Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lost Egyptian Queen 3000 Years Later - Part 2

Cont. from Part I.

Hatshepsut's mummy was never found. Some scholars suggested that Tuthmosis III may have destroyed it.

She 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 she proclaimed herself pharaoh.

She reigned from 1498-1483 B.C. as the fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. Under her 20-year rule, Egypt was prosperous. Of all the buildings that she may have commissioned, only two remain, two obelisks at Karnak and the temple at Deir al-Bahari.

The mummy believed to be the missing queen 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 for a wet nurse, later identified as Sitre In. The other mummy, thought to be a possible match for Hatshepsut lay on the floor.

Carter closed the tomb up soon after discovering it and the location was lost. It was rediscovered in 1989 by Egyptologist Donald Ryan, who noticed the pose of the mummy on the floor.

"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.

The fact that the mummy wasn't in a coffin suggested it had been moved from another tomb into KV60, making it more difficult to identify. But a canopic jar with the queen's name inscribed on it provided some answers. Scans revealed a tooth, possibly Hatshepsut's and when considering the unidentified female in KV60 had some dental issues and teeth missing, a match might be made.

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.

According to Ryan, the evidence from the tooth will create a debate. "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 mummy and mummies from the queen's family will be the next step in order to obtain conclusive evidence. 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.

The find, if true, is 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.

"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.

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