Monday, July 16, 2007

Hatshepsut Found; Thutmose I Lost

Archaeology Magazine (Mark Rose)

Lovely Mark Rose has provided a very detailed summary of the state of play regarding the Hatshepsut and Tuthmose I identifications on the above page, with photographs, and has been prompted by the Discovery Channel programme, which he reviews as he considers that data. Here's a short extract.
While it pretty much comes down to a tooth in a box, Discovery Channel's "Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen" (airs Sunday, July 15, at 9:00pm EST) tries to cover a lot of ground: who was Hatshepsut, the early 18th Dynasty queen and pharaoh, where's her mummy, and who obliterated many of her images and inscriptions? That's a lot, even for a two-hour program.
I've watched the film twice, consulted with a couple of Egyptologists who know the subject, interviewed Egypt's archaeo-honcho Zahi Hawass, and talked with the producer, Brando Quilici (who did last year's Tut special and, before that, a documentary on the Iceman). As an archaeologist, journalist, and some-time docu consultant, I have mixed feelings about "Lost Queen." Overall, I do think it's better than many shows out there (but is that good enough?) and unlike some past offerings from Discovery it isn't larded with superfluous re-enactments. The science is pretty neat, but I have some questions about its applications here, and there are some gaps and things that are not really explained adequately. So, it is worth watching, but although I have some criticisms.

Does it matter if we find, or identify, Hatshepsut's mummy? If you think of it only in terms of "Royal Mummies Musical Chairs" as Dennis Forbes, editor of KMT, called it in his Tombs, Treasures, and Mummies (1998), it is little more than an intellectual jigsaw puzzle. Fascinating, yes, but not necessarily a gateway to understanding ancient Egyptian culture. It's laudable that the film tries to go beyond that simple game, but it really is the hook for the show and Discovery isn't shy about playing that card. It also matters because this is an important test case. There are new techniques being applied here, especially the DNA work, that have the possibility to replace decades of conjecture with scientific evidence--if the analysis and intertpretation is done right. If it isn't, then things just become more obscure than ever.
Do see the above page for the full story - it is excellent.

EurekAlert has a piece about the Manchester University (UK) helping to confirm the Hatshepsut identification:

Preliminary results from DNA tests carried out on a mummy believed to be Queen Hatshepsut is expected to support the claim by Egyptian authorities that the remains are indeed those of Egypt’s most powerful female ruler. Egyptologists in Cairo announced last month that a tooth found in a wooden box associated with Hatshepsut exactly fitted the jaw socket and broken root of the unidentified mummy.

Now, Dr Angelique Corthals, a biomedical Egyptologist at The University of Manchester, says that DNA tests she helped carry out with colleagues at the National Research Centre in Cairo have promising preliminary results suggesting the identity of the queen.

Dr Corthals, who is based at Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, advised and trained a team led by Dr Yehia Gad in Egypt in techniques of extracting DNA samples from the mummified remains of the mystery female.

The group then compared the DNA samples with those taken from Hatshepsut’s royal relatives – her grandmother Ahmose Nefertari, the matriarch of 18th dynasty royalty, and her father Thutmose I. “The difficulty in carrying out DNA testing on the royal mummies resides in the many times the remains have been handled as well as the chemical processes of mummification,” said Dr Corthals.“Ironically, the chemicals that preserve the appearance of the mummies actually damage their DNA but the team was able to extract small amounts of genetic information from the areas of the mummies least affected by contamination. “When the DNA of the mystery mummy was compared with that of Hatshepsut’s ancestors, we were able to scientifically confirm that the remains were those of the 18th dynasty queen.”

If you want to know more about the programme from a manufacturing point of view, there's an article on the Times Herald Record Online website which looks at the making of the programme.

With his wispy white hair and worldly look, John Hazard has the demeanor of a man who has seen it all. But even a gambling man could never guess how true that statement is. Hazard, an Ellenville resident since 1988, is a cinematographer who takes a film director's vision and captures the perfect images in his camera.

But unlike a regular cinematographer, who takes his time setting a scene, Hazard's set is planet Earth. John Hazard has shot projects all over the globe. His subjects are a who's who of history: the Kennedy family, Francis Ford Coppola, The Clash, King Tut and more. His latest film, "Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen," took him deep into ancient Egyptian tombs for the second time in a few short years. He was one of the few people on hand when the body of Hatshepsut, Egypt's greatest female pharaoh,
was discovered and identified after 3,000 years. Just another day at the office for John Hazard.

See the above for more.


Anonymous said...

Hawass is a pompous jerk. It is time for Egypt to wake up and get rid of him and his self promotion. Trulyu this is much ado about nothing, as usual when Hawass is involved.

Scrabcake said...

The thing is, Zahi *needs* to do this. It's his job to lobby for money and to get people excited and supportive of Egyptology. It takes a pompous jerk to command respect in a field still very dominated by stubborn colonial old white men in pith helmets.