The Younger Lady

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"The Younger Lady"
Right profile view of the mummy from KV35
Dynasty18th of Egypt
FatherAmenhotep III
ReligionAncient Egyptian Religion

The Younger Lady is the informal name given to a mummy discovered in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV35 by archaeologist Victor Loret in 1898.[1] The mummy also has been given the designation KV35YL ("YL" for "Younger Lady") and 61072,[2] and currently resides in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Through recent DNA tests, this mummy has been identified as the mother of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and a daughter of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. Early speculation was that this mummy was the remains of Queen Nefertiti, which remains possible, but DNA tests have not confirmed this and questions about that possibility remain.[3]

Discovery and identification[edit]

The mummy was found adjacent to two other mummies in KV35: a young boy who died at around the age of 10, thought to be Webensenu, and another, older woman, identified as Queen Tiye by the recent DNA studies on Tutankhamun's lineage.[3] All were found together, lying naked side-by-side and unidentified in a small antechamber of the tomb. All three mummies had been extensively damaged by ancient tomb robbers.

There has been much speculation as to the identity of the Younger Lady mummy. Upon finding the mummy, Victor Loret initially believed it be that of a young man as the mummy's head had been shaved. A closer inspection later made by Dr. Grafton Elliot Smith confirmed that the mummy was that of a female, although Loret's original interpretation persisted for many years.

The front view of the younger lady

Recently, autosomal and mitochondrial DNA tests have shown conclusively that the mummy is that of a female and that she was the mother of Tutankhamun.[3] The results also show that she was a full-sister to her husband, the mummy from KV55, and that they were both the children of Amenhotep III and Tiye.[3] There is speculation over the identity of the mummy from KV55 (sister marriage existed), with some Egyptologists, including Zahi Hawass, claiming the mummy is Akhenaten, and others, including anthropologist Joyce Filer, claiming the mummy as Smenkhare. This family relationship would lessen the possibility that the Younger Lady (and, by extension, Tutankhamun's mother) was either Nefertiti, or Akhenaten's secondary wife Kiya, because no known artifact accords either wife titles such as "King's sister" or "King's Daughter".[4] The possibility of the younger lady being Sitamun, Isis, or Henuttaneb is considered unlikely, as they were Great Royal Wives of their father Amenhotep III, and had Akhenaten married any of them, they would have taken the place of Nefertiti as the principal queen of Egypt. The report concludes that the mummy is likely to be Nebetah or Beketaten, daughters of Amenhotep III not known to have married their father, although he is known to have had eight daughters with Tiye.[4]

There is also a theory that the Younger Lady is Meritaten, daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and wife of Smenkhkare, based on a study of the alleles inherited by Tutankhamun. The theory goes that Meritaten married Smenkhare, believed to be her uncle, thereby making Tutankhamun a maternal grandson of Akhenaten. The theory holds weight as inbreeding makes it harder to distinguish the generations, but there is one problem with this theory. Meritaten must be a mitochondrial descendant of Queen Tiye, or her mother Thuya, as the younger lady's mitochondrial DNA fits with her being Tiye's daughter. Nefertiti's lineage is nowhere specified, and if Meritaten is the younger lady, Nefertiti must be a mitochondrial relation of Thuya.[citation needed]

It has been suggested[citation needed] that, indeed, the Younger Lady is Nefertiti, as incest was not uncommon. This would mean that Akhenaten did marry his own sister and that he and Nefertiti are the parents of Tutankhamun. Furthermore, Nefertiti, who may have survived her husband, may be identical with Smenkhare and may have adopted this name if she took over the reign after Akhenaten's death (and having her daughter move into her official roles of chief priestess and 'wife'). All this is not proven, but should be mentioned as a further plausible scenario.[5] One difficulty posed by this identification is the mummy's age at death, because Nefertiti gave birth to Meritaten no later than year 1 of Akhenaten's reign and there is evidence that she was still alive during year 16.

Description of the mummy[edit]

A sketch made by Grafton Elliot Smith of the full body of the Younger Lady mummy, documenting the extensive damage that existed when he discovered it

Grafton Elliot Smith provided an extensive description of the mummy in his survey of the ancient royal mummies at the beginning of the twentieth century. He found the mummy to be 1.58 m (5 ft 2 in) in height, and judged her to have been no older than 25 years old at the time of death.[6] He also noted the major damage done by ancient tomb robbers, who smashed the anterior wall of the mummy's chest, and had torn the right arm off just below the shoulder.[7] Smith presumed that she was a member of the royal family.[7]

The Younger Lady has a gaping wound in the left side of her mouth and cheek. It had been thought that this wound, which also destroyed part of the jaw, had been the result of actions of the tomb robbers,[7] but a more recent re-examination of the mummy while it was undergoing genetic tests and CT scans determined that the wound had happened prior to death and that the injury had been lethal.[4] Julian Heath suggests that the wound was likely the result of an axe blow.[8]

Below her left breast there is another wound, likely to be the result of a stab wound.[8] In 2003, a scientific team from University of York, working under Joann Fletcher, examined the mummy. A member of the team realized that the face wound could have been a premortem wound, and not a postmortem wound as previously assumed. Instead of the Younger Lady's remains simply being mutilated after her death by tomb robbers motivated by malice, it seemed likely the Lady had been injured while still alive. The conclusion was considered uncertain.[9] At a later point, Ashraf Selim lent support to this theory. He noted that if the Younger Lady had been damaged following the embalming process, then bits of dried bone and flesh could be located in the mummy's wounds. Since no such findings occurred, he was certain that this was a pre-mortem wound. Further, Selim viewed the wound as too violent to be the result of an accident. The Lady had been injured in an act of deliberate violence.[9] The Egyptian Mummy Project which used a CT scan to examine the mummy, located "very few pieces of the relevant broken bones" in the sinus cavity. They concluded that the Younger Lady's face had been damaged before the embalming process, and likely prior to her death. Indeed, the face wound was determined to be a probable cause of death for the Lady.[9]

The missing right arm of the mummy was the cause of a minor controversy between researchers. Two severed arms had been located within KV35, and either one was thought likely to belong to the Younger Lady. One was a bent arm with a clenched fist, while the other was a straight arm. It was typical for Egyptian royal female mummies to be positioned with one of their arms bent and the other one in a straight position. The hand more likely to be positioned as bent was the left hand.[9] The Egyptian Mummy Project of Ashraf Selim examined both arms to resolve the controversy. The bent arm was compared to the Younger Lady's attached left hand, and was found to be too long to belong to the same woman. The bones of the two compared arms were also found "different in consistency". The straight arm was then compared to the Younger Lady's left arm. It was found to be of similar length and similar bone density, so the Project concluded that the straight arm most likely did belong to the Younger Lady.[9] The identified right arm of the Younger Lady has two breaks, "one in the upper arm and one at the wrist". The hand has been severed from the rest of the limb.[9]

A finding of lesser importance is that the Younger Lady has a double-pierced ear. Pierced ears were rather common for women of the New Kingdom of Egypt, including royals and nonroyal women. The Lady's pierced ear can not help researchers determine her identity or social position.[9] Similarly inconclusive for identification purposes was the discovery of a wig in KV35, which could have belonged to the Younger Lady. Supporters of the theory identifying the Lady with Nefertiti, pointed to the wig's perceived similarities with the type of wigs used by Nefertiti. They are fashion items used by Egyptian women of the same era, they can not help us identify the wig's user with the Queen.[9]

CT scan findings[edit]

Following the CT scan of the Younger Lady, more detailed descriptions of the mummy have been published.[10] A large defect in the anterior wall of the Lady's chest, and the disarticulation of the right upper limb (arm) are the main indications that the body suffered mutilation by ancient tomb robbers. Otherwise the mummy has been fairly preserved.[10] Despite previous disputes about the Lady's gender, the morphology of the skull and pelvis confirms that she was indeed a woman. The condition of the epiphyseal union and the closure of the cranial sutures suggest that the Lady was between 25 and 35 years old at the time of her death.[10] The Lady's height was 1,58 meters from the vertex to the heel. Her left humerus was 29.3 centimeters in length. Her left femur was 40.5 centimeters in length. Her left tibia was 35.2 centimeters in length.[10]

The base of skull was found intact. The back of the skull cavity contains the shrunken and desiccated brain and dura mater of the Lady. There is no evidence of embalming material within the cranial cavity. Researchers located an oval defect in the skull. It is located in the central part of the frontal bone, in front of the coronal suture. The defect has sharp, beveled, and festooned edges. The lack of evidence for attempted healing or sclerosis indicate that the defect was caused by a postmortem alteration of the body, probably during the embalming process. The embalmers likely used a sharp instrument on the skull.[10]

The left side of the lower face includes a large defect. The defect involves the Lady's left cheek, her left maxillary sinus, her alveolar process, and part of her left mandible. There are sharp edges in this bony defect, with no evidence of attempted healing or sclerosis. Fragments of the broken lateral wall of the left maxillary sinus were located within the antral cavity. Fragments for most of the Lady's fractured bones are missing, and were apparently not placed in her tomb.[10]

The soft tissues located next to the facial defect were relatively thicker than the corresponding tissues on the intact and uninjured right side of her face. On top of the facial gap and partly beneath the remaining skin, there was located a rolled embalming pack. The composition of the pack is undetermined, though researchers consider it probable that is composed of linen which has been impregnated with resin. A similar substance was located on the right side of the face, particularly the cheek and the mid-face. More clearly identified packs of linen were located in the periphery of the Lady's orbits, placed in front of the globes of the eyes. Resin was also located in the Lady's right nasal cavity.[10] The Lady's mouth is filled with linen. No embalming materials were placed within the Lady's throat.[10]

The auricles of her ears were found in much different condition. Part of the right auricle is missing, and can not be used to determine her appearance in life. Her left auricle is in a better condition, and two piercings were located in its earlobe. The Lady had a double-pierced ear.[10]

The Lady has several missing teeth due to her facial injury. Her left alveolar plate and part of her left jaw were fractured, explaining what happened to her teeth. One tooth is visible within her mouth. The fracture involved most of her left alveolar plate distal to the left first incisor. This incisor is among the missing teeth.[10] The right alveolar plate is in a better condition, though the sockets of the first incisor and the right canine tooth are empty, with these teeth missing. The rest of the teeth are still present, including a nonerupted third molar (wisdom tooth).[10]

The fracture of mandible involved the midline and the adjacent part of the left mandible. Her right and left first incisors and the left canine tooth were affected by this fracture. The sockets of the right second incisor, the left first molar, and the left second molar are empty, with these teeth missing. The first and second left upper molars are partially fractured. Both the right and the left upper third molars are nonerupted. Conversely, the Lady's upper right canine, premolars, first molar, and second molar are still present. This group of teeth has no visible attrition, and no occlusal irregularity of their surface.[10]

Research on the Lady's spine located a smooth lateral curve on the lumbar region (lower spine), with a convexity towards the left. This is an indication of lumbar scoliosis.[10] The limits of the curve have been determined. The upper limit is between the twelfth thoracic vertebra and the first lumbar vertebra. The lower limit is between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae. The center of the curve is between the second and third lumbar vertebrae.[10] The scoliosis of the Lady is mild, with a Cobb angle of less than 20°.[10] Researchers found no evidence of structural abnormalities in the vertebrae, no fractures, and no congenital anomalies (birth defects). The researchers suspect that the Lady may not have actually suffered from scoliosis while still alive. The curved spine of the mummy may be a postmortem condition, resulting from the position of the body during the mummification process.[10]

There is a large defect in the anterior wall of the Lady's torso. The viscera (internal organs) were removed by the mummy's embalmers, with the exception of the Lady's heart which is still visible within the body. The heart was apparently never moved. The embalming incision has been located in the left inguinal region. This tissue gap is 56 millimetres in length and 135 millimetres in depth.[10] The torso contains both linen fibers which were mildly smeared with resin, and with linen packs treated with resin. One of the resin-treated linen packs was placed within the pelvis. The pelvic floor has a large defect, possibly used during the mummification process to remove the viscera. This would be an example of perineal evisceration.[10]

The left upper limb (arm) of the Lady extends beside her body, with the hand placed over the left hip. There is a complete transverse fracture of the proximal portion of the shaft, in the right humerus. The fracture has gaping ends. There is no evidence of attempted healing or for the formation of a callus in this area.[10] The disarticulated right upper limb (arm) has been placed beside the body. The right hand has been broken and completely separated from the wrist. This hand has been placed at the feet of the mummy.[10]

The lower limbs (human legs) have also been damaged. The left iliac crest contains small fractures. The inferior pubic ramus also contains similar fractures. Due to the lack of evidence of healing, it is likely that all these fractures were part of the postmortem damage to the Lady's body.[10] The right tibia has a defective area at the front of the distal shaft. The defective area extends 33.5 millimetres above the ankle joint. The metatarsal bones of both feet are broken, and missing from the body. The phalanx bones of both feet are also missing.[10] There is a subcutaneous (hypodermic) filling at the back of the Lady's right hip region, where her buttock is located.[10]

Researchers have noted some peculiarities in the mummification process used on the Lady. The evisceration of the body and the stuffing of the torso with embalming materials were standard parts of the mummification process used during the entire reign of the 18th dynasty. This was not the case with the intact skull base and lack of effort to remove the brain, seen in the case of the Lady. This process had been used on early rulers of the 18th dynasty, as seen in the mummies currently identified with Thutmose I, Thutmose II, and Thutmose III. By the time of the later rulers of the 18th dynasty, when the Lady lived and died, the process had changed. All mummies from this later era contain some treatment of the brain, in attempts to remove it from the body. The mummification process used on the Lady seems like a throwback to an earlier era.[10] Another peculiarity is the evidence that the people behind the mummification process were trying to repair and cover injured areas of the body. They used subcutaneous fillings and packs to remodel the injured left side of the face, the contralateral side of the face, and the right hip region. This was not part of the regular efforts of an embalmer.[10]

The results of the CT scan support the idea that the Lady's facial injury took place prior to her mummification. The researchers consider this to have been a perimortem injury, happening either shortly before the Lady's death or following her death; in the short period between the death and the mummification. Either way the embalmers would have started work on an already damaged body. The lack of signs of healing would support the idea that the Lady received a mortal wound, and her body had no time to attempt recovery. The nature of the injury, however, could not be fully determined. The small fragments of bone found within the maxillary antral sinus, at least indicate the direction of the trauma. Something was "pushing" the bones within, rather than "pulling" them out.[10] A heavy object hitting the Lady's face would have such an effect. If not an intentional act, an accident involving the Lady receiving a strong kick from an animal would have the same result. A horse would have sufficient strength to kill with its kicks.[10] In any case, an acute facial trauma to a living woman would cause severe shock and bleeding. Then this shock and the bleeding would likely cause her death.[10]

While the CT scan researchers thought the Lady's death likely to be violent or accidental, they were less certain of what caused the skull defect and the defect in the anterior wall of the body. Whether they were perimortem or postmortem injuries to the body could not be determined. They could be the result of the same mysterious lethal incident as the facial injury, or caused long after the Lady's death by the ancient tomb robbers.[10]

Hermann Schögl, a Swiss Egyptologist, agrees with the medical and DNA findings of the teams working under Zahi Hawass, but disputes several of the identifications of the royal and noble mummies. Schögl agrees that the head injuries which the Lady received were lethal, and has suggested that she was killed in a chariot accident.[11] Schögl believes that the Younger Lady is Nefertiti, and that she was killed in a chariot accident during regnal year 14 of Akhenaten's reign. However, the archaeological findings from Akhenaten's reign seem to indicate that Nefertiti was still alive during regnal year 16, two years following the date Schögl has chosen for her death.[11] Marianne Eaton-Krauss, another Egyptologist, finds Schögl's alternative royal genealogy for the 18th dynasty and his attempted reconstruction of the final years of Akhenaten's reign to be rather unconvincing.[11]

Natalia Klimczack, a historian and journalist, reports that several Egyptologists consider it likely that the Younger Lady may be Kiya. Kiya was one of Akhenaten's queens, but disappears from the historical record by regnal year 12 or 13 of Akhenaten's reign. Her time of death is not indicated in the primary sources. As Aidan Dodson, an Egyptologist, has pointed out, several of the monuments and objects originally dedicated to Kiya were later usurped by other royals.[12] A Pharaoh whose identity is unclear was buried in Kiya's coffin instead of her. Relief representations of Kiya were altered to instead depict Meritaten and/or Ankhesenamun. To Aiden this suggests that Kiya had fallen from grace, and that there was an effort to erase her from the historical record.[12] The premortem facial injury of the Younger Lady would fit this theory. The Lady did not die of natural causes, the facial injury indicates that she was murdered. If she was Kiya, this would explain her sudden disappearance from the historical record and efforts to remove her depictions in it.[12]

Historical record[edit]

Marianne Eaton-Krauss has called attention to the apparent absence of the Younger Lady, as Tutankhamun/Tutankhaten's mother, from the available historical record of Ancient Egypt. As of the 2010s, nobody has been able to find an inscription, a relief, or a statue dedicated to this young Pharaoh's mother. KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, contains memorabilia from his life and reign. None of these items ever mentions his mother.[11]

There is a contrast between the Younger Lady and a number of influential queen mothers from the later reigns of the 18th dynasty, who had a large presence in the reigns of their sons. Tiaa served as queen mother to Thutmose IV, Mutemwiya as queen mother to Amenhotep III, and Tiye as queen mother to Akhenaten. It seems likely that Tutankhamun/Tutankhaten never had a queen mother, indicating that the Younger Lady (or any other mother) had died before his rise to the throne.[11]

Despite the Younger Lady being daughter to a Pharaoh (Amenhotep III), full sister and probable wife to a second Pharaoh (Akhenaten), and mother to a third Pharaoh (Tutankhamun/Tutankhaten), she herself does not appear to have been a prominent figure in her lifetime. Willeke Wendrich, an Egyptologist, considers it likely that the Lady was a minor wife or a concubine to Akhenaten, rather than his Queen.[13] Wendrich notes that the Pharaohs of Egypt typically had multiple wives. This often resulted in multiple sons serving as viable heirs to the throne, and potential competition between the sons to gain the right to succeed their father.[13]

Face reconstruction[edit]

On 7 February 2018, The Younger Lady was featured on the 7th episode of the 4th season of Expedition Unknown titled "Great Women of Ancient Egypt". On the assumption that she is indeed to be identified as Nefertiti and using preserved remains, modern technology and artistry, a team led by Expedition Unknown's host Josh Gates presented a reconstruction of what The Younger Lady would have looked like in her full royal regalia.[14] The bust was created by French paleoartist Élisabeth Daynès.[15]


  1. ^ Reeves, Nicholas. Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Valley of the Kings. p100. Thames & Hudson. 1997. (Reprint) ISBN 0-500-05080-5
  2. ^ Smith, G. Eliot. The Royal Mummies p.117 Duckworth Publishers, 2000
  3. ^ a b c d Hawass Z, Gad YZ, Ismail S, Khairat R, Fathalla D, Hasan N, Ahmed A, Elleithy H, Ball M, Gaballah F, Wasef S, Fateen M, Amer H, Gostner P, Selim A, Zink A, Pusch CM (February 2010). "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family". JAMA. 303 (7): 638–47. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.121. PMID 20159872.
  4. ^ a b c Hawass, Z; et al. (2010). "Ancestry and pathology in King Tutankhamun's family". JAMA. 303 (7): 3. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.121. PMID 20159872.
  5. ^ Michael E. Habicht, Nofretete und Echnaton, 2012, Koehler & Amelang, ISBN 978-3733803810
  6. ^ Smith, G. Elliot. The Royal Mummies. p.40. Duckworth Egyptology. 2000 (Reprint from original 1912 edition). ISBN 0-7156-2959-X
  7. ^ a b c Smith, G. Elliot. The Royal Mummies. p.41. Duckworth Egyptology. 2000 (Reprint from original 1912 edition). ISBN 0-7156-2959-X
  8. ^ a b Heath (2015), p. 180
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Hawass, Saleem (2016), p. 131-132
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Hawass, Saleem (2016), p. 80-83
  11. ^ a b c d e Eaton-Krauss (2016), p. 10-11
  12. ^ a b c Klimczack, Natalia (January 3, 2016). "Kiya - The Most Mysterious Woman of Amarna". Ancient Origins: Reconstructing the story of humanity's past. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Than, Ken (February 17, 2010). "King Tut Mysteries Solved: Was Disabled, Malarial, and Inbred". National Geographic News. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  14. ^ "Black Twitter roasts TODAY show for Queen Nefertiti reconstruction that looks like a white woman - theGrio". theGrio. 2018-02-06. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  15. ^ "A new, anatomically accurate bust depicts Queen Nefertiti—but with fair skin". Newsweek. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2018-02-26.


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