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Scientists Analyzes Ancient “˜Feminine’ Pharaoh

May 3, 2008

A Yale University physician reported his analysis Friday of images of Akhenaten.

Akhenaten (ah-keh-NAH-ten), best known for introducing a ground-breaking form of monotheism to ancient Egypt, ruled in the mid-1300s B.C., and was married to Nefertiti.

While not the most manly pharaoh, in fact his form was rather feminine, Akhenaten nevertheless fathered at least six children. The scientist also said Akhenaten was a bit of an egghead, due to a condition in which bones in the skull fuse at an early age and become distorted.

The study, performed by Dr. Irwin Braverman using statues and carvings, was performed for a conference Friday at the University of Maryland School of Medicine on the deaths of historic figures. Previous conferences have analyzed the deaths of Alexander the Great, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Edgar Allan Poe, Florence Nightingale and others.

Braverman, who determines the health of individuals based on portraits, instructs a class for first-year students at Yale University’s medical school. The course uses paintings from the university’s Center for British Art to teach observation skills.

Akhenaten’s female form was due to a genetic mutation, Braverman believes, that caused the pharaoh’s body to convert more male hormones to female hormones than needed.

Braverman said the pharaoh had “an androgynous appearance. He had a female physique with wide hips and breasts, but he was male and he was fertile and he had six daughters,”

“But nevertheless, he looked like he had a female physique.”

Donald B. Redford, an Egyptologist and archaeologist, said he supports Braverman’s hypothesis that Akhenaten had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder denoted by lengthened features in the fingers and face.

Redford, a professor of classic and ancient Mediterranean studies at Penn State University, said visits to clinics that treat the condition strengthened his opinion.

“But this is very subjective, I must admit,” he added.

Some have speculated that Akhenaten and his descendants had Froehlich’s Syndrome, a condition that causes feminine fat distribution and sterility. But Braverman said it wouldn’t fit Akhenaten, who fathered at least six daughters.

Klinefelter Syndrome has also been hypothesized, a genetic condition that can cause male breast enlargement, but Braverman said he instead suspects familial gynecomastia, a genetic condition that leads to the overproduction of estrogen.

Braverman said he could easily verify his theory if Egyptologists can confirm which mummy is Akhenaten’s and if Egyptian officials consent to DNA analysis. He is optimistic they will do just that.

“I’m hoping that after we have this conference and I bring this up, maybe the Egyptologists who work on these things all the time, maybe they will be stimulated to look,” he said.

 a pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt and thought to have been the father or half brother of King Tut.

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