Thursday, July 5, 2007
Pharaoh Hatshepsut Died in Pain
Pharaoh Hatshepsut Died in Pain
Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
July 2, 2007 —Obese, plagued with decayed teeth and perhaps a skin disease, Queen Hatshepsut might have spent her last days in pain, according to a preliminary examination of the 3,000-year-old mummy thought to be that of Egypt's greatest female pharaoh.
Bald in front but with long hair in back, the mummy shows an overweight woman just over 5 feet tall, who died at about 50.
This was Hatshepsut, undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary women in recorded history.
The Discovery Channel and Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, will unveil details of how Hatshepsut's mummy was found in the documentary "Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen" on Sunday, July 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
The daughter of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I and wife of Tuthmosis II, her half-brother, Hatshepsut reigned from 1498 to 1483 B.C. as the fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, whose later members included Akhenaton and Tutankhamun.
When her husband-brother died, Hatshepsut became regent for the boy-king Tuthmosis III, the child of Tuthmosis II and a concubine. But hieroglyphic carvings suggest she donned a royal headdress and false beard, and proclaimed herself pharaoh.
But the powerful woman who challenged ancient Egypt's tradition of male supremacy might have experienced very poor health, at least in the last part of her life.
"First of all, the mummy was not just overweight, she was obese," Egyptologist Donald Ryan told Discovery News.
Ryan is the archaeologist who in 1989 rediscovered the KV60 tomb, where the mummy believed to be Hatshepsut lay uncoffined on the floor.
Examination of the mummy's mouth and her missing molar, which led to her identification as Hatshepsut, revealed very poor dental hygiene.
"Her mouth shows the presence of many dental cavities, periapical (root) inflammation and pockets," Ashraf Selim, the radiologist at Cairo University who examined the mummy, told Discovery News.
Obesity and poor oral hygiene suggested to Selim and colleagues that she might have suffered from diabetes.
But, Selim said, "Surely this is just a theory based on this circumstantial evidence, which we cannot confirm."
Not the Healthiest Clan
Good health did not bless Hatshepsut's family. Tuthmosis II was physically weak, and Neferure, Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis II's daughter, died at about 16 years of age.
Another ailment — a rather disgusting skin disease on the face and neck — might have added to Hatshepsut's health problems.
"We found numerous tiny spots within Hatshepsut and the Tuthmose family which could indicate a skin disease," Selim said.
However, Selim believes that the spots were more likely caused by the mummification process than dermatosis.
Certain aspects of the resins could be responsible for the eruptions found on the skins of Thutmose I, Hatshepsut's father, Thutmose II, her half-brother and husband, and Amenhotep II, Thutmose I's grandson.
One thing, however, is certain: Hatshepsut had cancer, cancer that had metastasized.
"The type of cancer we discovered is affecting the pelvic bone, specifically the left iliac bone. From its location, character and the few tiny foci of bone rarefaction in the spine, we concluded that this tumor is a metastatic deposit rather than a primary tumor," Selim said.
Though bone cancer could not be totally ruled out, Selim said he believed it was more likely that another kind of tumor spread to the bone.
"It could have been a tumor affecting the lung, breast or kidney," Selim said.
Whatever the tumor's origins, it is very likely that Queen Hatshepsut spent her last days in pain.
"A bone tumor is certainly painful. The picture emerging from the mummy is not only unflattering, but would indicate rather poor health. But with the data at our disposal, I think any diagnosis is merely speculative," Gino Fornaciari, professor of forensic anthropology at the University of Pisa, told Discovery News.
Experts hope that DNA testing on the 3,000-year-old mummy and mummies from Hatshepsut's family will confirm her identity.
The tests will take place at a new DNA testing facility located outside the Cairo Museum in Egypt, funded by the Discovery Channel.
Posted by lmurx at 9:57 AM