Thursday, August 19, 2010
What is wrong with the queen of Punt?
Picture: Relief number CN1146, now in the New Kingdom section of the Egyptian Museum, was recovered from Hatchepsut's Temple at Deir el-Bahari, Thebes. Chief Parihou and his wife Ati, from the land of Punt (Somalia for most researchers, shown with some scepticism by some), present their gifts to Hatchepsut (18th Egyptian Dynasty).
The queen of Punt suffers from a unique form of pathological obesity that has raised numerous questions among geneticists, endocrinologists, pathologists and other researchers...
Notice the rugged face, gluteal and femoral obesity, hyperlordosis and symmetrical deposits of fat on the trunk, limbs and thighs of the Queen. She is also said to suffer from several dermatologic pathologies (Launois Bensaude’ Lipomatosis, Neurofibromatosis, Lipodystrophy, Dercum disease, Achondroplasia, Proteus syndrome and X linked dominant hypophosphatemic rickets, Familial obesity).
Lipomatosis: multiple lipomas are present on the body. I do not see why the lipomas in the skin of the queen are simply concentration of fat and cellulite.
Launois Bensaude syndrome: A disorder characterized by painless symmetrical diffuse deposits of fat beneath the skin of the neck, upper trunk, arms and legs. My answer: it is probably pure and severe obesity what we have to deal with; and not a syndrome.
Neurofibromatosis: genetically-inherited disorder in which the nerve tissue grows tumors. See comment on Lipomatosis.
Lipodystrophy: abnormal or degenerative conditions of the body's adipose tissue. Possible since this is characterised by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
Dercum disease: Similar with lipomatosis. Painful or painless fatty growths that do not resolve with weight loss. Again, that would not explain the overly big bottocks of the queen.
Achondroplasia dwarfism is a type of autosomal dominant genetic disorder that is a common cause of dwarfism. This should be crossed out. Her hight is normal, judging from the height of her husband and the person who follows her.
Proteus Syndrome: skin overgrowth and atypical bone development, often accompanied by tumors over half the body. This does not explain why her face appears reasonably symmetric. Nevertheless, the abnormal growth of her upper scull (or not) depends on what she hides behind her hairstyle.
X linked dominant hypophosphatemic rickets: rare hereditary disease in which excessive loss of phosphate in the urine leads to poorly formed bones (rickets), bone pain, and tooth abscesses.
A youtube video follows:
If you cannot see this video on here, click here to watch it straight on youtube.
Whereas medical specialists talk about a syndrome called 'the syndrome of the queen of Punt' in reality what queen Ati suffers from is:
WHY? It is obvious. Notice the excess fat which all over the body of the queen (we women call this type of body a 'pear-shaped body'). Excess fat accumulated on the belly, trunk, limps, etc... this is a typical case of obesity.
Obesity was widely perceived as a symbol of wealth and fertility at other times in history; therefore, queen Ati was likely seen as a real beauty while alive. Ati shows a steatopygic appearance. Steatopygia (fat sticking out buttocks) sometimes in combination with enlarged labia might be considered as synonym of feminine beauty, sexuality and fertility in the land of Punt. Certain African tribes show characteristics of steatopygia.
African woman with Steatopygia.
Click on this link and role mid way down the page to see some pictures of African women with steatopygia and lordosis under STEATOPYGIA (advanced warning for minor nudity).
WHY? Obesity and osteoarthritis go together. Osteoarthritis leads to the degradation of joints. Causes include hereditary, developmental, metabolic and mechanical factors. Osteoarthritis might explain the swollen and stiff joints of the Queen of Eti. Notice her left arm and hand. It is nearly static; it likely underwent limited movement, due to arthritic pain.
WHY? Notice the curvature of a portion of the vertebral column of the queen, i.e. her bad posture. Lordosis is strongly associated with osteoarthritis, excessive visceral fat (in other words, obesity), and occasionally, pregnancy.
On these, we should also take into account the queen's 'certain' age. She appears to be over 30 years old (with a life expectancy of about 40).
Nevertheless, no mummy of Ati has been found in order for us to place a safe bet on her pathological condition.
Notice her bracelets. It makes us wonder if the queen wears magnetic bands to ease the pain of her arthritis (?!). This theory is certainly very problematic, but we do know that lodestones were used in Ancient Egypt for magical / medical / therapeutic reasons and this 'fashion / ritual' might have crossed the borders of other countries. Similarly, the headband on the queen's head might have played a 'magical - therapeutic - amuletic' role.
Picture: Magnetic bands for arthritis. Are they scientifically proven to work after all?
I hope you have found these thoughts useful. They are certainly a good start to see how deformity was visualised through ancient Egyptian art: 'Freakish, but with a royal magnificence'. Certainty, deformed people were not excluded from society (even the higher social classes) and thus, they were not excluded from art.
The above post consists of some thoughts of mine about the medical pathology of the queen of Punt. It does not target specific individuals or groups of people.