WINTER IN EGYPT 2008 – QUEST FOR THE LOST QUEEN

Winter is the best time to travel to Egypt. Summer tend to be sweltering hot in the inner parts of Egypt especially around the Aswan region where most of the significant monuments throughout the ancient Egyptian civilization are located. I had the opportunity to do so in the December of 2008 and a splendid trip it had been.

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Hatshepsut Temple

 

Egypt was the first country in the African continent that I’ve ever visited so it was a very special trip indeed. On top of that, just a year and a half before this trip, the identity of Queen Hatshepsut’s mummy was finally uncovered. For many years, Egyptologists could not identify the mummy of one of the most powerful female pharaoh in the history of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Not only was the mystery of her lost mummy unsettling, even more so was the way her reign was erased from the Karnak Temple, where records of many high caliber pharaohs like herself were immortalized. Many of her stone statues and hieroglyphs depicting her images were destroyed on purpose.

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Obelisk at the Karnak Temple. The identical twin was sent to Paris.

 

Despite Hatshepsut’s reign being credited by historians as the most prosperous aka the Golden Age of ancient Egyptian civilization, history had not been kind to this great historical figure. She was a progressive woman ahead of her time when patriarchal lineages were the norm. At age 12 after the death of her father Tutmosis I, she married her half-brother, Tutmosis II. Inbreeding was common in ancient Egypt to preserve the royal bloodline. Several years later at around the age of 15, her husband, Tutmosis II died leaving her the queen regent of her step-son, the future Tutmosis III.

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Soldiers on expedition to the Land of Punt (Hatshepsut Temple)

 

The nearly two decades under the reign of Queen Hatshepsut was a period of peace and economic prosperity for both lower and upper ancient Egypt. She formed diplomatic ties with neighboring kingdoms and even funded an expedition crossing the Red Sea to the Land of Punt (Somalia in the present). From the expedition to the Land of Punt, new animal and plant species as well as gold, incense and ebony were introduced into ancient Egyptian civilization.

About 3000 years later, a forgotten mummy in the royal position (one arm crossed) was transported from KV60 at the Valley of the Kings to the Cairo Museum along with three other unidentified mummies for forensic investigations. After many state of the art CT scans and even DNA fingerprintings later, the mystery of the lost queen was finally solved by matching a molar with broken root found in the funerary canopic box  belonging to the queen with the broken root still stuck in the skull of the KV60 mummy. It was discovered that Queen Hatshepsut’s cause of death was a combination of hip cancer and tooth abscess which led to sepsis. Contrary to a homicide speculation, the most powerful woman in ancient Egypt actually died in pain from natural causes.

From the autopsy result, a new theory in regards to the intentional destruction of Hatshepsut’s stone statues and hieroglyphs depicting her images was formed. The extent of destructions were not entirely due to hate crime alone although the Queen had been romantically linked to her architect, Senenmut. Instead, there  was possibility that the motive that drove Tutmosis III to remove her name from historical records was to maintain an undisrupted line of male pharaohs within the family. Queen Hatshepsut was not despised. Just that her unorthodox precedence wasn’t well received.

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