Identifying Hatshepsut’s Mummy

 July 2007

Upon the approval of the Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, an Egyptian archaeological mission led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), found Hatshepsut’s mummy inside tomb KV 60 in the Valley of the Kings on Luxor’s west bank. It is a very important and significant discovery executed by an Egyptian scientific and archeological team.

 The team consisted of:

Dr. Zahi Hawass:   Egyptologist and Head of the Scientific Mission
Dr. Ashraf Selim: Professor of Radiology, Cairo University
Dr. Galal El-Beheri: Professor of Orthodontics, Cairo University
Dr. Yehya Zakariya: Professor of Molecular Genetics, National Research Center
Dr. Hani Abdel Rahman: CT and MRI Applications Specialist with Siemens Ltd
Hisham El-Leithy: Egyptologist and Assistant to Dr. Hawass

      The effort to identify the mummy of queen Hatshepsut began last year, when Dr. Hawass scientifically examined four unidentified New Kingdom royal female mummies. Three of them were stored in the Egyptian Museum’s third floor and the fourth was inside Tomb KV60 in the Valley of the Kings. Tomb KV 60 was discovered by Howard Carter in 1903. In its burial chamber, he found two mummies. The first one belonged to a small woman laid inside an 18th Dynasty coffin inscribed for Hatshepsut’s wet nurse, Sitre-In, and the second belonged to a hugely obese woman laid on the floor next to In’s coffin. The left hand of the second mummy is held across the chest with its fist clenched, suggesting that it is a royal mummy. She is bald in front, but has long hair in back and is in very good condition. Carter transported the mummy of Sitre-In to the Egyptian museum and left the other one alone inside the tomb.

      Exploring the third floor of the Egyptian Museum, Dr. Hawass succeeded with the help of museum curator Somaya Adel Samea in locating Sittre-In’s mummy, which was found inside a sarcophagus double its size. On the museum’s third floor, Dr. Hawass also began to search for other unidentified New Kingdom mummies that might be royal. Two of these mummies were found in the cache of royal mummies discovered by the Abdel Rassul family in 1881 at Deir El-Bahari in tomb DB320. The first one was the mummy of a woman, designated “Unknown Woman B,” and the second is for another woman referred to as “Unknown Woman A.”

      All of these mummies were subjected to a CT-scan examination, which revealed that the mummy called Unknown Woman B from DB320 belongs to an older woman of the New Kingdom, who had white curly hair with fake black locks attached. From the first appearance it had seemed that it was not royal, but CT-scan examination revealed that the mummy’s arms were originally on its chest, which suggests that it was royal or given royal mummification treatment. As for the second mummy from DB320, Unknown Woman A, the CT-scan revealed that it belonged to a woman who was mummified in an unusual position. Her head bends to the side, and the two legs are crossed below the knees. The mouth is wide open, which suggests that she suffered some kind of trauma at the time of her death.

      The mummies of Kings Thutmose II and III were also subjected to a CT-scan examination as they are Hatshepsut’s husband, and probably her half-brother, and stepson respectively. The mummy thought to be that of Thutmose I, Hatshepsut’s father, was also scanned. Only the mummy of the obese lady found in KV 60 remained to be subjected to a CT-scan, and Dr. Hawass had it transported to the Egyptian Museum. The examination revealed that the mummy is that of a 50-year-old obese lady who suffered from tooth decay during her lifetime,  along with several other diseases. The direct cause of her death may have been cancer, or complications from diabetes.

      Hatshepsut’s canopic jars were found in tomb KV 20, which was dedicated to her and her father Thutmose I. This tomb was found by Carter, and it has a unique architectural style. It consists of a long curved tunnel carved in four sections, which descends 210 meters into the bedrock before passing through a roughly cut, undecorated antechamber and ending in a rectangular burial chamber with three storerooms. These canopic jars were also subjected to CT-scans.

      Finally, a wooden box inscribed with Hatshepsut’s throne name and found in DB320 was also scanned, and it included the key to the riddle. In addition to the mummified viscera, there was a single tooth - a molar – inside the box. From other embalming caches it is known that anything associated with the body or its mummification became ritually charged and had to be buried properly. Therefore, it seems that during the mummification of queen Hatshepsut, embalmers put into the box anything that came loose from the body during the mummification process.

      Dr. Galal El-Beheri, Professor of Orthodontics at Cairo University, examined the CT scans of the four unidentified female mummies to check whether any of them had a missing molar. The surprise was that the obese mummy from KV60 was indeed missing a molar, and the hole left behind and the type of molar that was missing were an exact match for the loose one in the box from DB320. This constitutes scientific proof that the mummy of the obese lady is that of Queen Hatshepsut.

      This was not the only important result of Dr. Hawass’ search for queen Hatshepsut. He also succeeded in making a deal with the Discovery Channel to establish in the Egyptian Museum the first ever DNA lab exclusively dedicated to the study of ancient mummies. The lab, with a budget of $ 5 million, was built for the filming of a documentary on Queen Hatshepsut, which will be screened on Egyptian TV.  The SCA supervised the construction of the lab itself, and the equipment was brought in by the Discovery Channel from a company called Applied Biosystems.     

      Yehya Zakariya Gad, a professor of molecular genetics from the National Research Centre, is the person in charge of this lab. DNA samples from Hatshepsut, her grand-mother Ahmose Nefertari, her father Thutmose I, and the wet-nurse Sitre-In were taken by entering the same puncture hole from a number of different angles with a bone marrow biopsy needle, a less invasive technique than ones that had been used by previous researchers .


Who was Hatshepsut (1502-1482 BC) 

Hatshepsut Khenmet-Amun, which means “the united of Amun in front of the Nobles,” was one of the New Kingdom queens, and the best known of the women who ruled Egypt as pharaohs. She was the daughter of king Thutmose I, the third king of the 18th Dynasty (1525-1516 BC), and her mother was Ahmose Hetep Temhu. She was married to her step brother, King Thutmose II, who held Egypt’s throne from 1516-1504 BC. They had a daughter called princess Neferure.

Some Egyptologists believed that Thutmose II died because of a disease and left Egypt’s throne to Thutmose III, his son from another wife. Because of Thutmose’s young age, Hatshepsut became a co-regent. They ruled happily for two years, and then she declared herself Egypt’s king and pharaoh. Although, she was keen for some time to write Thutmose’s name beside her own on all papers and documents, in her ninth year Thutmose’s name vanished and Hatshepsut’s name was the only king name that appears on all documents. To legitimate her role as Egypt’s ruling pharaoh, Hatshepsut dressed in men’s attire; she assumed the regalia and symbols of pharaonic office, including the khat head cloth topped with a uraeus, the traditional false beard, and the shendyt kilt. She held male titles and used masculine grammatical forms in official documents in an attempt to stop any opposition, as well as to make Egyptians feel that nothing had changed in their tradition by her arrival on the throne. She even, eventually, dropped the female ending from her name ('t') and became His Majesty, Hatshepsu.

As it was not accepted in ancient Egypt that a woman should take Egypt’s throne and assume all the attendant religious and political duties, Amun’s priests created a myth promoting the belief that Hatshepsut was the god Amun-Re’s daughter. This myth was depicted on the walls of El-Deir El-Bahari temple on Luxor’s west bank.


Hatshepsut’s divine birth

To strengthen her position as pharoh, Hatshepsut invented the myth about her own divine birth which is shown in scenes on the walls of her temple at Deir el-Bahari: The god Amun-Re comes to her mother Ahmose in the form of king Thutmose I and finds her sleeping in her room. He awakens her with his pleasant odor.  Amun-Re then places the ankh, a symbol of life, to Ahmose's nose, and Hatshepsut is conceived. Khnum, the god who forms the bodies of human children, is then instructed to create a body and ka, or life force, for Hatshepsut. Khnum and Heket, goddess of life and fertility, lead Ahmose along to a lion bed where she gives birth to Hatshepsut.

To further strengthen her position, the Oracle of Amun proclaimed that it was the will of Amun that Hatshepsut be Pharaoh. She publicized Amun's support by having the god’s endorsement carved on her monuments.

She also claimed that she was her father's intended heir and that he made her crown prince of Egypt.


Monuments of Hatshepsut

Like all 18th Dynasty kings, Hatshepsut built several monumental buildings dedicated to god Amun-Re. She constructed temples, chapels and obelisks in Karnak, Luxor, El-Deir-El-Bahari and Medinet Habu to commemorate the god, herself and her political role as queen of Egypt.

Among the most important monuments of Hatshepsut are:

 El-Deir El-Bahari

Into the side of a mountain to the east of the Valley of the kings on the west bank at Luxor, Hatshepsut ordered the engineer Senmut to carve her funerary temple complex. It consists of three colonnaded balconies, and its holy of the holies was built on the same axis as that of Hatshepsut’s burial chamber insider her tomb, KV20.

The architect Senmut designed the temple with rows of colonnades that reflect vertical patterns displayed by the cliff backdrop. In this way the temple is a successful example of architectural harmony between man and nature. A ramp connects the three levels of the temple, and on either side of the lower end of the incline were T-shaped papyrus pools. On the ground level the ramp was in antiquity lined with 200 sandstone statues of sphinxes with Hatshepsut’s head. The third level is decorated with 22 life size statues featuring Hatshepsut in the Osirde shape.

The most important decorations on the temple’s walls are those relating Hatshepsut’s divine birth and the mission which she sent to the land of Punt during her ninth year of reign. The latter feature the life of Punt’s inhabitants, showing their traditions, costumes and houses as well as the animals and plants that were found there. Religious scenes showing Hatshepsut and her father Thutmose I with different deities are also carved in relief on the walls.

The temple includes of a number of chapels, including ones dedicated to the mummification god Anubis, the love and beauty goddess Hathor, the sun god Re-Horakhti, and Amun-Min as well as those dedicated to king Thutmose I and Hatshepsut.   


 The Obelisks of Hatshepsut

Queen Hatshepsut erected two obelisks between the fourth and the fifth pylons of Karnak temple. One of them was toppled in antiquitiy, but the northern one still stands today. It is 29.5 meters tall, made of red granite and weighing 323 tons. Its lower part bears 32 hieroglyphic lines and on each side: there are eight lines relating the purposes behind building this obelisk for Amun-Re. The pyramidion atop the obelisk was covered with gold and silver to reflect the sun’s rays.

As for the demolished obelisk, Egyptologists found pieces of it scattered within Karnak Temple, and its pyramidion top was found beside the sacred lake. Other pieces of it are on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and museums in Liverpool, Glasgow and Sidney.

These obelisks differed in their decoration from others erected during the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut and her stepson Thutmose III are shown worshipping god Amun Re and presenting their offerings to the god.

Hatshepsut also built two other obelisks, but King Thutmose III installed them within his Festival Hall in Karnak Temple. He also removed her images and names from them. The Pyramidion of one of them is now on display at the Egyptian museum.


The Red Chapel

At the Open-Air Museum in Karnak Temple, the French mission of Karnak Temple reconstructed Hatshepsut’s Red Chapel. Some of its blocks were found by the French archaeologist Henri Chevrier in 1924 at the Third Pylon, which was partly demolished due to the a massive earthquake which hit Egypt during the late 19th century.

The blocks of the Red Chapel, along with others of Senwosret I’s White Chapel, had been reused by king Thutmose III in the construction of his third pylon.

In 2002 the French mission rebuilt the chapel from 315 blocks featuring different scenes of the god Amun-Re, Hatshepsut, and Thutmose III, as well as the opet-festival.


Hatshepsut’s collection at the Egyptian Museum

On the museum’s ground floor, a vast collection of Hatshepsut’s objects are on display. Among them are a painted sandstone head featuring the queen in the Osiride shape which originally decorated the façade of Deir El-Bahari temple. Its red sandstone sarcophagus decorated with a number of gods and deities is also on display, along with a number of ushabtis and pieces of jewellery.


The tomb of Hatshepsut KV20

In the Valley of the Kings on the west bank at Luxor, Queen Hatshepsut had her tomb prepared. It has a unique architectural style, consisting of a long curved tunnel carved in four sections, which descends 210 meters into the bedrock before passing through a roughly cut, undecorated antechamber and ending in a rectangular burial chamber with three storerooms. Some Egyptologists do believe that this tomb was meant to reach El-Deir El-Bahari’s sanctuary (“holy of holies”) but the bad quality of the rock stood as an obstacle to the execution of such a plan. It also may have forced the workers excavating its corridors to create them in their unusual form.

Although the tomb has plain walls, a collection of 15 painted limestone panels bearing hieroglyphic texts and chapters of the Book of the Dead were found in the burial chamber, and were perhaps intended to decorate its walls.

In 1903, Howard Carter cleared the tomb, and found two sarcophagi inside its burial chamber. The first is an empty sandstone sarcophagus of Hatshepsut, now at the Egyptian Museum, and the second is a quartzite one of her father Thutmose I, exhibited in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Canopic jars and ushabti figurines of Hatshepsut were also found along with stone pots bearing the names of Ahmose Nefertari, Thutmose I, Ahmose and Hatshepsut. Inside the burial chamber faience fragment, parts of a wooden statue and the remains of embalming materials were also unearthed.


 The tomb of the Wet-Nurse (KV60)

This is a rock-hewn tomb found by Carter during his search for Tutankhamun’s tomb. It consists of a long bent corridor with two niches on either side decorated with crudely drawn wedjat-eyes. Inside it, two female mummies were found. The first belongs to Sitre- In, Hatshepsut’s wet-nurse and the second is for an female mummy which until recently remained unidentified.

Carter did not pay any interest to such this tomb as it did not contain any treasure.

Three years afterwards, Edward Ayrton re-entered the tomb and transported the mummy of Sitre-In to the Egyptian museum. The second mummy was left inside the tomb.

In 1989, anthropologist Donald Ryan re-entered the tomb  and carried out some research on both mummies.


Neferure, Senmut, and Other Officials

On becoming Pharaoh, Hatshepsut had to give up the title - not just a title, but a special job with specific duties - of "God's Wife". She granted her daughter Neferure (Thuthmose II's daughter) this title. Unfortunately Neferure died young, but Hatshepsut apparently was grooming her daughter as a prince, rather than a princess. There is a beautiful block statue of Senmut, holding the child Neferure enfolded in his arms. Neferure is wearing the royal false beard, and the hairstyle called the “side-lock” of  youth.

When Neferure was still a child, Hatshepsut’s architect Senmut was her tutor. The actual nature of his relationship with Hatshepsut is unknown, but he was one of her strongest supporters, probably even one of her top advisers. During his career, he gained over 40 titles, including “chief architect.” He disappeared some time before the end of Hatshepsut's reign, and it is unknown what actually happened to him.

The backing of the priesthood of Amun was very important to Hatshepsut’s rise to power. Hapuseneb was the High Priest of Amun, and Hatshepsut also put him in charge of her monuments at Karnak. He may have even been vizier to Hatshepsut, but she certainly gave him great power. In one inscription, Senmut proclaimed himself:

“Companion greatly beloved, Keeper of the Palace, Keeper of the Heart of the King, making content the Lady of Both Lands, making all things come to pass for the Spirit of Her Majesty”

From his titles, this may have been a true statement. Senmut was a low-born man who rose to power with Hatshepsut. Some of his many titles included “Overseer of the Works,” “Overseer of the Fields,” “Overseer of the Double Gold House,” “Overseer of the Gardens of Amun,” “Controller of Works,” “Overseer of the Administrative Office of the Mansion,” “Conductor of Festivals,” “Overseer of the Cattle of Amun,” “Steward of the King's Daughter Neferura,” “Chief of the King,” “Magnate of the Tens of Upper and Lower Egypt,” “Chief of the Mansion of the Red Crown, Privy Councillor, Chief Steward of Amun, Overseer of the Double Granary of Amun and Hereditary Prince and

Another one of Neferure's tutors was a soldier, Ahmose, who wrote:

“Hatshepsut gave me repeated honours. I raised her eldest daughter, Princess Neferure, while she was still a child at the breast.”

Nehsy was one of her Chancellors, known for leading Hatshepsut's expedition to the Land of Punt.

Merira-Hatshepsut, Hatshepsut's second daughter, became the wife of Thuthmose III, and married him just before or during his coronation after Thuthmose II died. Little else is known about her, other than that she may have been the mother of Amenhotep II.   

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