Has the Mummy of the Female Pharaoh Hatshepsut been Identified?

Posted April 28th, 2014 by Dylan and filed in News



This is an extract from An Ancient Egyptian Case Book which is currently in the process of being set-out for publication. Notes appear at the foot.


The project to identify the mummy of Hatshepsut was prompted by the idea that she might be one of two female mummies discovered in tomb KV60 by Howard Carter in 1903. Both mummies lay with the left arm bent across the chest and the right arm placed straight down by the side – a pose sometimes believed to be associated with queens – and the connection with Hatshepsut was made because one of the mummies lay in a coffin-base bearing the title and name, ‘Great Royal Nurse, In’, who might be the same In-Sitre, a wet-nurse of Hatshepsut, known from a statue discovered nearby in her mortuary temple at Deir el Bahari.17 This association – coupled with the fact that KV60 lies only about 50 metres in front of Hatshepsut’s tomb (KV20) – had previously led Elizabeth Thomas to make the suggestion, with the ‘utmost temerity’, that the other KV60 mummy, (without a coffin) might, in fact, be Hatshepsut herself, anciently re-interred alongside her wet nurse.18 The mummy in the coffin base had been removed and placed in storage at the museum in Cairo sometime prior to 1916,19 and the other, coffin-less mummy was removed in 2007 to take part in the study.


As revealed in the Discovery Channel TV documentary Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen,20 the study employed modern technology in the form of CAT scans and DNA tests, but the identification announced was, in fact, made using just the first of these two techniques in what was essentially a ‘family likeness’ test. CAT scans were made of the skulls of the mummies of Hatshepsut’s half-brother (and husband), Thutmose II; Thutmose II’s son by another wife, Thutmose III; and the unidentified man sometimes thought to be Hatshepsut’s father, Thutmose I; to produce a composite, generic, ‘Thutmoside’ profile and frontal view. These two composite views were then compared to the profiles and frontal scans of six unidentified female royal mummies, who were put forward as potential candidates for Hatshepsut. The six included: the two mummies from KV60; the Elder Lady and Younger Lady from KV35;21 Unknown Woman ‘A’ (actually not ‘unknown’ as she was originally identified on her wrappings as Meritamun); and Unknown Woman ‘D’.22 The closest match was found to be the obese mummy without a coffin from KV60 (KV60-A). However, the weakness of the ‘family likeness’ test was shown by the fact that whilst Thutmose II and Thutmose III were found to share a number of characteristic features, the so-called Thutmose I was unlike them in several respects. In fact the mummy KV60-A:


‘…resembled ‘Thutmose I’ in some features, and Thutmose II and Thutmose III in others…Thus the scans pointed towards KV60-A as the most likely Hatshepsut, but did not allow us to reach any firm conclusions.’23


The identification of this mummy with Hatshepsut was then claimed to have been proved when the jewel-box labelled for Hatshepsut (found in the Royal Cache, TT320) was CAT scanned. It appeared likely that the wrapped item in the box was indeed a visceral organ (not certainly a liver), but the interesting discovery was that the box also contained a tooth with one root missing. This tooth was identified as a seventh upper right molar, and shown by computer reconstruction to fit into the upper right jaw of KV60-A where just one root remained of a missing tooth. Unfortunately for this theory it was later pointed out by a dentist that upper molars have three roots, and the tooth in the box was almost certainly a lower first molar, for which there was no gap in the mouth of the KV60-A mummy.24 However, it scarcely needs pointing out that neither the tooth nor the visceral organ found in the jewel-box need necessarily have anything to do with the person named on it.25


Samples for DNA testing by the new laboratory were taken from the mummies of KV60-A, KV60-B, ‘Thutmose I’, Thutmose II, Thutmose III, and Queen Ahmose Nefertari.

Tests actually concentrated on a comparison of the KV60 mummies (particularly KV60-A) with ‘Thutmose I’ and Ahmose Nefertari, who were said to be Hatshepsut’s father and maternal grandmother respectively. However, as noted above, the ‘Thutmose I’ mummy is not especially likely to be that king; and Ahmose Nefertari’s relationship to Hatshepsut is entirely uncertain.26 Nuclear DNA was not extracted from any of the samples at this point, but mitochondrial DNA was obtained from KV60-A and Ahmose Nefertari, leading to the observation that there appeared to be, ‘significant similarity between the two women, but it is too early to draw any conclusions.’ Later it was said that nuclear DNA had been obtained from the two KV60 mummies, but not from ‘Thutmose I’.27 However, although Dr. Angelique Corthals, of Manchester’s KHN Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, who assisted in the work in Cairo, was confident enough to state that:


“When the DNA of the mystery mummy [KV60-A] was compared with that of Hatshepsut’s ancestors, we were able to scientifically confirm that the remains were those of the 18th dynasty queen.”28


it has to be concluded that neither the CAT scan comparisons nor these DNA tests identified either mummy from KV60 as Hatshepsut, and this attribution remains entirely speculative.



17. A note of caution should perhaps be sounded by the recent discovery of Coffin ‘A’ in KV63 (dated to the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty) which is inscribed for a ‘Royal Nurse, Iny’. Was this a common pet name for nurses?

18. E. Thomas, The Royal Necropoleis of Thebes (Princeton 1966), 138.

19. It may have been removed by Edward Ayrton in 1906 when he was working on the nearby tomb of Montuherkhopshef (KV19). The recent ‘rediscovery’ of this mummy is recounted in Zahi Hawass, ‘Quest for the Mummy of Hatshepsut. Could She Be the Lady in the Attic of the EgyptianMuseum, Cairo?’, KMT 17.2 (Summer 2006), 40-43.

20. First screened in the U.S. July 15th 2007.

21. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 21; notes that these two had been previously scanned in 2005. Although not noted there, the pose of the Elder Lady had once led to suggestions that she might have been Hatshepsut, see H. Rider Haggard, ‘The Debris of Majesty. Plundering the Graves of Kings’, The Daily Mail (4 June 1904), as reproduced in Shirley M. Addy, Rider Haggard and Egypt (Accrington 1998), 49-50; and James E. Harris and Kent R. Weeks, X-Raying the Pharaohs (London 1973), 135-6.

22. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 21; acknowledges that this mummy (CCG 61082, who is often considered to be the late Nineteenth Dynasty female pharaoh, Twosret), was included in error for CCG 61056, Unknown Woman ‘B’, sometimes thought to be Tetisheri of the early Eighteenth Dynasty.

23. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 22-3. Another weakness of such comparative techniques is that it is not impossible for men to resemble the males in their mother’s family!

24. Dr. J. L. Thimes, ‘Readers’ Forum’, KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt 19.3 (Fall 2008), 6-7. My point in Bickerstaffe, Identifying the Royal Mummies, 92-6; that matches made using x-rays or CAT scans are not strong evidence, is borne out here.

25. I point out in talks that if you knock out one of my teeth and throw it in a box named ‘Hitler’, that does not make me Hitler!

26. Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt (London 2004), 124-133. As shown in Charts illustrating the 18th Dynasty Parts 1 and 2, Hatshepsut may have had Ahmose Nefertari as a great aunt on the side of her father Thutmose I, and possibly also on the side of her mother, Ahmes-B, if she was a sister-wife of Thutmose I. The ancestry of Hatshepsut’s mother, Ahmes-B, would be otherwise unknown.

27. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 25. ‘The lab staff, led by Dr. Yehia Zakaria Gad of the EgyptianNationalResearchCenter, received extensive training in the use of the Applied Biosystems 3130 Genetic Analyzer donated by the Discovery Channel. Applied Biosystems application specialists Elias Arnaout, Dr. Pieter Van Oers, and Dr. Nicola Oldenroyd, as well as Dr. Angelique Corthals, lecturer in Biomedical and Forensic Studies at the KHN Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester, instructed the lab staff in the use of the equipment and assay kits needed to perform DNA analysis of the mummies. One of the latter, called the Minifiler, is a state-of-the-art kit developed especially for the analysis of highly degraded samples.’

28. ‘Pharaoh DNA Analysis: Preliminary Results Support Positive Identification Of Egyptian Queen’, Science Daily (July 17, 2007), http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070716133119.htm