Hatshepsut – A Woman of Egypt

A Woman of Egypt

According to Kathryn Bard’s An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, royal women became increasingly more important during the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut  and Thutmose II reigned as king and queen for fourteen years and at Thutmose II’s death left he left only an eleven year old son as a possible heir to the throne. Hatshepsut, a name meaning “the foremost of noble ladies”, held the title “God’s Wife of Amen” and became co-regent for her nephew and stepson Thutmose III until he came of age (Manuelian and Loeben, 1993).
After two years, Hatshepsut deemed herself pharaoh, and crowned herself sole ruler of Egypt. During her reign Hatshepsut built many monuments in both Egypt and Nubia and is even credited with the first well preserved royal mortuary temple of the New Kingdom. During the New Kingdom there was a shift from building massive pyramids to rock cut tombs in the sides of cliffs. These temples were cheaper than monumental pyramids and were less conspicuous to thieves (Video Lecture, Week 6).
At Deir el-Bahri on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes, Hatshepsut’s advisor and architect, the high steward of Amun, Senenmut, built a garden-filled mortuary temple into the mountainous cliffs which was dedicated to the goddess Hathor as well as the gods Osiris and Anubis. This tomb in the Valley of the Kings (designated KV 20) replaced a previously prepared tomb for her at Wadi Sakkat Taqa el-Zeid, south of Dier el-Bahri. (Manuelian and Loeben, 1993). The architectural depictions at Dier el-Bahri are testimony to Hatshepsut’s divine birth and conception by Queen Ahmose and the god Amen, and act as propaganda legitimizing her right to the throne. Carved reliefs depict Hatshepsut’s royal lineage through her father Thutmose I, who was pharaoh prior to Thutmose II, and supposedly claimed her as the “next pharaoh”. Furthering her connection and legitimacy through her father, Hatshepsut had the body of Thutmose I excavated and reburied next to her own in the innermost chamber of her tomb. In the scenes and statues of the temple Hatshepsut is shown as a male, possibly to state her strength as equal to previous male rulers (Bard, 2007). There were also scenes of Hatshepsut transporting by barge two gigantic obelisks from the Aswan quarries which were erected at the temple of Karnak, which were representative of her relationship with the son god.
Although Hatshepsut was not a great military ruler, as was her father Thutmose I, she was credited with various long-distance trading expeditions. One of these which is depicted at Dier el-Bahri is her famed expedition to Punt during her ninth year as queen (Millet, 1962). Travel to Punt, it’s location believed to be past the Eastern Sahara and the Red Sea, is an impressively logistical feat. The Egyptians were given raw materials including gold ingots, ebony, ivory, leopard skins, baboons and live incense trees which were kept alive on the return trip (Bard, 2007; Manuelian and Loeben, 1993).
After approximately twenty-two years Hatshepsut dies in 1483 BC, the end of her reign being a mystery. Records including inscriptions, monuments, and statues involving the queen were all destroyed by her predecessor, Thutmose III, having felt that she had usurped the throne from him. Thutmose III also tried erasing the existence of Senenmut, as he had built his own tomb adjacent to Hatshepsut and played a pivotal role as the queen’s adviser; possible evidence of an intimate relationship.
Through architecture and trade, Hatshepsut exhibited her capabilities as pharaoh. Being that she was only the third ever woman pharaoh of Egypt she perhaps had to go even farther than previous male pharaohs in portraying her legitimacy as ruler, as shown in her elaborate tomb, the reburial of her father, and her even taking on the male form in her carvings and statues.

2 thoughts on “Hatshepsut – A Woman of Egypt

  1. I like this post because it highlights one of the great women of ancient Egypt. Although there were always queens, and these queens many times had power, they were almost never pharaoh and were almost always second to their husbands, even if they were the more qualified ruler. To take control and be seen as a competent ruler a woman had to work much harder to prove her legitimacy and her right to rule. She referred to herself as the daughter of a god, giving her the religious backing to legitimize her claim to the throne. Pharaohs weren’t only political rulers but also religious leaders, gods on earth. She also built one of the most interesting and huge tombs of her dynasty. This was probably to prove her control of the country and to leave an impression that she was a strong ruler. She had to build the tomb into the ground and surrounding landscape to make it harder for grave robbers to get too.

    I think that it’s interesting that she portrayed herself as a man in paintings and sculptures. I don’t know if this meant that she thought the only way she was going to get recognition and respect was to show herself as a man or if it was merely a way to show that she was as strong and capable a ruler as any man could be. I think the fact that she didn’t remarry was also a way to remain in control. If she had married she would have had to share power with her husband or he might even take the power from her, putting her back into the submissive position. I don’t think she’s the kind of woman that would have been ok with that.

    I also find it interesting that there might have been something romantic going on between her and her advisor. The fact that the next ruler chose to destroy his tomb probably says that there was at least something going on between the advisor and the king. I wonder if the advisor had anything to do with the queen taking over the rule from her stepson and if that is why he was upset enough to destroy the tomb.

  2. I was also very interested in Hatshepsut during this week in class. In Chapter 8 of the text you cited, it was mentioned that she focused more on monument-building and trading with other cultures and states than on military campaigns, and it seemed almost like a criticism. I wonder if this was common among female rulers—if they had a different style of ruling than the male pharaohs had. I have so many questions about why Hatshepsut was depicted as a male in images of her on sculptures, reliefs, and cartouches. It is disheartening that it could have been meant to represent her strength as equal to a male pharaoh’s. I wonder if she herself saw this as an insult or an accolade. Did this happen to the two other previous female pharaohs before her as well? Mother/son relationships are complicated enough without the son feeling that his mother has usurped his throne. It is quite an angsty move to destroy all of her statues and monuments and images of her in cartouches throughout the land. It seems additionally ridiculous because he would have clearly been too young to have ruled when his father had died anyway, even with the help of advisors and councils.

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