Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hatshepsut, the woman Pharaoh


The funerary temple of Hatshepsut, the woman Pharaoh

    I have been entertained recently with how modern science is changing what we know of history, even history from 3500 years ago.

    A case in point is what has been learned about Hatshepsut, the woman Pharaoh whose rule resulted in the construction of many major structures that I explored in a cruise along the Nile and in a visit to the Valley of the Kings in 2002 .

    At about 440-feet-long and 97-feet-high the most impressive is her funerary temple called "Djeser Djeseru" or "Holy of Holies." 

    Her reign had been a peaceful one of 22 years. Our guide pointed out that references and facial features of  Hatshepsut had been chiseled from the wall and statures by Thutmose III, who had hated her and wanted her eradicated from history.  After her death he seceded her, went to war and doubled the size of the kingdom.

    Her mummy had vanished from her tomb that was 35 stories deep in the Valley of the Kings, and that seemed to be the end of what we could know about her.

    A few days later when I visited the Cairo Museum, the most important mummies were being kept under ideal condition to avoid further decay, therefore  unavailable for public viewing.

    In 2007 Zahi Hawass, from the Cairo Museum, and his team undertook the task of finding Hatshepsut's mummy.  They found they had eight unidentified female mummies who might be Hatshepsut, one of whom had been found in her nurse's sarcophagus. 

    A number of approaches using modern techniques were used.  DNA failed making the identification for lack of enough material.  The bodies of known relatives were put through cat scans for clues.

    Three cat scans were borrowed from Germany that allowed the researchers to get 3D figures of her father, her brother and a stepson, that were then combined for a composite image.  That allowed them to discard some of the mummies.

    In 2010 I had been at the British Museum when they were exploring the first mummy to undergo the virtual unwrapping using a CT scanner.  In the display room the mummy's image was floating in the air in gross non-living color.  What was his age? How did he die? Had he any injuries?  A multitude of facts about the mummy were discovered.  Basically it was a learning experience about some new technology that were being used.

    Then recently I have found on YouTube and other computer sources a much fuller explanation of what happened to Hatshepsut.  Being able to tell how a person died turned out to be critical in identifying her body. 

    Of the two bodies that were still in question, one of them had died of a jaw infection that had made it impossible for her to eat.  Some dentistry had been performed, and a upper molar taken out leaving a root behind.

    When a person was made into a mummy, internal organs were taken out and placed in a separate small box, usually made of wood and ivory.  Such a box was found with Hatshepsut's name on it. 

    In the box were a liver, intestines and a upper molar with just one root.  The tooth had the same density, size and fit into the space in the mummy's jaw with the one root.   The team concluded that the forgotten mummy was Hatshepsut's.

    The research also meant that Thutmose III had not had her killed as originally thought.  In addition it was found that he had not destroyed her images until many years later.  It was believed that Thutmose did it to insure the smooth succession of his son Thutmose IV and to insure his family would take credit for the history she had left behind.

    Since my visit in 2002, other relics of Hatshepsut have been found including buried images and stories about her accomplishments.  She is no longer dead to history because of the advances that have been made in science.

A close up the funerary temple of Hatshepsut

 A box similar to the one where Hatshepsut's liver, intestines and a upper molar were found.

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