The mummy a British Egyptologist says could be the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti is much more likely to be a man, Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass has said.
Nefertiti, wife and co-ruler with the pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother of legendary boy King Tutankhamun, has long been considered one of the most beautiful and powerful women of ancient Egypt.
Joann Fletcher, a mummification specialist from the University of York in England, said in June there was a "strong possibility" her team had unearthed Nefertiti from a tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in Luxor. The Discovery Channel publicised the find in a television programme aired this month.
But Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Hawass, on Saturday expressed doubts about the find and said there were questions over the gender of the mummy.
"I'm sure that this mummy is not a female," Hawass told Reuters at his office in Cairo.
A report submitted to Egypt's SCA from the University of York expedition leader Don Brothwell said of the mummy: "There has been some confusion as to the sex of this individual."
However, the report concluded that the mummy was a female because of a lack of evidence of male genitalia.
Hawass said a double-piercing in the mummy's ear was common to both sexes, but in a different period to the Amarna era in which Nefertiti lived. He said it was even more common in men.
"All the queens used to wear earrings in their wigs, not in their ears," Hawass said, who has worked in the field for 35 years. He added that the male mummy found alongside the mummy
said to be Nefertiti's also had pierced ears.
Archaeologist have spent years
excavating Egyptian tombs
A sculpted bust of Nefertiti, whose name means "the beautiful woman has come", is exhibited in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Her husband Akhenaten, who ruled from 1379-1362 BC, is believed to have all but killed off the idea of pharaoh as god-king in trying to impose a form of monotheism.
"Nefertiti gave birth six times, so her hips should be very broad, but this mummy's hips are very narrow," said Hawass, who inspected the mummy on Friday.
Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo Salima Ikram said x-rays of the mummy taken by the University of York's expedition would clarify whether it had given birth.
"The evidence does not at all support the finding of Nefertiti," Ikram said in a telephone interview. "It would be very obvious from any x-rays of the mummy whether it had given birth...there would be specific markings."
Hawass said Nefertiti was widely believed to be at least 35 years old when she died, but Brothwell's expedition report concluded an age range of 18-30 for the mummy.