Madam King: Hatshepsut of Egypt

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Hatshepsut was the daughter of the early New Kingdom pharaoh Thutmose I and his queen. The only surviving son of Thutmose I was by a secondary wife. In terms of dynastic succession, this was not an ideal situation. Still, a son by a secondary wife, was better than a daughter by the queen. As was the custom, Hatshepsut married this son of a secondary wife, her 1/2 brother Thutmose II, and became his queen. Together, Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had one daughter, no sons. But Thutmose II did have a son with a lesser wife, just in the nick of time. When Thutmose II died, Queen Hatshepsut became regent for her infant stepson, Thutmose III.

A few years later, Hatshepsut assumed the full power of pharaoh and began having herself portrayed as a man with the symbolic attribute of a pharaoh, the false beard. She went on to rule Egypt for about 21 years, 1479-1458 BCE, the 5th pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. By all accounts, her reign was one of the most successful in Egyptian history, with thriving international trade and grand construction projects. While some historians characterize Hatshepsut’s audacious power-grab as treachery and ruthless ambition, recent scholarship suggests that she was responding to some kind of threat.

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple is located at the base of towering cliffs at Deir el-Bahri in the Theban necropolis, across the Nile from Luxor. In its day, the temple was adorned with lush gardens of exotic plants.

Click to see Egypt tours that include visits to the Temple of Hatshepsut.

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Hatshepsut’s sarcophagus was found in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter (the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun) in 1903, but there was no sign of her mummy. In 2007, a wholly unadorned (naked even) mummy, that had been found some years earlier, coffinless on the floor of a backwater tomb in the Valley of the Kings, was identified as Hatshepsut. She can be seen today at the Egyptian Museum.

Most representations of Hatshepsut as king were destroyed or defaced by Thutmose III, her stepson successor. Essentially, he attempted to erase her pharaonic reign from history. This was probably not done out of personal enmity, although there may have been that, but to secure his own reign and that of his son after him against claimants from Hatshepsut’s bloodline.

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, Egypt

One thought on “Madam King: Hatshepsut of Egypt

  1. Pingback: NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 13 | The Ya'lla Blog

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