Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tooth Solves Mummy Mystery

LOS ANGELES -- A single tooth and some DNA clues appear to have solved the mystery of the lost mummy of Queen Hatshepsut, who was the only woman to rule while the kingdom was at the height of its wealth and power in 15th century B.C.

The mummy was discovered more than a century ago in a humble tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings, but suspicion that it was the female pharaoh was hard to prove because of the lack of evidence directly linking it to Hatshepsut.

New CT scans of the mummy and its internal organs confirm its identity, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archeologist.

"This is the most important discovery in the Valley of the Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamen, and one of the greatest adventures of my life," Hawass said.

Hatshepsut is believed to be one of four women to rule ancient Egypt, but the others -- Nitocris, Sobekneferu and Tausret -- presided over dynasties in decline. Hatshepsut's reign from about 1502 to 1482 B.C. occurred when Egypt was at the height of its power.

She reestablished trade routes that had been disrupted by the Hyksos' occupation of Egypt and sent military expeditions to Nubia, the Levant and Syria, extending the Egyptian empire.

As pharaoh, she was one of the most prolific builders, commissioning hundreds of construction projects in Upper and Lower Egypt. She also built a magnificent mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, possibly the first tomb to be built in the valley.

But her mummy was not found in the tomb, and statues and other artifacts were obliterated, perhaps as part of an effort by her successor, Thutmose III, to delete Hatshepsut from the Pharaonic record. Historians have long speculated that Thutmose murdered her or had her killed, but there has been no evidence to support that theory.

Recent CT scans revealed that the mummy from the humble tomb was an obese woman aged 45 to 60 who had very poor dental health. In search of more clues, Hawass used the CT scanner to examine artifacts associated with the queen. One of those was a small wooden box that bore the royal seal of Hatshepsut. To Hawass' surprise, the CT scan revealed that the box also contained a tooth. "Not only was the fat lady ... missing a tooth, but the hole left behind and the type of tooth that was missing were an exact match for the loose one in the box," Hawass said. "We therefore have scientific proof that this is the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut."