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The Search for Nefertiti    by Joanne Fletcher order for
Search for Nefertiti
by Joanne Fletcher
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Has the long search by Egyptologists for Nefertiti finally been successful? Dr. Joanne Flectcher believes so. In The Search for Nefertiti, she expounds her findings in scholarly fashion and has made a believer of me. I am not an archeologist, even an amateur one. But a book with the picture on the cover of the famous bust of that lovely woman Nefertiti seemed to beckon to me. Along with historical research and unpronouncable names, the everyday world of Egypt's Pharaoh X - the legendary queen known as Nefertiti - and her royal court is brought to life in laymen's terms even I could understand.

This is not just the record of an extraordinary woman, of whom much has been written and speculated. It is the history of another woman who pursued a dream to its completion. Dr. Joanne Fletcher was in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings when a sealed chamber was reopened after many years, and the three mummies known to be inside were again brought to light. Thanks to tomb robbers (from ancient times to today), the elaborate wrappings and precious possessions of the deceased were gone, as was any scrap of identifying material.

One of Dr. Fletcher's areas of expertise is the hairstyles of the ancient royals. Through the coiffures of the times, she is able to date the mummies found. She also records that one of the reasons for shaved heads, even among the women of the courts, and the wearing of wigs was head lice! Ugh! I was amazed at the use of early deodorants to be 'placed where the limbs join the body'. Kohl, the black eyeliner, that was used extensively, not only made the eyes appear larger but also apparently acted as a shield from the sun's glare, as well as an unguent for eye diseases.

Dr. Fletcher explores the everyday life of the ancient Egyptian royalty. What they wore, what they ate, their gods, their beliefs, their parties and funerals. The Pharaohs sometimes married their own sisters or daughters to raise that person to a higher status - not as a marital bed partner. Court intrigue, as rampant as in any court in history, recorded on the walls of the tombs and in written scrolls found with the mummies, details the relationships of the Pharaohs and their subjects. And the dangers inherent in high places.

Extensive damage was done to the mummy Fletcher believes to be that of Nefertiti. Now the specluation is whether this was done by tomb robbers or by contemporaries, who wanted to inflict damage on the living queen but had to be content to maim her corpse. I have been to Egypt and was awestruck at the accomplishments of the Egyptians, who had what to our eyes were primitive tools. The tributes paid to their rulers is awesome. Look at Karnak and Abu Simbel and the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Read what was behind these great monuments. Enjoy, as I did, a prodigous work by a wonderful story teller.

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