Archaeologists from the University of York believe that a pair of mummified knees found in a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Queens once belonged to Queen Nefertari, the royal wife of Pharaoh Ramses II.
The ancient queen ruled during Egypt’s 19th Dynasty and died around the 13th century B.C. After she died, her subjects buried her in a lavish tomb that was quickly ransacked by thieves. It is possible the robbers dismembered the queen’s body in order to collect the various amulets and jewelry that she wore.
When archaeologists first discovered Nefertari’s tomb in 1904, they found only some funerary statues and a pair of knees. While many have speculated that the knees belonged to the queen, proof has never been available.
“You have got the effects also of very occasional but dramatic flash floods, so while things are found in a tomb it doesn’t necessarily follow that the human remains that you are finding are those of the individual portrayed in there and on the tomb walls,” said study co-author Joann Fletcher, a researcher at the University of York, according to Tech Times.
To solve the mystery, the team analyzed the remains by conducting X-ray scans, radiocarbon dating, and chemical analysis on the wrappings’ residue. They then took that information and matched it against contextual clues from the burial site.
This showed that not only did the knees date back to the queen’s reign, they also belonged to a fully adult female about the age of 40. In addition, the embalming materials were consistent with mummification traditions of the time and anthropometric reconstruction. And the knee size reveals that the women stood between 5 foot 5 inches and 5 foot 6 inches tall. That is in line with claims that Nefertari was much taller than the women of her day.
“[T]he 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,” said Fletcher in a statement.
The details of this study are outlined in PLOS ONE.