In search of a lost king
Can the latest technology solve the enigma of the mummy of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I, asks Nevine El-Aref
The mummy once believed to be that of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I, father of the Pharaoh-Queen Hatshepsut, may not be his after all.
CT-scans indicate that the mummy belongs to a young man who was not placed in the royal pose of mummification and had the remains of an arrow embedded in his chest, implying that he had been killed. Tuthmosis I (c. 1506-1493 BC) is known to have died of natural causes.
Hatshepsut's own mummy has been identified not only by circumstantial evidence and the presence of the royal pose but by similarities between her mummy and other royal family members. Now CT-scans and DNA tests conducted on mummies believed to be most closely related to Hatshepsut, including those thought to belong to Pharaohs Tuthmosis I, II and III -- the first was Hatshepsut's father, the second her husband and probably her half-brother, and the third her stepson -- have trapped archaeologists into another riddle.
Until now the mummy of Tuthmosis I was assumed to be known. However, not only are the pose and the cause of death wrong, but the dates don't fit. The mummy thought to have been that of the Pharaoh is that of a man who died at the age of 30, making it impossible for him to be Hatshepsut's father since she died when she was 50.
"That means that if the so-called mummy of Tuthmosis I was Hatshepsut's father, she would have been born when he was 15," Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Hawass added that doubts about the identification of the mummy were raised at the time of its discovery in 1881, when it was one of 40 royal mummies seized from a hidden cache at Deir Al-Bahari that had already been discovered by a family of grave robbers. The mummy was inside two coffins dating back to the 18th and 21st dynasties, of which the first bore the cartouche of Tuthmosis I.
To solve the riddle, Hawass said CT-scans and DNA tests concerning their lineage were now being conducted on three unidentified mummies from Luxor's west bank and currently in the Egyptian Museum. The first belongs to an unidentified man in the royal pose of mummification unearthed early in the 20th century in the area in front of the tomb of Pharaoh Seti II (1201-1195 BC) in the Valley of the Kings. Hawass suggested that this may be Tuthmosis I's. The two other mummies belong to unknown females and were discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in tomb number 21 in 1817, but were later deliberately damaged. Hawass points out that both mummies are also in the royal pose, with the left hand placed on the chest and the right hand beside the body. "A position explaining that they could belong to princesses," Hawass concludes.
"I had to depend on a team of skilled Egyptologists, radiologists, anatomists, pathologists and forensic experts to examine these mummies," Hawass continues. "We are keeping in mind that they were moved quickly at night by the high priests of Amun who controlled the Theban necropolis during the Late Intermediate Period, and who wanted to hide and preserve the bodies of the 18th, 19th and 20th-Dynasty rulers. The priests might have stripped the mummies and the royal tombs of their most valuable treasures, yet still they wanted to protect the royal remains from the tomb robbers who roamed the sacred hills of Thebes."
In their hurry, Hawass believes, mummies were misplaced or unidentified. Initially, the royal mummies were rehoused in nearby tombs -- records show, for instance, that the mummy of Ramses II was originally moved to the tomb of his father Seti I, and only later transferred to the Deir Al-Bahari cache. "It is difficult to plot the routes followed by the mummies," Hawass says.
In the process of moving the corpses and the confusion that ensued some, at least, were wrongly identified, while others were stripped of all identification.
"The SCA initiated the CT-scan project in order to solve at least some of the mysteries that grew out of the relocation of mummies," Hawass says. "Hatshepsut seemed a perfect place to starta, and now we are trying to find the key to Akhenaten's family.
"Now we have the studies of Tutankhamun's mummy, and over the upcoming six months scientific studies are going to take place on the so-called skeleton of Akhenaten and the mummies of his grand parents, Yuya and Tuya, in order to establish who is the real father of the boy king Tutankhamun," Hawass told the Weekly. He added that he believed Akhenaten to be Tutankhamun's father and Queen Kiya his mother, not the beautiful Nefertiti. "The puzzle will be soon solved," he said cheerfully.
Tuthmosis I's reign is generally dated from 1506 to 1493 BC. He was the third Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, ascending the throne on the death of Amenhotep I. During his reign he campaigned deep into the Levant and south into Nubia, pushing the borders of Egypt further than ever before. He built several temples in Egypt and dug a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the first confirmed ruler to have done this (although Amenhotep I may have preceded him). He was succeeded by his son Tuthmosis II, who in turn was succeeded by the latter's sister, Hatshepsut.
The original coffin of Tuthmosis I was taken over and reused by a later Pharaoh of the 21st Dynasty. The mummy of Tuthmosis I was originally thought to be lost, but Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, largely on the strength of familial resemblance to the mummies of Tuthmosis II and Tuthmosis III, believed he had found his mummy in the otherwise unlabelled mummy. This identification has been supported by subsequent examinations, revealing that the embalming techniques used came from the appropriate period of time -- almost certainly after that of Ahmosis I and some time during the course of the 18th Dynasty. It is this finding that is now being contested.