Friday, March 19, 2010
Now That We Know...
DNA testing has not been able to provide the answers to some of the mysteries surrounding the mid 18th Dynasty mummies, but at least now we know that the remains labelled as Amenhotep III is that pharaoh and the "Elder Lady" from KV35 his chief queen, Tiye. As a result, we see that some of the ancient artists portrayed them both with good accuracy and know some more about the royal couple in hindsight. For one thing, both were extremely short. Amenhotep III was not much over five feet in height and Queen Tiye was under five feet. On her gilded funerary shrine found in KV55, she is portrayed as a very little woman with short legs. The king was a roly-poly man and at least one statue shows him as such. The embalmers attempted to fill out the form of his corpse once the natron had deprived it of the fat. Now we know exactly why G. Elliot Smith, the professor of anatomy who wrote "The Royal Mummies" 1912 could say "Resinous material such as this is not known to have been employed at any other period for packing underneath the skin. In the time of the XXIth-XXIInd Dynasties, linen, mud, sand, sawdust and cheese-like substances (mixtures of fat and soda) were the stuffing materials employed." So there was never any real reason to doubt A III's identity due to the stuffing beneath his skin.
Neither of this pair was elderly at death. Tiye did not even have gray hair. The fine bone-structure of the face of her mummy evidences that she was more beautiful than art demonstrates. There is evidence that the royal lady died a lingering death, however. She had ulcers on both her heels, a kind of bed-sore caused by lying on her back with her head raised for too long. Her husband's cause of death is unknown but his obesity shows he wasn't in good shape and he may have suffered from diabetes, as well. This ailment can cause a person to be more prone to having tartar form on the teeth near the gumline and Amenhotep III had a lot of calculus on his choppers, especially on the right side of his mouth. His peridontal disease was quite severe and he may have died of systemic poisoning from abcessed teeth. The man obviously did not brush,lacked a hygenic tendancy, although he could have cleaned his teeth with one or more methods the ancients used. A rag dipped in sodium would have been sufficient. The teeth of his successor, the person discovered in KV55 were pretty good. Some are missing because they crumbled to the touch, dampness in the tomb having caused the preservation of the body to fail.
Because Amenhotep III reigned for at least 38 years and Queen Tiye died a youngish woman, it means she was a child bride [nothing unusual in ancient Egypt]. Either she was no more than ten when she married A III or the much-debated co-regency between her husband and son was longer than a year or two,