Yorkshire TV stars discover Egyptian Queen Nefertari's mummified legs

These 3,000 year old mummified legs are believed to be those of Egyptian Queen Nefertari, identified by Yorkshire's own world renowned experts and TV stars Professor Joann Fletcher and  partner Dr Stephen Buckley.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 2nd December 2016, 8:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:53 pm
Thease are believed to be the mummified legs of Queen Nefertari. Photo by Professor Joann Fletcher
Thease are believed to be the mummified legs of Queen Nefertari. Photo by Professor Joann Fletcher

They believe the items on display in an Italian museum belong to the woman who has been celebrated as one of the most beautiful of all time – the favourite wife of the pharaoh Ramses II.

Barnsley born Egyptologist Joann, who has become a household name fronting TV documentaries such as Immortal Egypt, works with Stephen at the University of York’s Department of Archaeology.

Together they were part of an international team of archaeologists who have been working on the find.

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They used X-rays, radiocarbon dating, anthropology, palaeopathology, genetics and chemical analysis to identify the remains.

And they conclude that “the most likely scenario is that the mummified knees truly belong to Queen Nefertari”.

Nefertari was given a beautifully decorated tomb in the Valley of the Queens and Joann was recently given access to examine it, as featured in her BBC2 programme Egypt’s Lost Queens, which is being shown again on BBC4 on Saturday, December 3, at 8pm. Watch a preview - CLICK HEREShe explores what it was like to be a woman of power in ancient Egypt, through a wealth of spectacular buildings, personal artefacts and amazing tombs, in a TV series which brings to life four of ancient Egypt's most powerful female rulers and discovers the remarkable influence wielded by women, whose power and freedom was unique in the ancient world.

Although plundered in ancient times, Nefertari's tomb, first excavated by Italian archaeologists in 1904, still contained objects which were sent to the Egyptian Museum in Turin.

Prof Joann Fletcher

This included a pair of mummified legs which could have been part of a later interment as was often the case in other tombs in the region.

But as the legs had never been scientifically investigated, it was decided to undertake the recent study to find out if the legs could actually represent all that remained of one of Egypt's most legendary queens.

The study, published in a paper in the online journal Plo, revealed the legs are those of an adult woman, aged about 40, who was around 5ft 5ins tall. Read the paper - CLICK HERE.

They were found in an excavation more than a century ago but lay in an Italian museum and their identity has never been confirmed, until now.

Prof Joann Fletcher when she was recently awarded the Freedom of Barnsley

Stephen’s chemical analysis established that materials used to embalm the legs are consistent with 13th Century BC mummification traditions, which when taken in conjunction with the findings of the other specialists involved, led to the identification.

With her shock red hair, trademark oversized black suits, sunglasses and brolly, to shade her from the searing desert sun, Joann's distinctive look as she explores ancient Egypt in a Yorkshire accent has made her an instant hit with TV fans.

She’s been making documentaries for years and beat David Attenborough and Brian Cox to win a Royal Television Society Award for her part in the Channel 4 documentary Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret - a documentary featuring the mummification of taxi driver Alan Billis, using ancient Egypt techniques newly rediscovered by the couple

She also made headlines as part of an expedition which made the claim of finding the mummy of Queen Nefertiti.

Prof Joann Fletcher

Joann, who was given the Freedom of Barnsley earlier this year, today said of the Queen Nefertari mummified legs investigation: “This has been the most exciting project to be part of, and a great privilege to be working alongside with some of the world’s leading experts in this area.

“Both Stephen and myself have a long history studying Egypt’s royal mummies, and the evidence we’ve been able to gather about Nefertari’s remains not only complements the research we’ve been doing on the queen and her tomb but really does allow us to add another piece to the jigsaw of what is actually known about Egyptian mummification”.

* Ancient Egypt: It wasn't all Pharaohs and gold. For more information see www.york.ac.uk - CLICK HERE

Prof Joann Fletcher when she was recently awarded the Freedom of Barnsley