7.01.2007

Hatshepsut, Transvestite Queen

For "The Artist as Curator: Luxe, Calme et Volupte," click here

The Internet headlines were worthy of the New York Post: "Remains of beard-wearing Egyptian queen ID'd" and "Ruler was known for dressing like a man and wearing a false beard."

Queen Hatshepsut and her pharaonic beard

The story was straight out of, well, Dynasty.

The mummy of Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt in the 15th Century B.C., has been identified. The mummy, found in a nondescript tomb, had been discovered a century ago and left on site. Recently an observer noted that the position of repose, with the left hand over the chest and the right hand by the side, was that of a ruler. Another observer noted the presence of a molar in the box of entrails that had been left

Cairo CSI: Hatshepsut was identified by her dental records--actually, by a loose molar that fit perfectly into an empty socket in her skull

with the body, so the bones, the tooth and the entrails were brought to the Cairo Museum for genetic testing. Helpful, that molar, because it allowed genetic resarchers to test for mitochondrial DNA since they had previously identified other of Hatshepsut's female relatives. Voila, the long-missing Queen.

“We are 100 percent certain the mummy belongs to Hatshepsut," Egypt’s antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, told The Associated Press.


Long story short: It seems Hatshepsut took the throne from from her young stepson, Thutmose III. She wore the beard and men's clothing to distinguish herself as a pharaoh (because apparently even female pharaohs had to take on the trappings of a male to have

A figure of Hatshepsut from her temple in Luxor, on the west bank of the Nile

power). When she died in 1453 B.C. after a successful and productive 21 year rule, Thumose III, the bitter little snot, had her remains removed from the royal tomb and eradicated as many traces of her reign as he could. Clearly the temples and statues remained, but until this past week, the body did not.

So history will be rewritten to something like, "Hatshepsut's mummy was identified by DNA testing 3500 years after her death." Her legacy remains the same, however: She was known as a builder of Ancient Egypt.

For more on the discovery: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19454551/