It seems to happen with amazing regularity in Egyptology: a wonderful discovery made by lucky accident.
John Pendlebury was a British archaeologist, who in early 1933 was working in the ruins of Akhenaten's failed dream, Amarna. This was the city dedicated to the worship of his supreme deity, the Aten.
Pendlebury's goal for that season was to clear the Great Aten Temple. However things changed quickly on the 9th January 1933. Helping with the excavations was the wife of Hilary Waddington from the Antiquities Department of Palestine. Mrs Waddington was walking near the famous complex of the sculptor Thutmose, in whose workshop was found the famous bust of Nefertiti, now in Berlin. When a pottery sherd caught her eye and she overturned it, she discovered part of a plaster head. Mrs. Waddington had chanced upon another sculptor's workshop, and a side-project was born.
"Most impressive of the finds was undoubtedly the lifesize head in quartzite…This is unfinished, the ink marks are still there for guiding lines and part of the left-hand side of the face is still rough. The sculptor, however, was unable to resist painting the lips, even before he had finished. At the base of the neck is a dowel for fitting onto a body of a different material." Composite statues like this were common in the Amarna Period statuary.
The facial features of this head match closely to the Berlin bust, and it no doubt represents the famous Queen Nefertiti. However unlike the Berlin bust, which seems to have been a model used to teach junior sculptors, the unfinished head looks like it was very much a work in progress.
The unfinished head is now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (JE 59286).
Nefertiti's tomb has never been discovered, and Nicholas Reeves is now in Luxor to meet with Ministry of Antiquities officials to discuss his theory that Nefertiti was the original owner of Tutankhamun's tomb. Next week they will examine the painted tomb walls for signs of a hidden door that Dr. Reeves proposes hides the intact burial of the queen.
Photo: Kenneth Garrett.