Published on July 22, 2007
In what is considered the most important find in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamun, the Discovery Channel's "Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen" reveals archaeological, forensic and scientific evidence identifying a 3,500-year-old mummy as Hatshepsut, the queen who was king of Egypt.
The programme, which is being screened on Wednesday at 9pm, follows a team of forensic experts and archaeologists, led by Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, as they use forensic technology to identify Hatshepsut.
Hawass and his team's investigative journey leads them through the massive crypts beneath Egypt and into the depths of the Cairo Museum.
Using knowledge of Egyptian mummification and clues from two known tombs linked to Hatshepsut, the team narrows their search down to just four mummies from thousands of unidentified corpses. Computed tomography scanning allows the scientists to link distinct physical traits of the four mummies to those of Hatshepsut's known relatives.
The search further narrows to two possibilities - both from the tomb of Hatshepsut's wet nurse - but the final clue lies within a canopic box inscribed with the female pharaoh's name.
A scan of the box finds a tooth that, when measured, perfectly matches a missing upper molar in one of the two mummies.
"The discovery of the Hatshepsut mummy is one of the most important finds in the history of Egypt," says Hawass. "Her reign during the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt was a prosperous one, yet mysteriously she was erased from Egyptian history.
"Our hope is that this mummy will help shed light on this mystery and on the mysterious nature of her death."
DNA testing will not only be used to extract and compare nuclear and mitochondrial DNA of the Hatshepsut mummy and mummies from her family, but will also be used to examine future finds in Egypt and hopefully clarify relationships among the royal families.
More powerful than Cleopatra or Nefertiti, Hatshepsut stole the throne from her young stepson, dressed herself as a man, and in an unprecedented move, declared herself pharaoh.
Though her power stretched across Egypt and her reign was prosperous, Hatshepsut's legacy was systematically erased from Egyptian history - historical records were destroyed, monuments torn down and her corpse removed from her tomb - and her death remains shrouded in mystery.