It is considered the most important find in Egypt’s Valley of Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamun. And now the Discovery Channel will bring alive the behind-the-scenes drama of identifying a 3,500-year-old mummy as that of Hatshepsut, the queen who would be the king of Egypt.
Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen, a two-hour programme to be telecast on the channel on 19 August at 8pm and 1 September at 2pm, reveals the archaeological, forensic and scientific evidence that went into identifying the mummy. The team, led by Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s secretary general of the supreme council of antiquities, used a wide range of scientific technology to reach their startling conclusion.
Using knowledge of royal Egyptian mummification and clues from two tombs linked to Hatshepsut, the team narrowed its search to four mummies from thousands of unidentified corpses. From these, the team eventually zeroed in on the mummy of the queen. “Hatshepsut’s reign during the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt was a prosperous one, yet she was mysteriously erased from Egyptian history. We hope that this mummy will help shed light on this mystery,” said Dr Hawass.
More powerful than Cleopatra or Nefertiti, Hatshepsut stole the throne from her stepson, Thutmose III in 1473 BC. Hatshepsut, till then something of a stand-in since the legitimate pharaoh Thutmose III was little more than a child, decided to stake complete claim to the throne. And she did this by becoming a man. Almost. She started wearing a fake beard and male clothing and demanded that she be treated as a man. She even had herself drawn as one. Hatshepsut also wove a tale of myth and divinity around herself to legitimize her role as pharaoh—she let it be known that the god Amun-Ra had visited her mother while she was pregnant, thus making her a divine child.
Hatshepsut went on to rule for several years, bringing prosperity and stability to the country. Around 1458 BC, in another twist of fate, Hatshepsut disappeared and Thutmose III resumed his role as pharaoh.