An Egyptian mummy, its identity unknown since its discovery 80 years ago, has been positively identified as Queen Tye, grandmother of King Tutankhamen.
A team of scientists that included one Egyptian, one Canadian and six Americans used X-rays to profile the mummy face and head, and electrons to "fingerprint" the minerals and chemicals in the mummy's hair.
The R-rays were matched by computer against X-rays taken of the face and head of the known mother of Queen Tiye (pronounced "Tee") and the hair ample ws also matched by computer against a hair sample obtained from the locket of Queen Tiye in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The techniques used to identify the mummy are described in the current issue of Science magazine. They are in a report signed by the eight scientists on the team, which included one from the Egyptian Museum, another from canada's University of Manitoba, a third from the University of Chicago and five from the University of Michigan.
"We used procedures developed to look at orthodontic similarities and dissimilarities between members of the same family," Dr. James E. Harris, chairman and professor of orthodontics at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, said by telephone the other day. "We found the mummy's fscial contours remarkable similar to those of Queen Thuya, mother of Queen Tiye."
Once the maternal link was shown, the Egyptian government gave Harris and his team permission to analyze a known lock of hair from Queen Tiye and match it against a lock of hair cut from the mummy's head.
The technique used to identify the kinds and amounts of minerals in the hair was the same used today by police to identify criminal suspects from hair samples.
"We've used it ourselves," Harris said, "to help establish identities in murder cases."
So positive ws he identification of Queen Tiye from the two hair samples that the Egyptian government plans to move her mummy from the tomb of King Amenhoep II to the Egyptian Museum, where it will lie in state alongside the mummy of her husband, King Amenhotep III.
Queen Tiye's mummy was first found in the tomb of Amenhotep II in 1898, with no visible identification on or near her. Whatever identifying jewelry or inscriptions had been buried with the mummy or its coffin had long ago been stolen by grave robbers, who plundered the original tombs of almost all the kings and queens of the New Kingdom of Egypt (1575 B.C. to 1070 B.C.)
Of he handful of royal mummies whose identities had never been established, the article in Science magazine said, 'none was more intriguing' than the mummy dentified simply as the "Elder Lady." That name had been given the mummy by British anatomist Eliot Smith, who attempted to identify her in 1912.
One reason Smith was intrigued by the "Elder Lady" was the unique position of her left arm. It was folded back over her chest, with the hand tightly clenched and the thumb fully extended toward the neck.
"No female mummy had ever been found with her arm crossed over her chest," Harris said. "The folded arm is almost always a sign of royalty and importance."
Queen Tiye shared the throne during a troubled and transitory time in Egyptian history, but is described as a queen so strong that she was given diplomatic chores, a reponsibility rarely granted to queens. She died in her 40s during the reign of the 18th Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago.
While she is remembered most for being King Tut's gandmother, Queen Tiye was also the mother of the heretic Pharoah Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaton. His heresy lay in his attempt to found a one-god religion in Egypt, which has been described as a "short-lived" religion.