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Pharaoh Hatshepsut Died in Pain Due to Cancer

Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's greatest female Pharaoh died in pain probably due to caner that spread to her pelvic bones, a new study by researchers has revealed.

The daughter of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I and wife of Tuthmosis II, her half-brother, Hatshepsut reigned from 1498 to 1483 BC as the fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, whose later members included Akhenaton and Tutankhamun.

Archaeologists led by Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, recently located her mummy in the Valley of the Kings, following a one- year study.

They used CT scans to link distinct physical traits of Hatshepsut to that of her ancestors, and narrow the search for the Pharaoh to the couple of female mummies in the KV60 tomb.

Preliminary examination of the 3,000-year-old mummy has now revealed that Hatshepsut was obese, had decayed teeth and possibly suffered from a skin disease.

"Her mouth shows the presence of many dental cavities, periapical (root) inflammation and pockets," said Ashraf Selim, radiologist at Cairo University, who examined the mummy.

The mummy also showed signs of a rather disgusting skin disease on the face and neck, which, Selim believes, might have added to Hatshepsut's health problems.

"We found numerous tiny spots within Hatshepsut and the Tuthmose family, which could indicate a skin disease," said Selim.

He, however, believes that the spots were more likely caused by the mummification process than dermatosis.

Certain aspects of the resins could be responsible for the eruptions found on the skins of Thutmose I, Hatshepsut's father, Thutmose II, her half-brother and husband, and Amenhotep II, Thutmose I's grandson, he said.

According to Egyptologist Donald Ryan, who in 1989 rediscovered the KV60 tomb, where the mummy believed to be Hatshepsut lay uncoffined on the floor, the queen was also very obese.

Bald in front but with long hair in back, the mummy shows an overweight woman just over five feet tall, who died at about 50.

"First of all, the mummy was not just overweight, she was obese," Discovery News quoted Ryan as saying.

One thing, however, researchers say with certainty, is that Hatshepsut had cancer: cancer that had metastasized.

"The type of cancer we discovered is affecting the pelvic bone, specifically the left iliac bone. From its location, character and the few tiny foci of bone rarefaction in the spine, we concluded that this tumour is a metastatic deposit rather than a primary tumour," said Selim.

Though Selim doesn't rule out bone cancer, he believes it was more likely another kind of tumour that spread to the bone.

"It could have been a tumour affecting the lung, breast or kidney. Whatever the tumour's origins, it is very likely that Queen Hatshepsut spent her last days in pain," Selim said.

"A bone tumour is certainly painful. The picture emerging from the mummy is not only unflattering, but would indicate rather poor health. But with the data at our disposal, I think any diagnosis is merely speculative," added Gino Fornaciari, professor of forensic anthropology at the University of Pisa.


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