A mummy rediscovered in 1989 by Faculty Fellow Don Ryan, director of the Pacific Lutheran University Valley of the Kings Project, was recently identified as the missing mummy of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s greatest female pharaoh.
The mummy was identified using a molar found inside a box that bore the royal seal of Hatshepsut. The tooth matched within a fraction of a millimeter the space of the missing molar in the mouth of the 3,000-year-old mummy. According to Zahi Hawass, head of antiquities in Egypt, the tooth proves the mummy is Hatshepsut, who ruled during the 18th dynasty.
The mummy was originally discovered in 1903 by Howard Carter, who is now famous for discovering the tomb of King Tutkanhamun in the early 1920s. The tomb, designated KV-60, contained two mummies: one in an uncovered coffin and another laying the floor.
Eventually, the coffined mummy was identified as a wet nurse and removed to Cairo. The tomb was covered up and its exact location lost until Ryan rediscovered it during the PLU expedition’s first day of digging in 1989.
“A prominent Egyptologist once suggested that if the tomb were ever to be rediscovered, perhaps the second mummy could be that of the famous Hatshepsut, whose body has never been identified,” Ryan explained. Hatshepsut’s royal tomb was found near KV-60, but her royal mummy wasn’t in it.
Inside KV-60, Ryan’s team found lots of broken yet well-preserved objects, including wrapped parcels containing food for the deceased. The second mummy, left behind nearly a century before, lay on the floor of the burial chamber. The special pose of the arms and the quality of the mummification suggested royalty, Ryan said.
“There was nothing in the tomb that could indicate the identity of any specific individual,” Ryan said. “The walls were undecorated and the artifacts offered no clues.”
The team placed the mummy in a wooden box, and it was moved to Cairo about a year ago.
During a field session last November, the Discovery Channel spent several days filming Ryan and his team working in the Valley of the Kings for a television special about Hatshepsut and her mummy. Ryan appears on camera in the TV special, called “Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen.” The documentary will air on Sunday, July 15 at 9 p.m. on The Discovery Channel.
Read more about the discovery of Hatshepsut’s mummy in the Discovery News article.
Ryan directs the Pacific Lutheran University Valley of the Kings Project, which worked in the valley from 1989 to 1991, and in 1993, 2005 and 2006. The tombs Ryan focuses on are some of the more obscure tombs in the valley. Most were burial sites for Egypt’s elite, but not necessarily for its royalty.
Ryan said he has applied for an additional field season in the valley. If granted, the time will allow his team to finish their study of KV-60 and five other tombs, with a formal publication of the team’s findings to follow.
Learn more about Ryan’s work at www.plu.edu/~ryandp.