Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lost Egyptian Queen 3000 Years Later - Part 1

Egypt, land of the Nile, hot desert sand and home of the Pharoahs.

This July, one of the great pharoahs of Egypt was found again after 3000 years. Her name was Hatshepsut. You may have heard of her.

For those of you who haven't, she was the ancient world's greatest queen, ruling during the golden period of Egypt and was the only woman to rule as a full pharoah, going so far as to wear the traditional headdress and wooden beard. The Egyptian royal line was matrilinial, descending through the female line. Other women have ruled Egypt but Hatshepsut is the most famous of these.

She took power after her husband Tuthmosis II died, taking over as regent for his son by another woman, Tuthmosis III. This is where things start to get a bit fishy. Eighteen years later, Hatshepsut died and Tuthmosis III took over. Subsequently her name and relief carvings were mysteriously defaced in an attempt to erase her from history. As well, this was believed to cause her to die a second permanent death in the afterlife as names and reliefs were believed to hold power. For years, scholars believed Tuthmosis was responsible, perhaps because he resented her, perhaps to assert his royal bloodline over that of his stepmothers.

She was thought lost to history but there was always the hope that one day she would be found. This was the hope of one, Dr. Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. He is the man to see if you want to excavate in Egypt.

The search began more than a year ago when the Discovery Channel offered to make a documentary about the missing queen. To help with the search, the first-ever DNA laboratory for mummies was built in the basement of the Egyptian Museum. CT (computerized axial tomography) scanning equipment was brought in on loan from Germany.

The reason being that the museum wanted to test four unidentified female mummies they believed were royals as well as known members of Hatshepsut’s family. Why this wasn't done years ago I don't know. Funding? Time? Staff Numbers? Who knows. I can only say that I'm glad it happened.

Want to know how it all happened? Tune in for Part II.

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