Monday, August 25, 2008

Presto Chango

Speaking of Queens (or perhaps I should say Kings, since that is how she wished to be known), I've finished reading all that I am going to read about the Hapchetsut book I've been reading.

It's been a very interesting book, but it feels like the writer is now just reviewing the same material over and over under different headings. So I've put it down and am trying to sell it on Amazon.

Still, I wanted to share some thoughts about one of the few female Pharoahs and how little it seems some things really change.

First, the author makes a really good case that the rule of Hatchepsut (or Maatkare...her Kingly title) was one of peace and that there was no great dislike between her and her co-regent (Thutmosis III, her step-son). This was good to hear. I have not liked that story that has pervaded her history.

What struck me most about H's story, though, is just how little has changed regarding our (meaning humans') consciousness of our outward appearance. You see, all those beautiful statues and rock carvings were pretty uniform with regards to the image of each ruler. There is very little that separates them in appearance, and often a particular Pharoah or royal family member is only truly identifiable by their name in the hieroglyphs.

And, yet, this uniformity of appearance, especially as regards to body-size seems to have been take in whole cloth by most everyone. While I can agree that in that era there were likely fewer fat people simply because of the scarcity of food and food production challenges, the idea that everyone is as uniformly thin as the rock carvings in ancient Egypt indicate would go against my sense of logic.

But there it was, clearly, in this book about Hatchepsut: the author describing her as a slender and petite beauty with flowing black hair. I was horribly surprised by this description...perhaps, I should not be but I was looking at the situation with the hindsight of 20/20 vision.

See, in an earlier chapter, the author had discussed the identification of the tomb and body of H's nursemaid, a woman so loved by H that she provided her with an elaborate tomb. 2 bodies were found in the tomb. One, the nurse, still entombed in her sarcophogi...the second, intact, but lying on the floor of the grave not in any of its coffins.

The author makes a special point in the book to point out that 1) a positive identification of this 2nd mummy has not been made, and 2) that this mummy seemed unusualy fat. I thought that the mention of this mummy was going to be linked later to the author's speculation that this was, in fact, H.

Clearly, that's not what the author ended up concluding. That is, however, what the primary Egyptologist in Egypt has determined. Not only is the body a relative of H's grandmother, but a tooth previously found in a small box marked with H's cartouche matches exactly the place in the mummy's mouth where a tooth is missing (and, yes, they did scans...the roots match up exactly).

So here's the truth of Hatchepsut: while she may have been a slender and lovely young woman, at the beginning of her reign, after two childbirths and menopause (she lived to an impressive age for a woman of her era, even a royal...the estimate she was in her 50s when she died), she had become obese. Not at all what the carvings and scultures, even in her later reign, would indicate.

To her death, she described herself as a beautiful woman. In many ways, she is in my eyes. I just wish that we could see her true beauty...that she could have lived in a society that allowed for art to reflect a more natural aspect of oneself rather than an unreal idealization.

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