Friday, June 29, 2007

Queen Hatshepsut Found!

In 1903 Howard Carter excavated Egypt's Valley of the Kings making the amazing discovery of the undisturbed and most complete tomb ever found, the tomb of Tutenkhamen the boy king. In all the excitement another of the excavated mummies, an obese female mummy was left at the site unidentified until now.

Two months ago archaeologist extraordinaire Zahi Hawass brought her to the Cairo Museum for testing and they believe they've identified her as Egypt's greatest and longest ruling Queen, Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut was the eldest daughter of Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose, the first king and queen of the Thutmosid clan of the 18th Dynasty. Upon the death of her father in 1493 BC, she married her step-brother Thutmose II and assumed the title of Great Royal Wife. Thutmose II ruled for thirteen years, during which it has been traditionally been believed that Hatshepsut exerted a strong influence over her husband.

When Thutmose II died he left behind a young and weak heir born of one of his other wives. Needless to say, Thutmose III was was very easily pushed out of power. Hatshepsut had herself crowned Pharoh in 1473 BC.

In ancient Egypt, women had a higher status than they did elsewhere in the ancient world, including the court-protected right to own or inherit property. Yet having a female ruler in her own right was rare, Pharaoh was an exclusively male title; at this point in Egyptian history there was no word for a Queen regnant, only one for Queen consort. Hatshepsut is unique in that she was the first woman to take the title of King regnant or King in the absence of a word or title for Queen regnant.

As pharoh she reestablished the trade networks that had been disrupted during the Hyksos' occupation of Egypt, began the accumulation of some of Egypt's greatest wealth, she oversaw grand expeditions to The Land of Punt (a spot in Eastern Africa) that brought myrrh (which is said to have been Hatshepsut's favorite fragrance) and 31 live frankincense trees for planting in Egypt(the first ever recorded attempt to replant foreign trees).

Hatshepsut was one of the most prolific builders of ancient Egypt, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout both Upper and Lower Egypt including the tallest obelisk's in the world. The masterpiece of her building projects however was the mortuary temple complex at Deir el-Bahri. It was designed and implemented by Senemut on a site on the West Bank of the Nile River near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. The focal point was the Djeser-Djeseru or "the Sublime of Sublimes", a colonnaded structure of perfect harmony nearly one thousand years before the Parthenon. Djeser-Djeseru sits atop a series of terraces that were once graced with gardens. Djeser-Djeseru is built into a cliff face that rises sharply above it. Djeser-Djeseru and the other buildings of the Deir el-Bahri complex are considered to be among the great buildings of the ancient world.

She was also an excellent propagandist, and while all ancient leaders used propaganda to legitimize their rule, she is one of the best known for it. Much of her propaganda had religious overtones supported by the priests at the Temple of Karnak.

Hatshepsut died either as she was approaching or just entering middle age, no record of her cause of death has survived, but after looking at her mummified remains Hawass believes the obese pharoh died in her 50s, probably having suffered with diabetes and is also believed to have had liver cancer.

Hatshepsut's funerary temple is located in ancient Thebes, on the west bank of the Nile in today's Luxor, a multi-collonaded sandstone temple built to serve as tribute to her power. Surrounding it are the Valley of Kings and the Valley of the Queens. After Hatshepsut's death, however her name was obliterated from the records in what is believed to have been her stepson Thutmose III's revenge.

While scientists are still matching those mitochondrial DNA sequences to the mummified remains of known family members preliminary results are "very encouraging" this is indeed the remains of Hatshepsut.

Wow how very cool!


Scurvy said...

Wow. This is huge!

Becca said...

It's very huge! And oh so exciting!

Scurvy said...

As far as ancient cultures go, Egypt is second on my list behind Greek for favorites. I have actually studied Egyptian history a lot while in college (i have a minor in Art History, and a BA in art) and ind this article incredibly fascinating. Now that I am not half asleep like when I made my previous comment, I feel I can convey my excitement to it's full extent.


PJ said...

Very cool. I was so excited when they found Nerfertiti's tomb a few years ago. I've always felt an affinity with Ancient Egypt, and enjoyed my trip to the Red Sea in 2003. I visited the Valley of the Kings while I was there, and it was awe-inspiring to be amongst so much history.

Becca said...

Wow I never would have guessed the minor in Art History! That's very cool! I too love art history, love to read about Egypt, Greece and Rome. When I heard this story I got about as excited as someone whose sports team won the championship. Yes I am such a geek.

It's so cool that they keep finding these hidden treasures. I can't wait to see what they dig up next.

You've been to Egypt? That's so very cool! I'm very jealous, I'd love to see some of those teriffic monuments in person, or visit the Cairo Museum.