Mystery mummy may be female pharoah
· Top archaeologist to identify elusive remains
· Technology could solve case of mistaken identity
Ed Pilkington in New York
Wednesday June 27, 2007
A leading archaeologist will announce that he believes he has finally solved the mystery of the missing body of Hatshepsut, Egypt's greatest woman ruler who reigned as a pharaoh more than 3,000 years ago.
Zahi Hawass, Egypt's foremost archaeologist, is expected to announce in Cairo today that technology has allowed him to pinpoint with certainty the elusive mummy of the 18th dynasty's most powerful and illustrious female ruler.
Hatshepsut ruled over Egypt, the most advanced civilisation in the world, for about 15 years (1473-58BC) and was only the second woman known to have assumed the throne. She was the daughter of Tuthmosis I, and she married her half-brother, Tuthmosis II. When her husband/brother died, she ruled as regent on behalf of his infant son Tuthmosis III, but effectively took over the throne.
Depictions of her illustrate the change of status, showing her in the traditional regalia , the nemes headdress and false beard. After her death Tuthmosis III took steps to erase all traces of her, archaeologists now believe in order to remove the female interruption in the male Tuthmosis lineage. Statues of her were torn down, monuments defaced and her name scratched from the records.
In particular, her mummy went missing, a puzzle that has troubled Egyptologists for more than a century. The Briton Howard Carter discovered Hatshepsut's tomb while excavating at the Valley of the Kings in 1902. When he properly explored the tomb in 1920, two years before his famous discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb, Carter found two sarcophagi, one for Hatshepsut and the second for her father but both were empty.
Speculation about the riddle has, for years, focused on a separate tomb discovered by Carter now known as KV60 which he found and opened in the spring of 1903. Inside he found coffins of mummified geese, which he removed, and the partially disturbed and decaying coffins of two women lying side by side. One bore the inscription of Sitre-In, Hatshepsut's wet nurse, the other was anonymous.
As the tomb was not royal it received little attention until the Egyptologist Donald Ryan reopened it in 1989. The sarcophagus marked with the name of the wet nurse was taken to Cairo museum, and the second unnamed sarcophagus remained behind.
Both coffins are now at the museum and have been subjected to CT scans to produce 3D images. It appears likely that Dr Hawass will announce that the identity of the women has been confused. The body of the unnamed coffin in fact fits perfectly into the sarcophagus of the wet nurse.
The mummy that is currently lying in the sarcophagus of the wet nurse in Cairo museum may, it appears, have in fact been Hatshepsut. The space of the missing molar in the mouth of the mummy reportedly fits precisely the measurements of a tooth found in a box inscribed with the name of Hatshepsut.