Queen Nefertiti’s 3,000-year-old makeover sparked controversy not because of the advanced 3D-imaging technology or the 500 hours scientists spent recreating it. Nope, it wasn’t the handcrafted Dior jewelry either.
It was the color of the 3,400-year-old-queen’s skin that incited outrage across the interwebs.
Now, one professor says he’s not convinced this mummy is Queen Nefertiti to begin with.
The mummy of the alleged Queen was found in 1898 in a side chamber of Amenhotep II’s royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Her real identity has remained a mystery ever since and earned her the title of the “younger lady”. Buried with her were two other despoiled mummies and nine reburied kings.
Located in that side chamber was another female mummy. Known as the “elder lady”, she was identified as Queen Tiye, the wife of Amonhotep III, based on DNA analysis. The analysis suggests the “younger lady” was Tutankhamun’s mother and also the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye – a clue that Johnson says eliminates the chance she is Nefertiti.
That’s because Nefertiti was never mentioned as a royal daughter, something Johnson says would have been clearly stated in her inscriptions and hundreds of other texts.
He says numerous sculptures and busts of Nefertiti have a “straight nose, heavy-lidded eyes, long graceful neck, and a strong square jaw” – characteristics not duplicated in Daynes’ bust of a woman with a narrow skull, deep-set eyes, and triangular jaw. Although, he says, the replication could have been a relative of Nefertiti’s.
That brings us back to the issue of race and skin tone. Studies suggest Egypt has long been a gateway to and from Africa and resulted in a mixed population of both European and African races. The royal women reflected this as well and came from so far as the Mediterranean.
While we may never definitively know the skin color of the princess, Johnson says she was undoubtedly “not pure Caucasian”. As the theorized daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye (both of African descent), a “brown skin color would have probably been more true to the individual represented and to her times”.
It’s not the first time skin color has sparked debate of a historical reconstruction and, of course, Twitter had a few things to say.
Some argue the replication whitewashes African history.
The true identity of Queen Nefertiti, whose full name Neferneferuaten Nefertiti means “Beautiful are the Beauties of Aten, a Beautiful woman has come,” may never be known.
Johnson did give major props to Elisabeth Daynes for her hard work. Whether or not it's "whitewashing" history is a decision we'll leave to you.