Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Egypt's Lost Queen: First Identification Of A Pharaoh Found In The Valley Of The Kings Since King Tut

A 3,500-year-old mummy has been positively identified as Hatshepsut, one of history’s few female pharaohs. Using computed tomography (CT) scanning and ongoing DNA testing, Dr. Hawass solved the mystery of what happened to one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful and successful rulers.

Dr. Hawass’s odyssey of archeological and scientific adventure has been documented in Discovery Channel’s Secrets Of Egypt’s Lost Queen.

The investigative journey of Dr. Hawass and his team leads them through the massive crypts beneath Egypt and into the depths of the Egyptian Museum. Using knowledge of royal Egyptian mummification and clues from two known tombs linked to Hatshepsut, the team narrows their search for Hatshepsut to just four mummies from thousands of unidentified corpses.

CT scanning allows the scientists to link distinct physical traits of the four mummies to those of Hatshepsut’s known relatives. The search further narrows to two possibilities—both from the tomb of Hatshepsut’s wet nurse—but the final clue lies within a canopic box inscribed with the female pharaoh’s name. A scan of the box finds a tooth that, when measured, perfectly matches a missing upper molar in one of the two mummies.

Applied Biosystems, the leading global provider of DNA analysis technologies, and Discovery Quest, Discovery Channel’s initiative to support the scientific community’s work, enabled the construction of and equipment for the first-ever ancient DNA testing facility located in the Cairo Museum in Egypt. The DNA testing facility will not only be used to extract and compare nuclear and mitochondrial DNA of the Hatshepsut mummy and mummies from her family, but will be used by scientists to examine future finds in Egypt and attempt to clarify familial relationships among the royal families. The Discovery Quest fund reaffirms Discovery Channel’s commitment to support groundbreaking research and inventions that change our world.

Equipment from Siemens Medical Solutions allowed scientists to conduct detailed computed tomography scanning of each of the mummies. Archeologists were able to go beneath the wrappings and fragile bodies of some of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs without damaging them.

More powerful than Cleopatra or Nefertiti, Hatshepsut stole the throne from her young stepson, dressed herself as a man and in an unprecedented move declared herself pharaoh. Though her power stretched across Egypt and her reign was prosperous, Hatshepsut’s legacy was systematically erased from Egyptian history—historical records were destroyed, monuments torn down and her corpse removed from her tomb—and her death is shrouded in mystery.

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