Al-Ahram Weekly Online   28 June - 4 July 2007
Issue No. 851
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Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Ancient mystery resolved


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Zahi Hawass and his assistant Hisham El-Leithi prepare the mummy for scanning; Queen Hatshepsut

Back in the limelight


REPORTERS from the world's media crammed into the entrance of the Egyptian Museum yesterday during a press conference called to announce the unravelling of one of the great mysteries of Egyptology -- the final resting place of Hatshepsut, ancient Egypt's most celebrated female ruler.

"Now that the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut has finally been identified, archaeologists can at last begin to piece together the mystery that has surrounded her death, and in doing so they will be able to begin rewriting the history of the 18th Dynasty, an important chapter in ancient Egypt which witnessed drastic changes in religion, politics, trade and the economy," Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni told the assembled journalists.

Identifying the mummy of Hatshepsut involved a remarkable marriage between conventional archaeology and recent developments in medical technology.

Forensic scientists were able to use the latest CT-scanning techniques to produce three dimensional images of the mummy which, says head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has been proved conclusively to be that of Hatshepsut. In the end, though, despite the presence of so much state-of-the-art equipment, the final attribution was made on the basis of a single tooth, a molar discovered in a wooden box along with mummified viscera.

Hidden for almost 3,500 years in a small, undecorated tomb in Luxor's West Bank, the body of the most powerful woman of the ancient world will soon be on display in the Egyptian Museum, where her mummy will join those of her ancestors and descendents.

'Back in the limelight' -- the full story of the investigation and exclusive photos, p.5

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