Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Egypt's Pharaoh Hatshepsut Said Found

The mummy of Hatshepsut, Egypt's greatest female pharaoh, has been identified, thanks to gum disease and a missing molar.
The find, said to be the most important in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamun in the early 1920s, follows a one-year investigation led by Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities
the search for the mummy of Hatshepsut took a new dramatic turn with the discovery of a molar in a box.Found in 1881 in a cache of royal mummies, the box intrigued the archaeologists because it bore the royal seal of Hatshepsut.
A CT scan of the box revealed it contained a tooth — indeed, embalmers usually set aside body parts and preserved them in such containers.
The tooth matched within a fraction of a millimeter the space of the missing molar in the mouth of a 3,000-year-old mummy called KV60A.
This shows that the mummy is Hatshepsut, according to Hawass."A tooth is like a fingerprint," he told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.
The mummy, who had suffered severe gum disease, is an unidentified female found by Howard Carter in 1903 as he entered tomb KV60.
According to Carter, who later discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, KV60 contained stuffed geese and the denuded bodies of two women.
One was in a lidless coffin inscribed for a wet nurse, later identified as Hatshepsut's beloved wet nurse Sitre In, now kept at Cairo's Egyptian museum.
The other mummy, which might be that of Hatshepsut, belonged to an unknown female and lay uncoffined on the floor.
Interested in finding a royal burial, Carter paid little attention to the tomb and closed it up. The tomb location was subsequently lost.
It was rediscovered in 1989 by Egyptologist Donald Ryan, who was struck by the pose and quality of mummification of the second mummy.
"It was striking, it was what many believe to be a royal female pose: left arm bent across the chest with the left hand clenched, right arm straight alongside the body. I've always felt that this was a royal mummy, and possibly Hatshepsut, but there was no evidence in the tomb to prove who this mummy might be," Ryan, an archaeologist at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., told Discovery News.
Ryan also found the smashed remains of a once gold-gilded coffin face-piece that had a notch for a false beard, "suggesting a male or royal association which would be curious in the tomb of two women, especially if they were both nurses."
According to Ryan, the evidence coming from the tooth is going to create some debate, but it should not be dismissed
"There is always room for creativity in science and I think this is a fascinating and novel approach to solving an intriguing mystery," Ryan said.
DNA testing on the 3,000-year-old mummy and mummies from Hatshepsut's family will be the next step to reach conclusive evidence.
The tests will be carried out at a new DNA testing facility located outside the Cairo Museum in Egypt, funded by Discovery Quest, the Discovery Channel's initiative to support scientific research.
Egyptian molecular geneticist Yehia Zakaria Gad told reporters that preliminary mitochondrial DNA showed “encouraging” results to prove a relationship between the mummy and her ancestor, Ahmose Nefertari.
Hatshepsut: What We Know
Undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary women in recorded history, Hatshepsut was the daughter of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I and wife of Tuthmosis II, her half-brother.
When her husband-brother died, she became regent for the boy-king Tuthmosis III, the child of Tuthmosis II and a concubine. But hieroglyphic carvings suggest that Hatshepsut didn't put up with that state of affairs for long: Wearing the royal headdress and a false beard, she proclaimed herself pharaoh.
She reigned in 1498-1483 B.C. as the fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, whose later members included Akhenaton and Tutankhamun.
Under her 20-year rule, Egypt enjoyed a peaceful and prosperous time. Yet after her death, the female pharaoh was scorned, her images and inscriptions mutilated and her monuments demolished by the jealous successor Tuthmosis III.
Of her monumental construction work, only two great obelisks at Karnak and the temple at Deir al-Bahari — the scene of a notorious massacre of foreign tourists in 1997 — remain. Her mummy was never found, and some scholars even hypothized that Tuthmosis III may have destroyed it. "I suggest that in the Third Intermediate Period, during the 21st or 22nd Dynasties, the priests moved the mummy of Hatshepsut to KV60, which possibly was cut in the 18th Dynasty but never used, or perhaps was originally intended for Sitre-In," Hawass wrote in "Quest for the Mummy of Hatshepsut," an undated article that appears on his Web site.

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

1 comment:

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