CT scans and DNA tests help unveil mystery of long-lost female pharaoh
13 July 2007
Cairo, Egypt. Computed tomography (CT) scanning and DNA
analysis has helped solve the mystery of what happened to one of ancient
Egypt's most powerful and successful rulers.
Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Zahi
Hawass unveiled in an international press conference at Cairo's Egyptian
Museum a 3,500-year-old mummy now positively identified as Hatshepsut, one
of history's few female pharaohs.
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.
Hawass's odyssey of archaeological and scientific adventure has been
documented in Discovery Channel's Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen,
which premieres on July 15, 2007 (UK 17 July and some countries later).
The investigative journey of Dr Hawass and his team led 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 narrowed their search for Hatshepsut to
just four mummies from thousands of unidentified corpses.
|Dr Zahi Hawass in tomb KV60 with an unidentified
mummy left lying there for hundreds of years. This mummy will later
be discovered to actually be Hatshepsut.
CT scanning allowed the scientists to link distinct physical traits of
the four mummies to those of Hatshepsut's known relatives. The search
further narrowed to two possibilities — both from the tomb of Hatshepsut's
wet nurse — but the final clue lay within a canopic box inscribed with the
female pharaoh's name. A scan of the box found a tooth that, when measured,
perfectly matched a missing upper molar in one of the two mummies.
Equipment from Siemens Medical Solutions allowed scientists to conduct
detailed CT scanning of each of the mummies. The archaeologists were able to
go beneath the wrappings and fragile bodies of some of Egypt's greatest
pharaohs without damaging them.
"Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen brings
archaeology alive for viewers," said Jane Root, president and general
manager, Discovery Channel and The Science Channel. "We are proud to be part
of this significant find, and commend Dr Hawass and his team for their hard
work and dedication."
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.
Discovery Quest, Discovery Channel is at the forefront of the most
significant scientific discoveries of our time," said Steve Burns, executive
vice president, Discovery Quest, and chief science editor. "The Discovery
Quest program strives not only to make these discoveries accessible for
viewers, but also to make what we hope is a positive, lasting impression on
scientific research by providing valuable resources for equipment and
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