Technology casts doubt on mummies

All of Egypt’s royal mummies will get identity checks after scientists found one was wrongly identified as a pharaoh, Egypt’s chief archaeologist said.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Thursday he would use computed tomography, or CT, scanning and DNA to test more than 40 royal mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

In June, the mummy long thought to have been King Tuthmosis I was found to be a young man who died from an arrow wound, Hawass said. History showed Tuthmosis I died in his 60s.

‘We will have to look for the mummy of the father now’

"I am now questioning all the mummies," he told Reuters in an interview. "We have to check them all again.

"The new technology now will reconfirm or identify anything for us."

The Egyptian Museum has had CT scanning equipment for just two years and its first DNA laboratory was installed in April.

The CT scan allows the mummies to be virtually "unwrapped" without damaging them. Teenage Pharaoh Tutankhamun was one of the first mummies to be examined with the technology in 2005.

Hawass said only the identity of the mummy of Tutankhamun was certain because he was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922 still in a sealed coffin in his tomb.

Many royal mummies were taken from their tombs and hidden elsewhere – sometimes in other tombs or in temples – to protect them from desecration and looting hundreds of years after their deaths.

Last week, Hawass said the ancient mummy of Tuthmosis I’s daughter, Queen Hatshepsut, had been identified and it was found she had been a fat woman in her 50s, with diabetes and rotten teeth, who died of bone cancer.

Her DNA had also been matched to Ahmose Nefertari, who Hawass described as Hatshepsut’s grandmother.

"We will have to look for the mummy of the father now," said Hawass, who was in New York promoting a Discovery Channel series that has followed his journey to identify Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut’s mummy was found in the tomb belonging to her wet-nurse, Sitre In. He said her mummy was one of six possible royal mummies that had been left by Carter in the tombs where they were discovered because they could not be identified.

"The other five should be very interesting. Now, with DNA and CT scanning, we can find out," Hawass said. "I think there is a mummy found in the tomb of Seti II that I believe this should be the mummy of Tuthmosis I."

Among the royal mummies still to be discovered is that of Queen Nefertiti, the mother-in-law of Tutankhamun.

"We still have many questions that we have to answer," Hawass said.


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