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Unravelling a grand old mystery of Egyptian history

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Exploring history: The discovery of the Hatshepsut mummy is considered to be one of the most important finds in Egyptian history
Exploring history: The discovery of the Hatshepsut mummy is considered to be one of the most important finds in Egyptian history

Madhur Tankha

A new programme on Discovery Channel this Sunday

NEW DELHI: Discovery Channel will air a special programme titled ‘Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen’ this Sunday, identifying a 3,500-year-old mummy through archaeological, forensic and scientific evidence.

Described as the most important find in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the mummy being searched is of Hatshepsut, the queen who was the king of Egypt. Hatshepsut was no ordinary woman as she stole the throne from her young stepson, dressed herself as a man and in an unprecedented move declared herself pharaoh. Though her power stretched across Egypt and her reign was prosperous, Hatshepsut’s legacy was systematically wiped out from Egyptian history.

The two-hour programme follows a team of top forensic experts and archaeologists led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, as they for the first time ever use the full range of forensic technology to identify Hatshepsut.

Using knowledge of royal Egyptian mummification, the team narrows down the search for Hatshepsut to just four mummies from thousands of unidentified corpses.

Through computed tomography scanning, the scientists link distinct physical traits of the four mummies to those of Hatshepsut’s known relatives. The search narrows down further to two possibilities but the final clue lies within a box inscribed with the female pharaoh’s name.

A scan of the box finds a tooth which, when measured, perfectly matches a missing upper molar in one of the two mummies.

Pointing out that the discovery of the Hatshepsut mummy was one of the most important finds in the history of Egypt, Dr. Hawass says her reign during the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt was a prosperous one.

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