Egyptologists think they have Hatshepsut's mummy

CAIRO Mon Jun 25, 2007 1:05pm EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptologists think they have identified with certainty the mummy of Hatshepsut, the most famous queen to rule ancient Egypt, found in a humble tomb in the Valley of the Kings, an archaeologist said on Monday.

Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, will hold a news conference in Cairo on Wednesday. The Discovery Channel said he would announce what it called the most important find in the Valley of the Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamun.

The archaeologist, who asked not to be named, said the candidate for identification as the mummy of Hatshepsut was one of two females found in 1903 in a small tomb believed to be that of Hatshepsut's wet-nurse, Sitre In.

Several Egyptologists have speculated over the years that one of the mummies was that of the queen, who ruled from between 1503 and 1482 BC -- at the height of ancient Egypt's power.

The archaeologist said Hawass would present new evidence for an identification but that not all Egyptologists are convinced he will be able to prove his case.

"It's based on teeth and body parts ... It's an interesting piece of scientific deduction which might point to the truth," the archaeologist said.

Egyptologist Elizabeth Thomas speculated many years ago that one of the mummies was Hatshepsut's because the positioning of the right arm over the woman's chest suggested royalty.

Her mummy may have been hidden in the tomb for safekeeping after her death because her stepson and successor, Tuthmosis III, tried to obliterate her memory.

Donald Ryan, an Egyptologist who rediscovered the tomb in 1989, said on an Internet discussion board this month that there were many possibilities for the identities of the two female mummies found in the tomb, known as KV 60.

"Zahi Hawass recently has taken some major steps to address these questions. Both of the KV 60 mummies are in Cairo now and are being examined in various clever ways that very well might shed light on these questions," he added.

In an undated article on his Web site, Hawass cast doubt on the theory that the KV-60 mummy with the folded right arm was that of Hatshepsut.

"I do not believe this mummy is Hatshepsut. She has a very large, fat body with huge pendulous breasts, and the position of her arm is not convincing evidence of royalty," he wrote.

He was more optimistic about the mummy found in the wet-nurse's coffin and traditionally identified as the nurse's. That mummy is stored away in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

"The body of the mummy now in KV 60 with its huge breasts may be the wet-nurse, the original occupant of the coffin ... The mummy on the third floor at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo could be the mummy of Hatshepsut," Hawass wrote.

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