Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pharaoh Hatshepsut's Mummy Positively Identified

Howard Carter was most famous for his discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. However, unbeknownst to him, he also was responsible for the discovery of one of Egypt’s most famous kings, the pharaoh Hatshepsut. In 1902 Howard Carter entered theTomb KV 60. The tomb itself had been robbed in antiquity. Little was left inside, aside from some mummified geese. However, there were two female mummies that remained in the tomb. One had the name Sitre-In, Hatshepsut’s wet nurse, written on it. The other female mummy was anonymous. Years later the mummy of Sitre-In was removed, but the anonymous mummy remained inside the tomb undisturbed until 1990. It was then that speculation about the mummy’s true identity began to circulate. A group of Egyptologists began to suspect that the anonymous mummy might indeed have been that of the famous female pharaoh Hatshepsut. They based their theory on the facts that the mummy had a bent left arm, often associated with royalty, and that it wore a wooden face piece, which may have been used to attach the false beard that the female pharaoh was often depicted wearing. Others adamantly refuted this theory, stating that the anonymous mummy was of an elderly, obese women, a description that did not match with the conventional picture of the female pharaoh. Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, undertook a scientific search for Hatshepsut last year. During the course of this process he examined and analyzed four female mummies, including the anonymous mummy from KV 60. Much of the team’s analysis hinged on a single molar sealed inside a box that was inscribed with Hatshepsut’s name. Teeth are similar to fingerprints, as the precise size of a person’s teeth is unique to that person. To the surprise of many of those involved, the tooth inside the inscribed box matched the anonymous mummy from KV 60 down to a fraction of millimeter. “Not only was the … lady from KV 60 missing a tooth, but the hole left behind and the type of tooth that was missing were an exact match for the loosened one in the box,” Dr. Hawass stated. This discovery provides scholars with new information for an examination of the history of this pharaoh. Hatshepsut’s mummy shows an obese woman between forty-five and sixty years old upon death. Aside from having poor dental health, the mummy shows that Hatshepsut suffered from cancer in the pelvic and spinal regions. Further DNA tests on the mummy will be conducted and compared with the DNA results from other members of the 18th Dynasty, including that of Hatshepsut’s grandmother, Ahmose-Nefertari. As the archaeological and forensic scientific fields continue to advance, we may look forward to future outstanding discoveries, rediscoveries, and new ways of expanding our knowledge of one of the greatest civilizations of all time.

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