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Could this be the profile of a queen?

By Tim Friend, USA TODAY

Is this Nefertiti? Two months ago, a team of Egyptologists led by British scientist Joann Fletcher of the University of York announced that a neglected mummy collecting dust in a nondescript tomb was actually that of ancient Egypt's most famous female ruler.

In an effort to confirm her identity, two British experts have applied their forensic skills to digital X-rays of the skull. (Related graphic: Reconstructing Nefertiti)

Neither Damian Schofield of Nottingham University nor Martin Evison of Sheffield University knew in advance the identity of their "victim." They specialize in reconstructing human faces from skulls for murder cases in which the victim is unknown.

Schofield and Evison created a 3-D computer mesh of the skull, then placed a series of markers to designate where tissue would be added. Next, they added facial muscles to give the face its full depth and contour. Finally, a graphic artist added skin texture, eye color, lips and the crown.

Schofield and Evison say the reconstruction does not prove the skull belongs to Nefertiti. But they were surprised at the similarities with Nefertiti's bust, which was made during her lifetime and is displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.

Says Fletcher: "I was bowled over by it, to be honest. The face is that of a very strong individual indeed. She has such a beautiful profile. She is stunning."

Nefertiti's image is one of the most popular today from ancient Egypt. But the real queen was hated by Egyptian society after her reign ended. An unusually powerful queen, she reigned with her husband, Akhenaten, who ruled from 1352 to 1336 B.C., during the late 18th dynasty. Nefertiti may have ruled as pharaoh for three years after his death.

Nefertiti vanished from Egyptian history with no trace of a royal tomb or evidence of a burial.

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