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Is the mummy "Thutmose I" really Hatshepsut?

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Published in 
 · 3 Sep 2023

When it was seen that two mummies from the Deir el Bahari cache were labelled Thutmose II and III, Gaston Maspero, the then director of the Boulaq Museum in Cairo, felt reasonably sure that a certain anonymous corpse from the cache could be drafted to complete the set. In fact, Maspero fancied he saw a distinct family resemblance in the face of the nameless mummy to the pair of Thutmoses and so "Thutmose I" took his place with his peers based primarily upon this perceived similarity. It is my impression, moreover, that Maspero was so anxious to have a complete succession of early 18th Dynasty kings that certain factors, which when combined would have presented a very strong argument against such an identification, were conveniently ignored.

As time went by and others studied the royal remains, a few objections were raised but, as a friend of mine once stated: "Once they print up the cards in the museums, they don't like to change them", and so nobody was made uncomfortable enough with any of these negative arguments to strip the mummy of the ID it was assigned at the turn of the century. However, the trend has certainly been in Egyptological books of the last few years to place a big question mark after the mummy's name.

In his famous old tome, "The Royal Mummies", (1912) G. Elliot Smith, professor of anatomy at the Cairo School of Medicine, wrote "When we come to examine the details of the mummy there are too many features, trivial in themselves when considered individually, but the cumulative value of which is so great as to dispose of any further doubts as to its definite identification as Thoutmosis I or a contemporary."

A strange statement, indeed! There is certainly nothing much "definite" about "either/or" and there is a vast difference between a pharaoh and a "contemporary". As a matter of fact, almost everything Smith, himself, wrote about this mummy should have given him great pause. In his report, Smith is quite adamant that "from the time of Thutmosis II until the end of the XXth dynasty, no mummy of an adult man is known in which the arms were not flexed." At that time the unwrapped mummy of Amenhotep I, the predecessor of Thutmose I, had not yet been x-rayed, and so it was thought that perhaps these two kings might be exceptions to this norm. However, Amenhotep I ultimately was radiologically revealed to have flexed arms like the rest. Still, it is difficult to understand why Smith made the statement about the arms because, in his book, there is an "adult man" with arms hanging at his sides--the unidentified male found in the coffin of the scribe, Nebseni. Also, the male mummies from the royal cache who belong to the 21st Dynasty do not have flexed arms.

Smith seemed to agree with Maspero's idea that the mummy, "Thutmose I", bore not only a striking familial resemblance to Thutmose II, but also found him appropriately short in stature to fit in with the kings in his immediate group. Ahmose I measured 1m 635 mill., and Thutmose II 1 m 684 mill. Thutmose III was 1m 615 mill.--without feet--and would certainly have been taller. (Update: Gayle Gibson writes in the Spring 2000 issue of KMT that she measured the mummy of Thutmose III and he appeared to her to be 1.75 meters or 5 feet, nine inches tall!) Yet the mummy in question is only 1m 545 mill. in height, which is beyond merely "short" for a male and qualifies as "diminutive". The warlike Thutmose III has often been styled the "Napoleon of the East". But Napoleon Buonaparte, despite his (supposed)lack of stature, cut a manly figure and so did Thutmose III with his handsome, virile features. If there is anything "virile" about the mummy known as "Thutmose I", it is not perceptible to me. I find it difficult to picture this tiny king, who also had no mean military reputation, leading his army into battle when, looking at his mummy, he might reasonably have been mistaken, at a distance, for a child of twelve. Actually, the cranial dimensions of the mummy, as recorded by Elliot Smith, are less than those of my delicate, twelve-year-old daughter!

"The cranium is o m. 180 mill. long, o m. 133 mill. broad: its minimal frontal diameter is o m. 093 mill. and its circumference o m. 510 mill." A forehead of 093 mill. (measuring between the frontal lobes) is really quite unbelievably narrow and I have trouble crediting that even an adult woman could have such a slender head, much less a grown man. Perhaps Smith erred in his measuring. Yet Smith also made the note that this Thutmose certainly had a skull which differed from those of his mummified predecessors in size, so probably he had double-checked this rather odd result.

The anatomist, in "The Royal Mummies", had nothing to say about the bones of this mummy because he could not see them, lacking x-rays. However, later on it was observed "that the ends of the long bones in the legs had not closed, suggesting that this individual died before the age of eighteen, a fact which does not agree with the historical account of the length of Thutmose I's reign". ("X-raying the Pharaohs") Maspero, himself, although he had no medical background, judged the age of the mummy at death from the teeth that were visible to him, pronouncing them "worn" and putting the age of the individual at 50 +. As time went on, and the anatomist, G. Elliot Smith, had the opportunity to examine many more Egyptian mummies, he made this observation: "Moreover I have since discovered that no bone is more misleading than the innominate bone; for I have found that the sulcus which separates the posterior part of the epiphysis cristae may remain open until middle age...with my present experience of the variability of the relative dates of epiphyseal unions in ancient Egyptian bones, I would make the reservation that the anatomical evidence, when based upon the penultimate stage of consolidation of a single bone, cannot be regarded as conclusive."

Despite the fact that the small, frail mummy once had its missing hands positioned over its pudenda as is seen in the remains of royal ladies, Smith was evidently determined to find signs of masculinity. Perhaps the mummy's totally bald head motivated him to do this as much as Maspero's need for the deceased to be a man. A hairless mummy discovered in the tomb of Amenhotep II temporarily fooled even a Frenchman like Victor Loret into thinking it was male. Smith confided "At first sight the body has the appearance of being that of a eunuch." Nevertheless, he managed to find "a broad leaf, o m. 067 mill. long and o m. 038 mill. wide " flattened against the perineum of the mummy and "a slightly smaller mass flattened against the front and inner side of the left thigh". Yet the terms "scrotal sac" and "penis" were not mentioned with any confidence by Smith in connection with this mummy of Thutmose I and he expresses confusion as to what the "structures", as he calls them, might be.

Smith mentions the eyelashes of the corpse, which are astonishing in their thickness, and makes it clear that there is no sign of a moustache or a chin beard or even the close-shaved facial hair he observes in other male mummies. He does notice a few "moderately abundant short white hairs" on the left masseteric region. The examiner does not specify if this represents a downy growth or thicker hairs like something missed by the barber or post-menopausal sproutings. Regardless, one thing is certain: a young Egyptian male, past puberty and having begun to shave, is not going to have any sort of white hair on his face. This would mean that the mummy is either a female or a male past forty, that Elliot Smith's reservations about epiphyseal unions are sensible and that the later pronouncements regarding the mummy of "Thutmose I" as being a male around the age of 18 are highly suspect.

While Smith sometimes included the remarks, in French, of others on the relative facial beauty of other mummies and once or twice even has opinion about this, himself, nothing about the putative Thutmose I moved him to such compliments. However, the fact that he quoted Maspero's impression that "the mouth still bears an expression of shrewdness and cunning" and himself added " the narrow, feeble jaw, with receding chin give an aspect of weakness to the whole face" is most telling. Smith also recorded that the ears were not pierced, the shape of the nose ruined from having perhaps been plugged with linen impregnated with resins as was the case with Thutmose II, and that the skin of the face was much wrinkled.

I cannot help but wonder what the expert, Smith, without having been influenced by Maspero's notions about "family resemblances" and having approached this particular mummy as "X", would have made of it. When he had bones to look at, he was willing to commit himself as to sex readily enough. Smith pronounced the skeletal remains from KV55 to be those of a man, despite Theodore Davis' hopes they might be those of Queen Tiye. But, in this instance, Smith had a bandaged corpse with a 'leaf" in the genital area. He saw arms that were positioned in a "helpless", lowered attitude that was not deemed befitting a king of Egypt at that period in history. He faithfully recorded all he noticed, it seems--or did he? G. Elliot Smith was no fool and perhaps he realized the futility of expressing further reservations about the mummy with only his intuition as proof. While the professor of anatomy "measured" the mummy of "Thutmose I", he could, in reality, give it no better forensic examination, under the circumstances, than the casual and untutored observer.

To my own eyes, this mummy does not evidence anything masculine whatsoever and there is no information in Smith's book to convince me of the falseness of my impression.

I see a little woman with high, broad cheekbones, a lofty, flat forehead and what was once a high-bridged nose. The puckered lips seem to have once been quite full over a rather prognathous "bite". Beneath it, the small chin would have been insignificant. The eyelashes are thick as brushes. All of this I put into my artistic reconstruction of the face of the mummy and I even added a full head of hair. My portrait does not contain any of the "cunning" that Maspero detected--even though I believe he had hit the nail square on the head--but the demure, even coy aspect that the face has when viewed head on. Somehow, the complex personality of the living person has been stamped on the visage of the mummy for all time, changing with every angle.

However eager he was to have a full set of pharaohs, Maspero's eyes, also, did not deceive him, for the mummy "does" appear to be a Thutmosid and is quite similar to the mummy called "Thutmose II". It is my feeling, based upon all the evidence, including the ancient portraiture I have studied while doing my reconstructions of the faces of the royal mummies, that these two are related. Not only that, but it is obvious from certain details that they were embalmed by the same method in the same era. But one of them is a woman and the woman's name is Hatshepsut. The best of the "woman-king's" likenesses match the features of the mummy dubbed "Thutmose I"--and the likenesses of that sovereign do not. It seems to me that it is the narrowness of the jaw in relation to the wideness of the cheekbones that makes the face of the mummy seem almost "heart-shaped"--a trait that can be detected in many of the sculptures of the "queen/king". It is also evident, in several of her portraits, that Hatshepsut gained considerable weight during her reign and sometimes her face is carved with cheeks that are extraordinarily full, which could account for the pronounced wrinkling of the cheeks of the mummy once the fat dissolved. The queen has not, to my knowledge, been portrayed with earrings (although it is odd that a woman of her time should not have had pierced ears) and her head could have been shaved to facilitate the wearing of the tight-fitting "khepresh"--the blue crown--in which she is often shown. No matter what she wore, female or kingly attire, she was still a short, small-boned woman who could only have seemed regal to those who were in awe of her formidable personality.

The circumstances of Hatshepsut's death are a total mystery, but common sense dictates that, while one can plan ones own burial, ultimately the task is left to others. It is probable that the "woman-pharaoh" was not interred as a king, although evidently every respect was paid to her corpse. There is no reason to believe that anyone wished the "charade" of her kingship to continue beyond her death. The arms would not be flexed to demonstrate power but modestly placed. In short, Hatshepsut was relegated to her proper place once she ceased breathing--that of a royal lady and nothing more.

Although no one can be certain of this, Hatshepsut was likely interred in KV20, the tomb in which she had planned to spend eternity with her august father, Thutmose I. At some point, however, the latter was moved by Thutmose III, now sole king, to another tomb, KV38, away from Hatshepsut's "contaminating" presence--for by that time the persecution of her memory had probably begun. Even though her monuments were destroyed and her cartouches excised in a rather haphazard manner by her successor, by the time the priests of the "reburial commission" gathered up her body with the other royal mummies, they may no longer have even known who she was.

Joyce Tyldesley advances the possibility that Hatshepsut's "omission from the 19th Dynasty king lists may not necessarily have had a sinister motive; perhaps those who compiled the list genuinely believed her to be a queen-regent rather than a full king". Tyldesley wrote: "Ironically, it is ultimately the fact that Hatshepsut had been content to share her reign with Thutmose III, which allowed future generations to forget her name." In other words, there was no gap in the succession that the prenomen "Maat-ka-re" was needed to fill.

Nevertheless, in the 21st Dynasty, the name "Maat-ka-re" was still remembered, as we shall see.

Since a box was discovered in the Deir el Bahari cache bearing Hatshepsut's name and containing one of her vital organs, it is not unreasonable to conclude that her mummy was brought to the safe haven, as well, at the end of the New Kingdom. However, Hatshepsut very likely no longer owned a coffin by this time, or had only smashed ones, because bits of a wooden coffin belonging to her were found in a shaft in the tomb of Ramesses XI by John Romer. This tomb had, apparently, been used as a workplace, in the time of Pinudjem I of the 21st Dynasty, by those who were sorting out what remained of the burials of Egypt's former Great Ones. What identifying signs were left on the "woman-king's" mummy, at this point, cannot be known or even if these priests recognized her significance at all. While the cartouches on Hatshepsut's sarcophagus in KV20 had not been defaced, it is not probable that her mummy was still lying in it and the body, along with the box containing the liver or spleen, could have made several stops before finally resting in the Deir el Bahari cache. Nicholas Reeves argues that the cache, or "DB320", "turns out to have been the family vault of the high priest, Pinudjem II, into which the royal mummies had been introduced only after Year 11 of Shoshenq I of the 22nd dynasty". Before that, Reeves says, they had probably been in the cliff tomb of Queen Ahmose-Inhapi. Perhaps by the 22nd Dynasty nobody even connected the mummy with the box. Yet both are still with us today, and if sufficient DNA could be extracted from the contents of the box, perhaps a match might be made with the mummy.

Why the mummy of "Thutmose I", if this is really Hatshepsut, was found, in modern times, in a coffin belonging to Thutmose I, is not terribly relevant, in my opinion. However, there is such contradictory information in various sources about this that I am forming a suspicion that perhaps mummy and coffin were *never* connected and that this was a device of Maspero calculated to lend credence to the identification. When at last Hatshepsut's body was taken to DB320, it has been concluded that the entire Pinudjem II family was already buried there, their coffins occupying the end chamber of the tomb. (Reeves) The coffins belonging to Thutmose I had come to the attention of Pinudjem I, the priest-king, for several reasons, probably. Nicholas Reeves feels that the dimensions of the two wooden coffins "suggest that Thutmose I had originally been provided with an innermost coffin of precious metal melted down for bullion" at some point. Indeed, this seems to have happened to a portion of the rich grave goods of the rulers of the 18th and 19th Dynasties, with other pieces being "recycled" by later kings for their own burials. My rationale for thinking that, by the time of Pinudjem I, the actual mummy of Thutmose I no longer existed is that Pinudjem took the long-dead king's coffins for his own use. These coffins not being particularly magnificent affairs and not even costly when compared with any one of the coffins of Tutankhamun, were probably coveted by Pinudjem for antiquarian and nostalgic reasons. He evidently admired the Thutmosid kings and named two of his children "Menkheperre" and "Maatkare" after Thutmose III and Hatshepsut. This is a sign that there was no animus against the "woman-king" at that date and that, by the following dynasty, had the priests of the commission recognized Hatshepsut's mummy, they would probably have docketed it as such. At any rate, it is difficult to believe that, had Thutmose I still had need of his wooden coffins, Pinudjem I would have appropriated them. However, with the mummy already lost or destroyed by grave robbers, these coffins became relics even though Pinudjem, of course, renovated them for his personal use.

Regardless, these same coffins were supposedly ultimately given to the mummy we know as "Thutmose I" and Pinudjem I was found in the cache inside the coffin of a 17th Dynasty queen, Ahhotep. (Ikram, Dodson) Here is where one finds ambiguity; various sources cannot seem to make up their minds whether "Thutmose I" had both coffins or just one or whether Pinudjem I retained one, which was then enclosed in the gigantic coffin of Ahhotep. There is no point in assigning any motives to the priests, however, for placing "Thutmose I" in one or both of these coffins, because I do not know whether they could possibly recognize them as having once been the property of Thutmose I. Nicholas Reeves, in "The Complete Valley of the Kings", seems to think "These coffins had been entirely reworked by Pinudjem I, and in their finished state the original ownership was wholly undetectable." Reeves places the blame for the defacement of these coffins on the Rassoul family, who first stumbled upon the cache, and who hacked off their gold foil covering. Still, there is always the possibility the mummy I believe to be that of a female was actually thought to be Thutmose I by the ancient restorers. After all, there were two yellow quartzite sarcophagi in KV20 and there is no telling whether Hatshepsut's looted body had perhaps been flung by thieves into or near the empty sarcophagus of her father, thereby causing confusion. There is no reason to think the priests were any better able to realize the mummy's true sex than the professor of anatomy, G. Elliot Smith. Yet the mummy was not docketed or labelled like the other kings. Why? Could it be the commission were inclined to think this was the body of Thutmose I but, not being quite certain, did not presume to mark it as such but made the compromise of placing it in coffins they had somehow perceived to be those of that ruler? Again from Nicholas Reeves: "Names in ancient Egypt were not bandied about lightly. That we possess several unidentified corpses from both caches clearly indicates that the restorers preferred to leave uninscribed any corpse whose identity was even slightly in doubt". Or, is it possible the restorers did understand that this was the "woman-king" and did not label her on account of some scruple or another, but decided to put her in the coffins of her father, anyway, his own mummy having vanished? For that to have been the scenario, the coffins would have had to have been defaced in ancient times, and an original cartouche revealed, between the burial of Pinudjem I and the final removal of the royal mummies to DB320--which is perfectly possible, of course.

The bottom-line is that it is now impossible to know the truth about the connection of the mummy called "Thutmose I" to the coffins of that pharaoh and it doesn't much signify, anyway, as other royals were found lying in coffins obviously not originally their own. Oddly enough, yet another mystery attached to all this has to do with the remains of Pinudjem I. Nobody seems to know what became of this mummy and why it has not been photographed or studied since the 1880's. The murky photos I have seen of it look to me like they might actually be of "Thutmose I"!

There is no question about one thing at least: Hatshepsut admired and revered her father and wished to be with him for "millions of years". Howard Carter said of the female pharaoh "A king she would be, and a king's fate she shared." How ironic it would be if this woman should be mistaken for her own beloved father, confounding perhaps not only ancient priests but certainly greats of Egyptology and renowned anatomists as well!

by Marianne Luban

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