Joann Fletcher

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Joann Fletcher
Born (1966-08-30) 30 August 1966 (age 52)
TitleHonorary Visiting Professor
Academic background
EducationBarnsley College
Alma materUniversity College London
University of Manchester
ThesisAncient Egyptian Hair: a study in style, form and function (1995)
Academic work

Joann Fletcher (born 30 August 1966) is an Egyptologist and an 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.

Early life and education[edit]

Fletcher was born on 30 August 1966 in Barnsley.[1][2][3] She was educated at Barnsley College, a sixth form and further education college in Barnsley.[3] She 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.

She was graduated with a bachelor of arts (BA) degree in 1987. Her doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree was undertaken at the University of Manchester. Her doctoral thesis was on hair and wigs; it was entitled "Ancient Egyptian Hair: a study in style, form and function". Her PhD was completed in 1996.[4]


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 first UK GCSE equivalent qualification in Egyptology on behalf of the government education body in 2003 but the program ended in 2008. She is co-founder of the York University 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 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 that rewrites current understanding of mummification. This documentary won the 2011 Royal Television Society Award for Science and Natural History and also the BAFTA Award for Specialist Factual programme.

Her publications include Cleopatra the Great and The Search for Nefertiti, together with guidebooks, journal articles, and academic papers.[5]

Queen Nefertiti[edit]

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),[6] 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.[6] The expedition, the result of 12 years of research, was funded by the Discovery Channel, which also produced a documentary on the findings.

Fletcher's conclusions have been dismissed by the majority of Egyptologists (some of whom previously claimed that the mummy in question was a male as young as fifteen years old {a theory now disproven}),[7] 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".[8] 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."[8]

According to The Times newspaper, British archaeologists have "leapt to her defence", however, and the research team members stand by their findings.[9][10][11] The team members 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 also was informed of what was to be put forward in the television programme prior to the Discovery Channel documentary being aired.[12]

Fletcher got the Hawass ban lifted and was working again in the Valley of the Kings in April 2008.

Television and radio appearances[edit]

  • 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, September 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
  • 2016: The Story of Egypt: The Civilization that Shaped the World (Pegasus Books)
  • 2016: 'An Ancient Egyptian Wig: Construction and Reconstruction', Internet Archaeology 42,
  • 2016: 'The Hair and Wig of Meryt: Grooming in the 18th Dynasty', Internet Archaeology 42,
  • 2016: 'The Egyptian Hair Pin: practical, sacred, fatal', Internet Archaeology 42,

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ "Weekend birthdays". The Guardian. 30 August 2014. p. 55.
  2. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF).
  3. ^ a b "College return for Dr Joann Fletcher". 22 January 2015. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Professor Joann Fletcher". Department of Archaeology. University of York. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  5. ^ "Joann Fletcher – Archaeology, The University of York". University of York. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b"
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ a b Mark Rose, "Where's Nefertiti?", Archaeology, 16 September 2004.
  9. ^ "In the news: Joann Fletcher | Times Higher Education (THE)". Times Higher Education. 29 August 2003. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  10. ^ "History – Ancient History in depth: The End of the Amarna Period". BBC. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  11. ^ Rose, Mark (16 February 2010). "Tut: Disease and DNA News – Archaeology Magazine Archive". Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  12. ^ Ian Parker, "The Pharaoh: Is Zahi Hawass bad for Egyptology?", The New Yorker, 16 November 2009

External links[edit]