Stories tagged ancient Egypt

When it comes to studying ancient Egypt, we know a lot about pyramids and monunments, mummies and art work. But there is still a huge gap in knowing what life was like for everyday Egyptians. But University of Chicago archaeologists have uncovered the remains of seven silos in southern Egypt that help tell the story of how food was distributed in an old Egyptian city. Click here to learn more.

From all the posts I do about ancient Egypt, can you tell I'm involved in developing an exhibit on Egypt? Here's a pretty cool interactive computer game where you get to explore the secret chambers of an ancient Egyptian tomb. Can you figure out who's buried there? Also, here's a link to an article examining the history of curses associated with those who go into mummy tombs. Don't worry, playing this game shouldn't make you vulnerable to the curse.

May
02
2008

King or queen of Egypt: This statue depicts Akhenaten, a pharaoh of Egypt  who some believe suffered a rare genetic disease that gave him a very feminine appearance.
King or queen of Egypt: This statue depicts Akhenaten, a pharaoh of Egypt who some believe suffered a rare genetic disease that gave him a very feminine appearance.Courtesy Gérard Ducher
In the movies, Egyptian pharaohs have that manly-man look with rippling biceps, clean-shaved heads and steely eyes.

But upon further review, it’s considered that one of ancient Egypt’s leaders my have been – in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger – “a girly man.”

A recent conference that does posthumous analysis of the medical conditions of famous people through history, this year looked at the genetic make up of Akhenaten, a pharaoh whose reign was believed to be around 1353 BC to 1336 BC. He is also considered the likely father of Tutankhamun, better known to us today as King Tut.

Through analysis of statues and artistic renderings of Akhenaten, a Yale University doctor proposes that the pharaoh suffered from Marfan syndrome which makes males have a much more feminine appearance. The condition makes the body convert a larger share of male hormones into female hormones than what normally occurs in male bodies.

Through artistic depiction, Akhenaten strikes a more female pose, with long fingers, wider hips, larger breasts and female-shaped eyes. Also, Akhenaten had an egg-shaped head which might have been the result of problems of skull bones fusing at an early age.

Another view: Here's another statue of Akhenaten. Do you think he might have suffered from Marfan syndrome?
Another view: Here's another statue of Akhenaten. Do you think he might have suffered from Marfan syndrome?Courtesy Paul Mannix
Despite his female appearance, Akhenaten was a prodigious reproducer. His chief wife was Nefertiti, who is often depicted in Egyptian art. All total, Akhenaten was known to have fathered six daughters and may have also been the father of Tutankhamun.

But here’s the big caveat: The researchers acknowledge that these theories are based solely on their observations of Akhenaten from works of art. They’re hoping to get clearance from Egyptian officials to do DNA analysis on Akhenaten’s remains to see if there are signs of Marfan syndrome there.

BTW: Akhenaten is one of the more intriguing pharaoh’s from ancient Egypt. There are theories that he worked with, or even actually was, the Jewish prophet Moses. There is another theory that he was the source of the Greek’s creation of the Oedipus complex story. You can get more background on these Akhenaten theories at this Wikipedia page.

The historical medical conference, held this week at the University of Maryland, in past years as delved into the medical histories of such luminaries as Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander the Great, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Florence Nightingale.