Joann Fletcher

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Joann Fletcher (born 30 August 1966,[1][2] in Barnsley, West Riding of Yorkshire[3]) is an Egyptologist and Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She has published a number of books and academic articles, including on Cleopatra, and made numerous television and radio appearances. In 2003 she controversially claimed to have identified the mummy of Queen Nefertiti.


Fletcher studied ancient history and Egyptology at University College London, specialising in the Ptolemaic dynasty and Cleopatra, and also in ancient Egyptian hair, wigs and forms of adornment. Her PhD, undertaken at the University of Manchester, was on hair and wigs. Currently Fletcher is Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York and Consultant Egyptologist for Harrogate Museums and Arts.

She also contributed to the new Egyptology galleries at the new Great North Museum in Newcastle, in Ancient Egypt Daily Life galleries at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, in mummification exhibitions at Bolton and Burnley and at Leiden's Rijksmuseum as part of their 1994 exhibition 'Clothing of the Pharaohs'.

Fletcher designed the UK's first GCSE equivalent qualification in Egyptology on behalf on the government education body Centra in 2003. She is co-founder of York University's Mummy Research Group, with whom she has studied human remains from South America, Yemen, Italy, Ireland, the Canary Islands and Egypt, including the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. She has undertaken excavation work in Egypt, Yemen, and the UK, and has examined mummies both on-site and in collections around the world.

Fletcher writes for The Guardian newspaper and the BBC's History Online Web site (including major input into their multimedia project 'Death in Sakkara', which won the New Media Award in 2005) and has made numerous appearances on television and radio. She was lead investigator in the History Channel series Mummy Forensics and most recently was involved with Mummifying Alan: Egypt's Last Secret, a documentary for Channel 4 and Discovery, the subject of a long term project which rewrites current understanding of mummification. This documentary won the 2011 Royal Television Society Award for Science and Natural History and also the BAFTA for Specialist Factual programme.

Her publications include Cleopatra the Great and The Search for Nefertiti, together with guidebooks, journal articles and academic papers.[4]

Queen Nefertiti

In 2003, Fletcher and a multidisciplinary scientific team from the University of York, including the forensic anthropologist Don Brothwell, took part in an expedition to the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, sanctioned by Dr Zahi Hawass, then Head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA),[5] where the hypothesis was put forward by Fletcher that one of the three mummies studied could be the mummified body of Queen Nefertiti, all three mummified bodies being found among a cache of mummies in tomb KV35 in 1898. This followed the team's scientific findings, and the hypothesis was included in the official report submitted to Hawass and the SCA shortly after the 2003 expedition.[5] The expedition, the result of twelve years of research, was funded by the Discovery Channel, which also produced a documentary on the findings.

Fletcher's conclusions have been dismissed by some Egyptologists, who claim that the mummy in question was a male as young as fifteen years old (a theory now disproved),[6] and that evidence used to support Fletcher's theories is insufficient, circumstantial and inconclusive. Archaeology, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, considered that Fletcher's "identification of the mummy in question as Nefertiti is balderdash".[7] Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, subsequently banned her from working in Egypt because he said "Dr Fletcher has broken the rules". Hawass explained this action in an article in the newspaper Al-Ahram:

"There are more than 300 foreign expeditions currently working in Egypt, and they all follow the same guidelines. We grant concessions to any scholar affiliate to a scientific or educational institution, and it has long been accepted code of ethics that any discovery made during excavations should first be reported to the SCA. By going first to the press with what might be considered a great discovery, Fletcher broke the bond made by York University with the Egyptian authorities. And by putting out in the popular media what is considered by most scholars to be an unsound theory, Fletcher has broken the rules and therefore, at least until we have reviewed the situation with her university, she must be banned from working in Egypt."[7]

According to The Times newspaper, British archaeologists have "leapt to her defence", and the research team stand by their findings.[8][9][10] The team maintain that no rules were broken, on the basis that the official report submitted to the SCA included Fletcher's hypothesis, described by others as a 'discovery', and Hawass was also informed of what was to be put forward in the TV programme prior to the Discovery Channel documentary being aired.[11] Fletcher, (who had the ban lifted by Hawass and was again working in the Valley of the Kings in April 2008) and the scientists who were involved, are adamant the research proves that the KV35YL mummy is more likely than not to be Nefertiti.[12]

Television and radio

  • 1991: Midweek (Egyptian Hair & Cosmetics), BBC Radio 4 (21.2.91)
  • 1998: Post-Mortem: Egypt Uncovered, SC4/Discovery
  • 1999: Mystery of the Mummies: Cave Mummies of the Canary Islands, Union Pictures/Channel 4
  • 1999: Face of the Pharaoh, MBC/National Geographic
  • 1999: Midweek (Mummies), BBC Radio 4 (9.6.99)
  • 2000: Private Lives of the Pharaohs 3 part series, TV6/Channel 4
  • 2000: Face Values: the story of cosmetics, Black Inc./Discovery
  • 2000: The Oldest Mummies in the World: the Chinchorro, Cicada/Discovery
  • 2001: Terry Jones’ Hidden History of Egypt, Seventh Art/BBC
  • 2001: Terry Jones’ Surprising History of Sex and Love, Seventh Art/BBC
  • 2002: Who Murdered Tutankhamen: Revealed, Atlantic/Discovery/Channel 5
  • 2002: The Immortals of Ancient Sheba: the Yemeni Mummies, Juniper/National Geographic/Channel 4
  • 2002: The True Curse of the Mummy, Stone City Films/Channel 5
  • 2002: Pyramid (interactive), BBC Digital Channel
  • 2003: The Black Mummy of Libya, Fulcrum/Channel 5
  • 2003: Nefertiti Revealed, Atlantic/Discovery/Channel 5
  • 2003: Carvilius: the Mummy of Rome, GA&A/National Geographic
  • 2003: Ancient Egyptians, WalltoWall/Channel 4
  • 2005: Death In Sakkara, BBC Interactive
  • 2005: The Myth, the Magic and the Mummy’s Curse, BBC Interactive Museum exhibition
  • 2006: Timewatch: Bog Bodies, BBC
  • 2008: Mummy Forensics, 6 part series, History Channel
  • 2011: Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret, Blink/Channel 4/Discovery
  • 2013: Ancient Egypt: Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings, BBC
  • 2016: Immortal Egypt, BBC (4 part series)


  • 1990: 'The Nit-Picking Pharaohs', New Scientist No.1718 (26.5.90), p. 24
  • 1992: 'Give Mummy a Wave: the Egyptian way to style hair', Hairdressers’ Journal International Vol. 109, No. 5677, p. 16-17
  • 1994: 'Hairdressing, Cosmetics and Bodycare', in Clothing of the Pharaohs (ed. G. Vogelsang-Eastwood), Leiden
  • 1997: 'The Tattooed Mummies of Ancient Egypt', NILE Offerings I, Sept. 1997, p. 28-30
  • 1998: 'Oils and Perfumes in Ancient Egypt', British Museum Press, London
  • 1998: 'Dance in Ancient Egypt', NILE Offerings 2-3, p. 35-39
  • 1999: Ancient Egypt: Art, Myth and Life, DBP London/New York
  • 1999: An Ancient Egyptian Child, Working White, High Wycombe
  • 2000: Egypt’s Sun King: Amenhotep III, DBP, London
  • 2000: 'Strange Tales of Egyptian Hair', Egypt Revealed 1, Fall, p. 36-41
  • 2000: 'Garments Fit for a King', The Guardian (10.8.00), p. 12-13,3605,352411,00.html
  • 2001: Son of the Gods: Alexander the Great, DBP, London
  • 2001: 'Ancient Egypt' sections in National Geographic Guide to Egypt and Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness Travel Guide
  • 2001: 'Egypt From Warrior Women to Female Pharaohs: careers for women in ancient Egypt', BBC History
  • 2002: The Egyptian Book of Living and Dying, DBP London
  • 2002: 'Ancient Egypt' section, Lonely Planet Guide to Egypt, Melbourne
  • 2002: 'Unmasking the Gods', The Guardian,4273,4364378,00.html
  • 2003: consultant, Exploring Ancient Civilisations Encyclopaedia, White-Thomson, Brighton
  • 2004: The Search for Nefertiti, Hodder & Stoughton, London
  • 2004: 'Body Art and Tattooing', 'Clothing', 'Shoes and Wigs', 'Cosmetics and Perfumes', in The Seventy Great Inventions of the Ancient World, Thames & Hudson, London, p. 264-288
  • 2005: 'The Decorated Body in Ancient Egypt: hairstyles, cosmetics and tattoos', in The Clothed Body in the Ancient World (ed. L. Cleland), Oxford, p. 3-13
  • 2005: Egypt, Ancient Civilizations: Illustrated Guide to Belief, Mythology and Art, London (DBP), p. 10-55
  • 2006: 'Playing Games with Ancient Egypt', BBC History
  • 2007: 'Tattoos: The Ancient and Mysterious History', The Smithsonian Magazine
  • 2007: 'Who was Cleopatra?' The Smithsonian Magazine
  • 2008: Cleopatra the Great (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • 2009: 'The Heron-Allen Collection of Egyptian Scarabs', in Proceedings of 8th Heron-Allen Symposium 2008: Opusculum XII, p. 14-29
  • 2010: Ancient Egypt: Art, Myth and Life (Rosen Publishing, New York)
  • 2011: Cleopatra the Great (HarperCollins)
  • 2011: 'Revisiting the Amarna Royals: Part 1', Shemu: the Egyptian Society of South Africa, vol. 15, no. 4, p. 1-3

Notes and references


  1. "Weekend birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media. 30 August 2014. p. 55. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF) .
  3. "College return for Dr Joann Fletcher". 2015-01-22. Retrieved 2016-01-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Joann Fletcher - Archaeology, The University of York". Retrieved 2016-01-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1"
  6. Hawass, Zahi et al. "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family" The Journal of the American Medical Association, 17 February 2010. Vol 303, No. 7 p.638-647
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mark Rose, "Where's Nefertiti?", Archaeology, 16 September 2004.
  8. "In the news: Joann Fletcher | Times Higher Education (THE)". Times Higher Education. 2003-08-29. Retrieved 2016-01-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "History - Ancient History in depth: The End of the Amarna Period". BBC. Retrieved 2016-01-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Rose, Mark (2010-02-16). "Tut: Disease and DNA News - Archaeology Magazine Archive". Retrieved 2016-01-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Ian Parker, "The Pharaoh: Is Zahi Hawass bad for Egyptology?", The New Yorker, 16 November 2009
  12. Hello (2010-11-01). "Barnsley lass Joann really digs Egypt". The Star. Retrieved 2016-01-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links