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003 – Hatshepsut

Temple of Hatshepsut

 

Hatshepsut

Birth/Death (1507–1458 BC)
The first recorded female ruler of ancient Egypt to reign as a male with the full authority of Pharaoh is Queen Hatshepsut

Our third episode is about an ancient Egyptian bad-ass, Queen Hatshepsut or as we call her Queen H. She is attributed to being one Egypt’s greatest and longest rulers.  Somewhere in time, she was lost in the history books, some by her on doing and others by people trying to erase her existence as pharaoh.

There is a lot of information about Hatshepsut out there, below is the bibliography for all citations used for this podcast. There continues to be a lot of questions and a lot of excitement around Hatshepsut and even a rumored movie.

Early rise to power 

  • Her father was a great warrior Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE) and her mother Ahmose was to be said a direct descendant of the sun
  • Thutmose I had a son with his second wife and named him Thutmose II
  • As Egyptian royal tradition depicts, Thutmose II was married to Hatshepsut at some point before she was 20 years old.
  • After she was wed, Hatshepsut was elevated to the position of God’s Wife of Amun, the highest honor a woman could attain in Egypt after the position of queen and, actually, bestowing far more power than most queens ever knew.
  • Thutmose II died while Thutmose III was still a child and so Hatshepsut became regent, controlling the affairs of state until he came of age.
  • She began her reign as regent to her stepson Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) who would succeed her and, initially, ruled as a woman as depicted in statuary.
  • In the seventh year of her regency, though, she changed the rules and had herself crowned Pharaoh of Egypt. She took on all the royal titles and names which she had inscribed using the feminine grammatical form but had herself depicted as a male pharaoh. Van de Mieroop writes

Reign of Queen Hatshepsut 

Hatshepsut began her reign by marrying her daughter to Thutmose III and bestowing on Neferu-Ra the position of God’s Wife of Amun in order to secure her position.

She presented herself as a direct successor to Ahmose, whose name the people still remembered as their great liberator, in order to further strengthen her position and defend against detractors who would claim a woman was unfit to rule. Her numerous inscriptions, monuments, and temples all demonstrate how unprecedented her reign was: no woman before her had ruled the country openly as pharaoh.

She kept the economy moving;

  • Set about commissioning building projects, such as her temple at Deir el-Bahri
  • Sent out military expeditions. The exact nature of the military campaigns is unclear but their objectives were the regions of Syria and Nubia. It is likely that the campaigns were launched simply to uphold the tradition of the pharaoh as a warrior-king bringing wealth into the land through conquest, could have been seen as a continuation of Thutmose I’s campaigns in those regions (again, further legitimizing her position), or could have been fairly provoked.
  • The pharaohs of the New Kingdom, the age of empire, placed great emphasis on keeping secure buffer zones around the country to avoid a repeat of what they saw as the “invasion”.
  • Hatshepsut’s greatest efforts went into these building projects which not only elevated her name and honored the gods but employed the people. The scope and size of Hatshepsut’s constructions, as well as their elegant beauty, attest to a very prosperous reign. None of her projects could have been completed as they were if she were not in command of a wealth of resources

Death 

Senenmut and Neferu-Ra had both died long before and there was no one at court, it seems, who had the power or inclination to change this policy. The wreckage of some of these works was dumped near her temple at Deir el-Bahri and excavations brought her name to light along with the inscriptions inside the temple which Champollion was so mystified by. Although there have been many theories over the years as to why Tuthmose III tried to blot Hatshepsut’s name from history, the most likely reason was that her reign had been unconventional and departed from tradition.

The Egyptian belief that one lives on as long as one’s name is remembered, however, is exemplified in Hatshepsut. She was forgotten as the period of the New Kingdom continued and remained so for centuries. Once her name was found again by Champollion in the 19th century CE, and then by others throughout the 20th, she gradually came back to life and assumed her rightful place as one of the greatest pharaohs in Egypt’s history.

It is unknown how or when she died, although there is speculation based on when pronouns started changing in Egyptian artifacts.  As we continue to discover it will be exciting to see what else comes out from the stories of Queen H.

 

Quotes

 

“has become one of the most celebrated and controversial women of Egypt and the ancient world in general……

Whereas she had been represented as a woman in earlier statues and relief sculptures, after her coronation as king she appeared with male dress and gradually  became represented with male physique. Her breasts did not show and she stood in a traditional man’s posture rather than a woman’s. Some reliefs were even re-carved to adjust her representation to appear more like a man.”

Page 172. M. V. Mieroop, A history of ancient Egypt. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

 

He [Amun] in the incarnation of the Majesty of her husband, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, [Thutmose I] found her sleeping in the beauty of her palace. She awoke at the divine fragrance and turned towards his Majesty. He went to her immediately, he was aroused by her he imposed his desire upon her. He allowed her to see him in his form of a god and she rejoiced at the sight of his beauty after he had come before her. His love passed into her body. The palace was flooded with divine fragrance (van de Mieroop

Page 173. M. V. Mieroop, A history of ancient Egypt. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Podcast Sources:

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  • Dorman, P. F. (1991). The tombs of Senenmut: the architecture and decoration of tombs 71 and 353. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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  • M. V. Mieroop, A history of ancient Egypt. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
  • McGraw, Eloise Jarvis. Mara, Daughter of the Nile. New York, N.Y: Puffin Books, 1985.
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  • Roehrig, C. H., Dreyfus, R., Keller, C. A., M.H. de Young Memorial Museum., Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), & Kimbell Art Museum. (2005). Hatshepsut, from queen to Pharaoh. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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