Mummy Identified As Egyptian Female Ruler

The mummy of Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut is displayed at the Egyptian museum in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, June 27, 2007. AP

Egyptian authorities Wednesday identified a mummy found a century ago as the remains of Queen Hatshepsut, one of ancient Egypt's few women pharaohs and one of its most mysterious rulers.

In a search worthy of a plot for CSI, scientists matched DNA from a tooth found in a box of organs to a mummy unearthed more than 100 years ago, reports CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey.

The mummy was discovered in Egypt's Valley of the Kings burial ground in 1903 but was left unidentified at the site for decades, until two months ago when it was brought to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for testing, said Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass.

A molar perfectly matched a gap in the jaw of the mummy.

"That tooth exactly fit with the mummy," said Hawass. "I can say that this is the most important discovery after the discovery of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings."

A woman monarch who called herself a pharoah, dressed like a man and also wore a false beard, Hatshepsut ruled during the 15th century B.C., wielding more power than two other women of ancient Egypt, Cleopatra and Nefertiti.

More powerful than even the legendary Cleopatra, Hatshepsut's life three-and-a-half thousand years ago was the stuff of today's tabloids, reports Pizzey. She married her half brother, stole the throne from her stepson, and ruled longer than any other Egyptian queen, often dressing like a man and wearing a false beard.

But when her rule in the 18th Dynasty ended, all traces of her mysteriously disappeared, including her mummy.

Her mummy disappeared from its tomb in the Valley of the Kings, burial place of pharaohs, including the most famous of all, King Tut, shortly after it was interred.

Another mummy, which had been in the Egyptian Museum for decades and was long believed to be the queen's wet nurse Sitre-In, was initially investigated as possibly being Hatshepsut herself.

Hawass and Culture Minister Farouq Hosni ceremoniously unveiled the two mummies, kept inside long glass cases draped in the Egyptian flag, at a press conference at the museum Wednesday.

The mummy identified as Hatshepsut shows an obese woman, who died in her 50s, probably had diabetes and is also believed to have had liver cancer, Hawass said. But her left hand is positioned against her chest, in a traditional sign of royalty in ancient Egypt.

DNA bone samples taken from the mummy's hip bone and femur are being compared to the mummy of Hatshepsut's grandmother, Amos Nefreteri, said Egyptian molecular geneticist Yehia Zakaria Gad, who is on Hawass' team.

While scientists are still matching those mitochondrial DNA sequences, Gad said Wednesday that preliminary results were "very encouraging."
  • Lloyd Vries

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