Philobiblon: A wonderful world - today's discoveries: a powerful queen and a very small fish

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A wonderful world - today's discoveries: a powerful queen and a very small fish

The mainstream media is of course calling her "King Tut's grandmother", but Amenhotep III's queen, whose statue has just been found in Egypt, was more important in her own right than as the relative of that very minor figure. (Tutankhamen's tomb survived unrobbed surely at least in part because he was so insignificant.)

The dig team says:

The statue'’s back pillar was unearthed first and led [the expedition'’s director, Betsy] Bryan to believe briefly that it dated from a far later period, since an inscription there was clearly made in the 21st Dynasty, about 1000 B.C.E., for a very powerful queen Henuttawy.
"The statue, however, when it was removed, revealed itself as a queen of Amenhotep III, whose name appears repeatedly on the statue’s crown," Bryan said. She said she theorizes that perhaps this statue is of the great Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III and mother of the so-called heretic king Akhenaten, who came to the throne as Amenhotep IV but later changed his name because of his rejection of the god Amen in favor of the sun disk Aten.
"Tiy was so powerful that, as a widow, she was the recipient of foreign diplomatic letters sent to her from the king of Babylonia in hopes that she would intercede with her son on behalf of the foreign interests," Bryan said. "Some indications, such as her own portraits in art, suggest that Tiy may have ruled briefly after her husband’s death, but this is uncertain."

When you think about it, it seems unlikely that Hatshepsut would be the only woman who ever tried to rule Egypt in her own right.

You can watch Tiy emerging from the ground here. (This is a great ongoing diary of the dig, a day by day account, highly pictorial.)

(Via Alun's blog (which used to be called Archaeoastronomy).)

In other discoveries, the "world's smallest vertebrate" (well that we know of) has been found in a Sumatran peat swamp.

The newly discovered species, Paedocypris progenetica, is a member of the carp family ... The female ... from head to tail measures 7.9mm (0.3in) when fully mature. ...
The male, reaching a typical 1cm in length, is an extraordinary creature. Its over-sized dorsal fins are beefed up with hard pads of skin and a hook that can be forced forward by powerful muscles in a grasping action. Until scientists can retrieve live samples to observe, they can only speculate on the fins' purpose."

Of course, however, like just about everything else on the extraordinary zoo that is the island, its future is far from assured. ""I hope we'll have time to find out more about them before their habitat disappears completely," said Dr Britz."

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