Fletcher also ambitiously attempts to reconstruct both Nefertiti's life and physical likeness in this interesting but not historically accurate program.

From the start of the documentary Nefertiti Resurrected, many television viewers can infer that Dr. Fletcher's claim to have discovered the remains of Queen Nefertiti has initiated a rather brutal debate in the archeological community between those who support Dr. Fletcher's theory and those who oppose this woman's findings. Although the program does not openly validate or deny Dr. Joann Fletcher's claim, it only examines a small portion of the evidence presented by many of her colleagues that question the validity of her theory. By failing to present evidence equally in the documentary from both sides of the debate Dr. Fletcher's findings created, the film renders itself historically inaccurate. It simply cannot be taken as definitive proof that Dr. Fletcher's research is correct. For those who want to know how valid Dr. Joann Fletcher's claim truly is, other sources about her supposed discovery need to be studied in great detail.

Nefertiti Resurrected opens with very vivid imagery meant to capture the interest of the viewing audience before giving a brief overview of the extraordinary queen’s life that will be expanded as the television program continues. Throughout the course of the show, the viewing audience is given the following information. Akhenaten & Nefertiti Queen Nefertiti and her husband led a religious revolution in their country. They disregarded the traditional gods of the time and closed all of their temples in a pursuit of worshipping only one god known as the Aton. Not only did they fracture their nation's religious stability, they also affected its political climate as well. The royal couple moved the capital of ancient Egypt from Thebes to a remote location in the middle of the desert known as El-Amarna. Artist's rendition of Ahketaton There they built a new city known as Akhetaton, which means the horizon of the Aton. When the new city was completed, the Pharaoh and his beautiful queen ruled as near equals from their new capital. This course of action was unprecedented in Egyptian history. When Akhenaten died, his successor, Tutankhamen, restored the pantheon of traditional Egyptian gods to prominence. The capital city that Queen Nefertiti and her husband established was abandoned and Thebes once again became the center of Egyptian power. Out of anger, the remnants of Akhenaten and Nefertiti's reign were abolished. This included removing the royal couple's names from monuments all over the land, defacing their temples and statues, and even omitting Akhenaten's name from the list of Egyptian Pharaohs. Essentially the ancient Egyptians wanted to eradicate the royal couple's memory from existence.

Although the information given throughout the film concerning the history of Queen Nefertiti's life in the Amarna period is captivating, it is not the main focus of the program. Dr. Fletcher's search for proof to validate her highly controversial claim is the show's main objective. One important piece of evidence that Dr. Fletcher presents to support her theory that Lady X is Queen Nefertiti is an ancient Egyptian Nubian style wig. This artifact was found by French Egyptologist Victor Loret in 1898. The hair piece was located beside the cache of mummies that included Lady X in Kings Valley Thirty-Five. For Dr. Fletcher who is an expert in ancient Egyptian hair, this was a very significant clue that led her to formulate her theory. The Nubian style wig she asserts was only worn by royal women during the Amarna period. However, not all of her colleagues agree with her that the wig was only worn by royal women from this time. Nefertiti and Tutankhmen Death Mask In a book written by Mey Zaki titled Legacy of Tutankhamen: Art and History, Zaki states the following about one of Tutankhamen's depictions carved in his tomb: "The silhouette is wearing a Nubian wig, which was a type of wig worn by women as well as men." Tutankhamen was the son of Pharaoh Akhenaten and is often depicted wearing the Nubian style Wig, proving as false Dr.Fletcher's assertion that the Nubian Wig was only worn by royal women of the period. The simple fact that Nefertiti Resurrected does not acknowledge that there are discrepancies in the archeological community concerning Dr. Fletcher's claim that the Nubian wig was only worn by royal women is alarming and demonstrates that the program is not historically correct. Both sides of the debate that Dr. Fletcher ignited should be represented equally in the film.

The fact that Lady X has a badly damaged body is another piece of evidence that Dr. Fletcher believes supports her claim to have found the remains of Queen Nefertiti, as is referenced in the documentary and highly disputed by many Egyptologists.  Dr. Fletcher adamantly believes that the remains of Lady X (her queen Nefertiti) were defiled because the ancient Egyptians wanted to prevent the mummy from being admitted into the afterlife. Interestingly, members of the Discovery Channel seem to support Dr. Fletcher's belief as well. This observation can be validated in three ways. The first is a statement delivered by Phil Fairclough, Vice President of Productions for the Discovery Channel when he states the following: "I believe they (Fletcher, her team and human remains expert, Don Brothwell) have presented a compelling case that this could well be the mummy of Nefertiti." Secondly, a scene at the very beginning of the documentary clearly shows the credibility that the Discovery Channel gives to Dr. Fletcher's research. In this film sequence, the audience is shown the mummified remains of Lady X lying in a dimly lit room.

While observing the badly desecrated body a commentator tells the television audience about a very prominent ancient Egyptian belief that derives from the Book of the Dead. Royal Chariot of the Queen It was a commonly held notion in ancient Egypt that if a mummy could not be recognized as well as speak their name before the gods, he or she could not be admitted into the afterlife. Immediately after telling viewers about this belief the mystic smoke that could be observed rising from the remains of Lady X are no longer displayed on screen. Instead, the audience is subjected to a noble silhouette of Queen Nefertiti riding her chariot to a destination that is revealed at the end of the program as the ancient Egyptian afterlife. She is surrounded by the same mystic smoke that Lady X was portrayed in. The fact that the badly desecrated body of Lady X is displayed in the same mysterious smoke that the audience observes Nefertiti in when she is riding her chariot is a not a subtle use of imagery. It openly suggests that Lady X is Queen Nefertiti herself.

The final indication that the Discovery Channel team believes Dr. Fletcher's theory is the most important of them all because it distinguishes the program as historically inaccurate. The film fails to mention that many Egyptologists adhere to the belief that the mummy Dr. Fletcher calls Lady X was not desecrated because the ancients wanted to prevent it from gaining entrance into the afterlife but that it was damaged by tomb robbers looking for wealth. Mark Rose in his article titled Where’s Nefertiti? states the following view, thus validating the views of many Egyptologists who oppose Dr. Fletcher's belief that Lady X was damaged out of vengeance because she is Queen Nefertiti: "There is damage caused after death, undoubtedly by looters (as James and others suggest) rather than by vengeful priests attacking the mummified remains of Nefertiti because she was complicit with her husband Akhenaten in his attack on traditional religion" (Fletcher's interpretation). Queen Nefertiti The simple fact that the Discovery Channel leaves this information out of the film is a serious flaw because for a documentary to be historically accurate it must examine evidence from both sides of a particular viewpoint, an assertion made throughout this essay.

The mummy Lady X also has a double piercing in its left ear is another piece of evidence Dr. Fletcher presents to support her theory in the film, one that is contested by many of her colleagues. She thoroughly believes that double pierced ears in ancient Egypt were not commonly seen throughout the culture as the following line spoken by her in the program demonstrates: "I am not aware of any other examples of doubly pierced ears in Pharonic Egypt." However,like her other research which she claims supports her findings, this too can be proven false by Egyptology experts. An article posted on the internet from CNN titled Mummy Thought to be Nefertiti May be a Man states the following concerning Dr. Fletcher's assertion that double pierced ears were rare in ancient Egypt: "Hawass said a double-piercing in the mummy's ear was common to both sexes, but in a different period to the Amarna era in which Nefertiti lived." Dr. Hawass is the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and one of the world's leading Egyptologists. He indicated that double pierced ears were more common in ancient Egypt than Dr. Fletcher's findings which is interesting because this commonly accepted belief among Egyptologists is not mentioned in Nefertiti Resurrected. The earring question demonstrates yet again that the program is historically inaccurate when it fails to analyze evidence that contradicts Dr. Fletcher's theory.

Although there are other pieces of evidence that Dr. Fletcher believes help to establish her claim to have found Queen Nefertiti, the last piece worth mentioning is a bent right arm (the general burial position and symbol of a Pharaoh in the New Kingdom) rediscovered by Dr. Fletcher and her team while they were performing their scientific examination of Lady X. Until this discovery, a straight arm lay near the mummy. For Dr. Fletcher finding the bent right arm conclusively established in her mind that Lady X was indeed Queen Nefertiti because she claims that the monarch ruled Egypt alongside her husband and as sole Pharaoh of the country after his death. the Royal Couple However, many in the archeological community discredit Dr. Fletcher's assertion that the right arm discovered among Lady X's wrappings is evidence that the mummy is Queen Nefertiti for a number of reasons. They claim that there is no concrete evidence that Queen Nefertiti ever ruled as Pharaoh although she had tremendous power, that the bent right arm was not always a sign of a Pharaoh in life and death, and also that the right arm based on scientific evidence cannot be Lady X."

In a Press release titled CT-scans of Egyptian Mummies from the Valley of the Kings Dr. Zahi Hawass writes the following concerning the right arm’s position as a symbol of Pharonic power and the claim that it does not belong to Lady X: "In fact, this arm position is also seen for non-royal women, and the recent CT-scan performed by the EMP indicates, based on the density of the bones and the relative lengths of the arms, that it is the straight arm that goes with the mummy, not the bent one." That the documentary neglects to fully examine the evidence brought forth by many experts about the bent right arm again proves that the Discovery Channel show cannot be taken as historically correct because it does not examine impartially both sides of the debate Dr. Fletcher opened up with her findings.

Aside from all the evidence Dr. Fletcher claims is proof to support her claim that she has identified the remains of the long lost Queen Nefertiti in the documentary, the show also focuses a section on her attempts to reconstruct the queen's life. Dr. Fletcher does this by not only traveling through Egypt in search of the history of the Amarna period as has already been discussed in this essay, but also by proposing radical new interpretations of the monarch's daily life. One of the new theories she proposes is that Queen Nefertiti (whom she believes to be the Pharaoh Smenkhkare) and not Tutankhamen restored the worship of the old gods after her husband's death in order to make peace with the priests and bring stability back to her nation. This, like all of Dr. Fletcher's assertions, is highly contested by prominent Egyptologists. In his book Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Boy King, Zahi Hawass states the following line demonstrating the views of many in the field of Egyptology: "Tutankhamun restored the old gods"[.] Although the film does mention this, it only does so briefly by focusing mainly on Dr. Fletcher's research and ignores what many prominent Egyptologists hold as archeological truth. By doing this, the documentary is once again proven historically inaccurate because it favors those who support Dr. Fletcher's findings. For the program to be historically accurate it needs to examine all evidence from both sides of the Queen Nefertiti debate equally so that the truth about this discovery can be fully evaluated by the viewing audience.

Another way that Dr. Fletcher tries to recreate Queen Nefertiti's life in the program is by reconstructing her death. She believes that Queen Nefertiti was murdered because of a large cut found on Lady X' side. The Royal Couple and Ra Interestingly, she and her team test to see if the wound on Lady X's ribs was created before or after death by trying to recreate the cut on two pig corpses. One carcass is meant to simulate a live person and the other a mummified body. After the test is completed, Dr. Fletcher and her team conclude that the wound found on Lady X possibly was the fatal blow that led to her death. It is important to note that although Dr. Fletcher and her team present very compelling evidence that supports the murder hypothesis put forth by Dr. Fletcher, this theory is based solely on speculation. This is something Dr. Fletcher acknowledges herself in the following line from the film: "As to rather its evidence for murder, I would not like to say because again it is speculation." Dr. Fletcher admits that her murder scenario is speculation and that no other evidence is examined by Egyptologists who oppose this assumption demonstrates that the film cannot be seen as historically correct because it fails yet again to look at evidence from those that oppose Dr. Fletcher's findings, thereby not acknowledging both sides of the debate that Dr. Fletcher's research has created.

The final task that Dr. Fletcher adamantly tries to accomplish in Nefertiti Resurrected is to recreate what Queen Nefertiti might have looked like. Using a team of forensic scientists and computer graphics artists, data taken from Lady X's badly damaged skull is analyzed to create a model of Queen Nefertiti's face. Interestingly, when the reconstruction is completed, Dr. Fletcher is shown the finished product and concludes that her theory concerning Lady X is correct. She firmly believes that she has found the remains of Queen Nefertiti Bust of Nefertiti based upon her collected evidence and the model of Nefertiti's face. Although Dr. Fletcher's theory believes that the facial reconstruction is strong proof that validates her theory concerning Lady X, there are those that would disagree with her conclusion. Dr. Martin Evison, who helped create the facial reconstruction states the following in an article titled Scientists Reconstruct Face of Mummy: "Facial reconstruction from the skull is too imprecise to offer unequivocal proof of identity"[.] The documentary does not mention that there are experts who contradict Dr. Fletcher's view concerning the accuracy of the facial model demonstrates that the program is not historically correct because once again it does not examine evidence fully from both sides of the controversy that Dr. Fletcher's theory generated.

Nefertiti Resurrected is a very interesting documentary but it is not entirely historically accurate because it fails to thoroughly evaluate evidence presented by many of Dr. Fletcher's colleagues that oppose her theory to have found the mysterious Queen Nefertiti. Although the film does mention some of the opposition Dr. Fletcher's findings have received, it becomes clear that the viewing audience is not told the full story behind Dr. Fletcher's research. This makes it difficult for the television audience to thoroughly conclude whether the body of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti has indeed been discovered or not. If viewers want a more complete understanding of the controversy Dr. Fletcher's theory has generated, other sources need to be thoroughly examined. The program Nefertiti Resurrected cannot be taken as historic proof that Dr. Fletcher made a grand archeological discovery.

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