Was Queen Hatsheput Poisoned? Scientists Find Evidence of What Could Be One Of The World’s Oldest Product Liability Cases

There was an interesting story out of Germany where researchers have found a highly carcinogenic substance in a flask of lotion believed to have belonged to Queen Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt 3,500 years ago and was known to have powerful enemies, including her stepson Thutmose III. However, she may have died from poisoning at her own hand.

Researchers at the University of Bonn took two years researching the dried-out contents of the flask, which appears to have been a lotion to deal with skin disorders such as eczema. The Queen (and her family) suffered from skin ailments (as well as being obesity, diabetes, and liver cancer). Yet, it may have been the lotion that did her in because it contained (with palm and nutmeg oil) benzopyrene, an aromatic and highly carcinogenic hydrocarbon.

She was still able to rule for two decades, but this could be the oldest known product liability case. This would constitute both a design defect and a warning defect. The only immediate defense would have been that the maker was not a commercial supplier and that this was a home brew. That would leave the matter as one of negligence if torts existed at the time.

Of course, since Thutmose III hated his stepmother, accused her of stealing the throne, and tried to wipe out evidence of her existence, he might not have been inclined to move for a wrongful death action against the manufacturers.

Her two-decade rule in the 15th century B.C. was the longest among ancient Egyptian queens, at a time of the New Kingdom’s “golden age.”

Source: Forbes

5 thoughts on “Was Queen Hatsheput Poisoned? Scientists Find Evidence of What Could Be One Of The World’s Oldest Product Liability Cases”

  1. Well Brendan straightened all that out…. You sir are righton in your comments…

  2. P.S. There is reason to believe Thutmoses III had his own mother poisoned. So forget the liability, the affirmative defense of home-brew is accurate, only it was provided TO her, by her co-regent/stepson.

  3. Professor Turley,

    I am in your section 11 Torts, and this is the first blog post I’ve read…

    It was actually Thutmoses III who was Hatshepsut’s stepson, not the II. I’m not nitpicking, however, there is a substantial difference in the the two men, notably the fact that the 3rd was one of the New Kingdom’s, if not Egypt’s, greatest generals–whilst the 2nd was something of a push-over, and accomplished little; most of which can be attributed to his wife-consort, Hatshepsut herself.


    Brendan O’Regan

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