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That's Mr. Queen to you

Science | Lost tooth identifies female pharaoh

Issue: "Big bucks ministries," July 28, 2007

It's the long lost mummy of one of Egypt's most famous rulers. Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass says he's identified the remains of Hatshepsut, a powerful female pharaoh who usurped the throne of her stepson in the 15th century b.c. and wore a fake beard and male clothing. The mummy appears to have had diabetes and died from cancer at about 50.

Since it was taboo for a woman to rule ancient Egypt, Hatshepsut portrayed herself as male and initiated building projects, expeditions, and other kingly activities. Some wall carvings depict her as severely overweight. Although Hatshepsut's royal tomb was discovered by the legendary explorer Howard Carter in 1903, her mummy was not inside it and had probably been moved in antiquity to thwart vandalism.

Hawass began a rigorous search for Hatshepsut after the Discovery Channel offered to finance and film the hunt. Hawass' team sought out several mummies to investigate, including an unidentified, obese mummy found in a tomb next to Hatshepsut's tomb. The team subjected the mummies to CAT scanning and also scanned a canopic box carved with Hatshepsut's name, which contained organs and a single molar. Remarkably, the scans revealed that the upper jaw of the obese mummy was missing the same molar found in the box. Precise measurements of the tooth matched it to the jaw perfectly.

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Hawass told a press conference his team is "100 percent sure," of the mummy's identity, and he calls the finding the most important discovery since the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. His team is now conducting DNA testing to try to link the mummy with others identified as Hatshepsut's family.

Several archaeologists are not convinced of Hawass' conclusion, citing insufficient evidence and the difficulties of obtaining mummy DNA. It seems controversy has always surrounded the cross-dressed queen: In classic Egyptian style, her name was carved out of monuments to erase the memory of her unusual reign.

Global cooling

Greenland has seen greener days

Eric the Red named Greenland with the hope of attracting more settlers to his icy island, or so it's said. But it turns out Greenland really was green sometime in the past.

An international research team analyzed ice-core samples from the island and found DNA from several species of trees, including pine and spruce, along with that of insects like beetles, butterflies, and spiders. Writing in the journal Science, the team believes the DNA indicates southern Greenland was covered in forests sometime between 450,000 and 800,000 years ago.

In previous fieldwork, fossilized vegetation was found in a northern part of the island-suggesting it too had seen greener days.

Lab Notes

DISCOVERY: Found: a complete dodo. An entire skeleton of the plump, flightless bird hunted to extinction in the 17th century has been discovered inside a cave on Mauritius, the Indian Ocean island where dodos once lived. The rare find may be the best preserved dodo skeleton in existence and could yield the iconic bird's genes.

POWER: A miniscule generator developed by British scientists converts vibrations into microwatts of power. At one cubic centimeter, the generator could be used in pacemakers, where the heart's beating would power the device.

SPACE: The International Space Station may become available in 2011 to American companies who want to conduct space research. If a NASA plan is implemented, a portion of the space station's U.S. segment will be designated a "national laboratory."

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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