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Bonn scientists find 'deadly secret' in Queen Hatshepsut's perfume bottle

August 20, 2011 - Washington

University of Bonn scientists have revealed the dark secret of Queen Hatshepsut's flacon, which is on exhibit in the permanent collection of the Egyptian Museum of the University.

The corpus delicti is a plain flacon from among the possessions of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who lived around 1450 B.C.

After two years of research Michael Hoveler-Muller, Head of the collection, and Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld from the university's Pharmacology Institute have discovered that the flacon did not hold a perfume, instead it was a kind of skin care lotion or even medication for a monarch suffering from eczema.

What the pharmacologists detected in Hatshepsut's little bottle was in particular benzo(a)pyrene, a hazardous aromatic hydrocarbon consisting of several carbon rings.

"Benzo(a)pyrene is one of the most dangerous carcinogenic substances we know," explained Dr. Wiedenfeld.

For example, the risk of contracting Lung Cancer from cigarette smoke results essentially from this substance.

The researchers suggest that the queen may have poisoned herself without knowing it.

"We have known for a long time that Hatshepsut had cancer and maybe even died from it. We may now know the actual cause," said Michael Hoveler-Muller.


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