Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen|
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
Okay, admit it. You don’t know who Queen Hatshepsut is either. No, she’s not the latest girl from the ‘hood with a rap record. Hatshepsut’s ‘hood was in Egypt 3,000 years ago. She ruled for twenty years, and was one of the first women in recorded history to lead a nation. Yet almost immediately after her death, her face and name were obliterated from every wall, obelisk and tower she’d built.
“Secrets Of Egypt’s Lost Queen” is a fascinating episode of CGI, a cold case spanning 30 centuries. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, leads the search to find Egypt’s forgotten ruler. With the help of intrepid archaeologists scaling 100 foot ladders and wading through bat guano, and a team of researchers tracking down and x-raying dozens of crumbling mummies in the Cairo Museum, Hawass finds his legendary Queen. Or does he? If you’ve been keeping up with the news on CNN, then you know the final winner of the Hatshepsut sarcophagus sweepstakes is in dispute. After all this time I suppose we can wait a few months for the official stamp of approval from the scientific community. But in the meantime, thanks to the Discovery Channel’s “Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen” you and your family can enjoy a fast-paced mystery. Your kids will dig on the opportunity to check out all the dead bodies, and before you can say “Abra cadaver,” they’ll have learned something!
The path of shifting sands leading to Hatshepsut’s identity takes a number of detours. A French team of archeologists discovers evidence that Hatshepsut’s face and history have been hacked away from of the walls of the temples in The Valley of Kings, the sacred burial place for Egypt’s royalty. A team of Spanish archeologists finds artwork in equally defiled condition etched into the walls by Senemut, the queen’s engineer. The hieroglyphics indicate Senemut and Hatshepsut were more than employer and employee. (Mess with the help and you may soon find yourself needing help.) Could the scandalous love affair between a ruling member of the Thutmose family and a commoner be the reason Hatsheput was erased from history? As the teams of archeologists and researchers dig deeper, trying to piece together the Queen’s life and death, Hawass continues his search for her mummy.
Four mummies are chosen as possible candidates, but only one can wear the crown of Queen Hatshepsut. (You can almost hear Yul Brynner saying “Where is your Thut-Moses now?”) The first mummy, labeled “Unknown Mummy A,” is further identified as “the screaming mummy,” and one glance will tell you why. She died in mid-shriek after the top of her skull was cleaved away. Hawass and his crew secretly hope this wretched soul is not Hatshepsut. If it is, it only adds credence to the emerging juicy theory that the Queen was bumped off by her jealous stepson, Thutmose III.
Unknown B, called “the serene mummy,” is also from the same period Queen H ruled. The third mummy, “the strong one,” has many of the physical features resembling Hatshepsut’s family, including an aquiline nose (or in this case an aquiline bone where her nose had been). The fourth mummy, on display in the Cairo Museum since its discovery in 1916 by Howard Carter, has been tagged “the Nanny.” When Carter discovered it, he assumed the Queen’s body had long been moved to another location by priests who were afraid it would be vandalized, leaving the family’s nanny behind as bait. Hawass is convinced “the Nanny” may in fact be the queen herself, and she’s been hiding in plain sight for nearly a century.
As the mummies are x-rayed and DNA samples are taken for comparison to Queen H’s known relatives (specifically her great grandmother, who creepily retains her flowing hair), the mystery of Hatshepsut’s life begins to take shape. Her father, Thutmose I, groomed his daughter to be a politician, most likely anticipating she’d have to assist her brother and husband, Thutmose II, who was sickly and suffered from the effects of advancing heart disease. His prophecy proved correct -- Thutmose II barely made it to thirty. Hatshepsut took possession of the throne, first as a regent, then taking the bold step of declaring herself a pharaoh. She even went as far as wearing men’s robes and a fake beard in order to solidify her position. By all accounts, Egypt prospered during her tenure as she (and he) who must be obeyed. So why the historical hiccup? Her stepson, Thutmose III, who would later become “Egypt’s Napoleon,” was waiting impatiently in the wings, embarrassed and angry that he had to be subservient to a woman. Did Thutmose III murder his stepmother, assume the throne and try to destroy every trace of her accomplishments? Throughout most of the documentary, the most plausible theory seems to be that Thutmose III was jealous of mummy dearest.
Hawass and his team establish a criteria for identifying which mummy is the queen. Among the factors considered is the condition of the mummy itself. Was it embalmed in with care, in a manner indicating it was a member of the royal family? Was it positioned with its right arm crossed over the chest, another sign of royalty? After x-raying the brittle bodies of Thutmose I-III, the team discovers another factor for consideration -- the members of the royal family suffered from a skin disease that left their epidermis ruddy or pockmarked. Based on the established criteria, two of the four mummies are sent packing. The tie breaker comes down to what can best be described as “organs in a box.” Hawass remembers that a box containing Queen H’s liver is also part of the Museum’s inventory. (You’d need a 16-wheeler to house my liver.) When it’s x-rayed, the team also discovers a broken tooth inside the box. Match the broken tooth to the missing tooth in one of the mummies and you may have a winner.
Once a winner is declared, Hawass sets out to determine how and why Queen H’s name was buried with her corpse. It turns out Queenie had a number of afflictions that might have done her in before her stepson could wrap her up to go. Among her more obvious ailments are diabetes, a malignant tumor on her spine, osteoporosis, arthritis, and rotten teeth. The only question is who won the race, Thutmose III and his all consuming jealousy, or Hatshepsut and her catalogue of afflictions. The answer is worth the 3.000 year wait.
So pick up “Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen” and see what’s dune…Your inner queen will be amused.