The corpus delicti is a plain flacon from among the possessions of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who lived around 1450 B.C., which is on exhibit in the permanent collection of the Egyptian Museum of the University of Bonn. For three and a half millennia, the vessel may have held a deadly secret. This is what the Head of the collection, Michael Höveler-Müller and Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld from the university's Pharmacology Institute just discovered. After two years of research it is now clear that the flacon did not hold a perfume; instead, it was a kind of skin care lotion or even medication for a monarch suffering from eczema. In addition, the pharmacologists found a strongly carcinogenic substance. Was Hatshepsut killed by her medicine?
When Michael Höveler-Müller became the curator of the Egyptian Museum of the University of Bonn in 2009, it occurred to him to examine the interior of the vessel that, according to an inscription, belonged to Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Its neck had been blocked with what was generally considered "dirt," but Höveler-Müller suspected that it might also be the original clay stopper. So possibly, some of the original contents might still be inside. In Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld from the Pharmacy Institute, he found just the right partner, to get to the bottom of this question and of the flacon.
At the Radiology Clinic of the Bonn Universitätsklinikum, the flacon was subjected to a CAT scan. Here, the Egyptologist's suspicion was confirmed – not only was the closure intact, but the vessel also held residue of a dried-up liquid. In the summer of 2009, Professor Dr. Friedrich Bootz from the Klinik und Poliklinik für Hals-, Nasen- und Ohrenheilkunde (laryngology, rhinology and otology) of the University of Bonn took samples, using an endoscope.
The Egyptian queen Hatshepsut might have accidentally poisoned herself with skin lotion, according to a new study. Researchers have detected a highly carcinogenic substance in the dried contents of a cosmetic vial found among the female pharaoh’s possessions. One of ancient Egypt’s most powerful rulers, Hatshepsut is thought to have died of bone cancer in 1458 B.C.
A flask of lotion believed to have belonged to the female pharaoh Hatshepsut contains a carcinogenic substance that might ultimately have killed the Egyptian queen, German researchers said today. Part of the permanent collection at the University of Bonn’s Egyptian Museum, the vessel was thought to have held perfume until a two-year study uncovered traces of what appears to be an ancient treatment for eczema or psoriasis. Its ingredients include palm and nutmeg oil, fatty acids that can relieve certain skin conditions and a type of cancer-causing tar residue, which is also found in cigarette smoke.
“We have known for a long time that Hatshepsut had cancer and maybe even died from it,” said Michael Höveler-Müller, the collection’s curator. “We may now know the actual cause.” He also said that other members of the queen’s family are thought to have suffered from inflammatory skin diseases that tend to be genetic.