Due to the young age of the Pharaoh, Hatshepsut became his regent. They ruled together for a number of years until she proclaimed herself Pharaoh (perhaps when Thutmose III was reaching manhood) - something almost unheard of, despite the higher status of women in Egypt compared to women in other cultures at the time. Women could own land, inherit from family members, and even go to court to defend her rights. But before Hatshepsut, there were queens who had ruled Egypt... but not a female Pharaoh.
She managed to rule for about twenty years, before disappearing from history... coinciding with Thutmose III's becoming Pharaoh in his own right.
But what happened in those twenty years?
Inscriptions on the Walls of Hatshepsut's Temple
Hatshepsut, with the backing of the temple of Amen, proclaimed that she was the divine daughter of the god Amen:
Amen took the form of the noble King Thutmose and found the queen sleeping in her room. When the pleasant odours that proceeded from him announced his presence she woke. She smiled at his majest. He went to her, his penis erect. He gave her his heart to her and showed himself in his godlike splendour. When he approached the queen she wept for joy at his strength and beauty. His love passed into her limbs. The palace was flooded with the god's fragrance, and all his perfumes were as from Punt.
On the walls of her temple, Hatshepsut describes how Thutmose I made her his heir:
Then his majesty said to them: "This daughter of mine, Khnumet-Amen Hatshepsut - may she live! - I have appointed as my successor upon my throne...she shall direct the people in every sphere of the palace; it is she indeed who shall lead you. Obey her words, unite yourselves at her command." The royal nobles, the dignitaries, and the leaders of the people heard this proclamation of the promotion of his daughter, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ma'at-ka-Ra - may she live eternally!The Birth Colonnade depicts Queen Ahmose in subtle images with the words of Hatshepsut's conception and birth. From an image of Queen Ahmose and Amen seated together while the queen breaths in life from the god, to one of the rare examples of a pregnant woman - Khnum and Heqet lead the queen to the birthing room. The stomach of the queen is only slightly rounded, despite the fact that she is shown going to the birthing room to give birth to Hatshepsut. Another scene shows a goddess handing the baby girl to the queen, with the goddess Meskhenet, the goddess of the birth bricks, kneeling behind the queen, and deities all around. Finally there is a scene showing Hatshepsut being brought before the gods, and before her father, Amen.
Hatshepsut began to adopt several male attributes, after the Oracle of Amen pronounced it Amen's will that Hatshepsut should be Pharaoh. She gradually took on the new role, rather than appearing all at once as the Pharaoh. That would have been a drastic step - she was rather cautious. She dropped her titles relating to those only a woman could hold, and took on those of the Pharaoh, and slowly started the trend towards appearing like a male, wearing the shendyt kilt, nemes headdress with its uraeus, khat head cloth and false beard. She even, eventually, dropped the female ending from her name ('t') and became His Majesty, Hatshepsu 'Foremost of Nobles'.
On becoming Pharaoh, Hatshepsut had to give up her title - not just a title, but a special job with specific duties - of "God's Wife". She granted her daughter Neferura ('Beauties of Ra'), Thutmose II's daughter, this title. Unfortunately Neferura died young, but Hatshepsut apparently was grooming her daughter as a prince, rather than a princess, despite the title. There is a beautiful block statue of Senmut, holding the child Neferura enfolded in his arms. Neferura is wearing the royal false beard, and the side lock of a youth.
One of Neferura's tutors was a soldier, Ahmose, who wrote:
Hatshepsut gave me repeated honours. I raised her eldest daughter, Princess Neferura, while she was still a child at the breast.
Merira-Hatshepset ('Beloved of Ra'), Hatshepsut's who may or may not have been second daughter (there are different schools of thought on this matter), became the wife of Thutmose III, and married him just before or during his coronation after Thutmose II died. Little else is known about her, other than she may have been the mother of Amenhotep II.
Senmut and Other Officials
When Neferura was still a child, Senmut ('Brother of Mut') was her tutor. It is unknown as to his relationship with Hatshepsut, but he was one of her strongest supporters, probably even one of her top advisers... During his time, he gained over 40 titles, including chief architect. He disappeared some time before the end of Hatshepsut's reign, and it is unknown what actually happened to him.
The backing of the priesthood of Amen was very important to raise and keep Hatshepsut in power. Hapuseneb was the High Priest of Amen, and Hatshepsut also put him in charge of her monuments at Ipet-Isut (Karnak). He may have even been vizier to Hatshepsut, but she certainly gave him power.
Nehsy was one of her Chancellor, known for leading Hatshepsut's expedition to the Land of Punt.
One inscription that Senmut himself left proclaimed of himself:
Companion greatly beloved, Keeper of the Palace, Keeper of the Heart of the King, making content the Lady of Both Lands, making all things come to pass for the Spirit of Her Majesty.
But, from his titles, it may be a true statement. Senmut was a lowly born man who rose to power with Hatshepsut. Some of his many titles included Overseer of the Works, Overseer of the Fields, Overseer of the Double Gold House, Overseer of the Gardens of Amen, Controller of Works, Overseer of the Administrative Office of the Mansion, Conductor of Festivals, Overseer of the Cattle of Amen, Steward of the King's Daughter Neferura, Chief of the King, Magnate of the Tens of Upper and Lower Egypt, Chief of the Mansion of the Red Crown, Privy Councillor, Chief Steward of Amen, Overseer of the Double Granary of Amen and Hereditary Prince and Count.
Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple and Other Works
After becoming Pharaoh, Hatshepsut ordered many works, carrying on from her father's works. Her first were two obelisks, cut at Swentet (Aswan) and transported to Ipet-Isut. There is not much left of these, as most of her things were vandalised after Thutmose III took over. She later ordered three more to be cut (one of which cracked before it was carved from the rock, so it still remains at Swentet till this day!). These were to celebrate her 16th year as Pharaoh.
At Ipet-Isut, she carried out many repairs to the temples, assuring herself the favours of the priests. It was a continuation of the works of her father, but her own restorations included a pylon to the temple and obelisks. Somewhat further north, she built a small temple in the rock, with more inscriptions of her reign. This is a most beautiful temple, again.
She also ordered a tomb made for herself, while married to Thutmose II. It was a queen's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but it was never completed. Supposedly she and her father, Thutmose I, were actually buried there until the priests moved the bodies elsewhere, to stop thieves from desecrating the tombs. (There was a first, small tomb that was also unfinished, built behind the Valley of the Queens, but this was abandoned when Hatshepsut married Thutmose II and became queen.)
After the Valley of the Kings tomb was abandoned, work at the beautiful Deir el-Bahri tomb was started. This was to be her famous Mortuary Temple - Djeser Djeseru. It was built at the site of an even older temple - Montuhotep II's mortuary temple from the 11th Dynasty. This is the place where the inscriptions of her life and achievements can be found, although they, too, were vandalised.
It was modelled on Montuhotep II's temple, but Senmut, the architect, improved on the design, blending in with the cliffs around the area. It is a three-terraced building with porticoes, with chapels to the gods at the top - one to Hathor, Anubis, Ra-Horakhty and, of course, Amen-Ra.
Inscriptions at the temple say:
When you rest in your building where your beauties are worshipped, Amen-Ra, the Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands, give Hatshepsut Ma'at-ka-Ra life, duration and happiness. For you she has made this building fine, great, pure and lasting...
It most certainly is lasting.
Her temple was filled with many beautiful scenes that prove herself as Pharaoh. There was even some reference to military activity at the temple, even though she is often portrayed as a peaceful queen. She did, in fact, have some conquest, like the rest of her seemingly war-loving family.
This refers to a campaign in Nubia. She even sent Thutmose III out with the army, on various campaigns (many of which little is known at all!). One inscription even says that Hatshepsut herself led one of her Nubian campaigns. The inscription at Setet Island (Sehel Island) suggest that Ty, the treasurer of Lower Egypt, went into battle under Hatshepsut herself. She had to prove herself as a warrior Pharaoh to her people.
It also depicts her expedition to the Land of Punt.
The Expedition to Punt
Hatshepsut ordered a trading expedition, her ships reaching the Land of Punt (perhaps to present day Somalia), as commanded by the god Amen-Ra. This was a land rich in products Egyptians desired - myrrh, frankincense, woods, sweet-smelling resin, spices, gold, ebony, ivory and aromatic trees. Even animals and fish, many of which can be identified today.
There are also reliefs of the homes and people of Punt. The huts of the people, and the native flora, resemble the huts of the Toquls (according to some) near Somalia. The fish and other animals are not natives of Egypt, leading to evidence that Hatshepsut's people had actually visited such a place. Even the people are shown - the most obvious of the people, though, would have to be the ruler of Punt's wife - she is depicted as an obese woman. But their outfits and the fashion shown of the people seem to describe the ancient peoples of Somali.
The chief and his wife, quoted on Hatshepsut's mortuary temple, say:
How have you arrived at this land unknown to the men of Egypt? Have you come down from the roads of the Heavens? Or have you navigated the sea of Ta-nuter? You must have followed the path of the sun. As for the King of Egypt, there is no road which is inaccessible to His Majesty; we live by the breath he grants to us.
On the return of the expedition, Hatshepsut held a procession to the Temple of Amen-Ra, where her inscriptions stated that the god himself, and Hathor (Lady of Punt), guided the expedition to the new lands. After the appropriate sacrifices had been made, tributes from the Land of Punt were transferred to the temple.
She recorded this on the walls of her temple at Deir el-Bahri, and many of the scenes can still be seen today. (Unfortunately many were damaged or destroyed when someone - most likely Thutmose III - tried to erase her name and image from every monument that may have had her name.)
Though this seems a little drastic, there was obviously bitter feelings against Hatshepsut. No-one knows if she was murdered, died or retired from politics to let Thutmose III and her second daughter rule, but she disappeared when Thutmose III became Pharaoh in his own right. Her body has not been positively identified, so it is difficult to prove one way or another. There are a mummies that are a good candidates to be the pharaoh herself, though. An elder woman found in the cache of Amenhotep II; the second female mummy found in the tomb of Hatshepsut's nurse, Sitra-In; and a female mummy found in a cache of mummies along with Hatshepsut's canopic chest containing the remains of her liver.
But, despite all the damage, the people of today still know of Egypt's first female Pharaoh - Hatshepsut*.
Essay on Hatshepsut
Queen Maatkare Hatshepsut, Pharaoh of Egypt during the 18th dynasty, from 1473 BC to 1458 BC, was one of only a handful of female rulers of ancient Egypt. Her story is unique in Egyptian history, and has been the source of many disputes among scholars. Hatshepsut reigned longer than any other female pharaoh. Among the legacies she left behind, none is greater than the mortuary temple she erected at Deir el Bahari in Thebes, the ruins of which still stand in present-day Luxor. The temple, designed by Senenmut, reflects the adjacent mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, but is much larger. Reliefs and inscriptions on the temple walls tell stories from Hatshepsut’s life, and profess her connection to the divine. Based on current knowledge, this essay will provide detailed information about Queen Hatshepsut and her mortuary temple.
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Hatshepsut was born around 1502 BC to Thutmose I and Ahmose. Both of her parents were from a royal background, and Thutmose I was Pharaoh when she was born. Her two brothers died in accidents, which meant that she was in a position to take over the throne after her father died. This was an unusual situation because very few women had ever become pharaohs. However, Hatshepsut was favored by her parents over her brothers, and she was beautiful and had a charismatic personality. Thus, despite her being a female, she had the makings to become a queen.
Thutmose II was Hatshepsut’s half-brother and husband, a common situation in ancient Egypt, where brother-sister and father-daughter marriages were accepted. When Thutmose I died, Hatshepsut was about 15 years old, and Thutmose II took over as pharaoh. Thutmose II died after only three or four years of rule, most likely of a skin disease. Hatshepsut had a daughter, named Neferure, but Thutmose II also had a son with a commoner named Aset. It is thought that even during the reign of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut may actually have been in power. When Thutmose II died, Thutmose III was about three years old, still too young to rule, and Hatshepsut began to reign as Queen Regent, using the title “God’s Wife.” The popularity of her father and her own charismatic presence enabled her to gain a following that led her to become a full pharaoh about seven years into the reign of Thutmose III. Hatshepsut assumed the pharaoh costume, which was intended for males and included a false beard, the shendyt kilt, and the nemes headdress with its uraeus and khat headcloth. At her coronation, she adopted the five great names: Horus Powerful of Kas, Two Ladies Flourishing of Years, Female Horus of Fine Gold, Divine of Diadems, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Daughter of Ra, Khenmet-Amen Hatshepsut.
Hatshepsut’s reign was basically a peaceful one. The lack of frantic military activity during her years in power is one of the outstanding and defining characteristics of her rule. She focused more on activities like trade and construction. She expanded trade with Nubia, Libya, and countries in Asia. She also ordered expeditions to present-day Somalia, which was then called Punt, to acquire special goods like ivory, spices, and gold. Stories from these expeditions are featured on the walls of her temple. One scene shows the Queen of the Puntites, who has a crooked back, a curved nose, and rolls of fat hanging over her knees and elbows, in stark contrast to Egyptians who were generally short and thin.
Hatshepsut also restored and renovated several old buildings that had been damaged or destroyed by invading armies. One of these was the temple at Ipet-Issut, now known as Karnak. In addition to the renovations, she built the Red Chapel for the holy barge of Amun (discussed below). Hatshepsut put up two huge obelisks that were covered in gold foil, reflecting the sun’s rays all around. The inscription on the obelisks makes clear her determination to achieve posterity:
Those who shall see my monument in
future years, and shall speak of what I
have done, beware of saying, “I know
not, I know not how this has been
done, fashioning a mountain of gold
throughout, like something of nature”
... Nor shall he who hears this say it
was a boast, but rather, “How like her
this is, how worthy of her father”. (Ray)
However, no construction work ordered by Hatshepsut is more significant or more impressive than her mortuary temple. The temple was discovered several centuries after its completion, buried beneath hundreds of tons of sand. It was designed around 1473 BC by Senenmut, who was Hatshepsut’s consort, and took about fifteen years to complete. As mentioned earlier, the temple is next to that of Mentuhotep II, which is from the eleventh dynasty. Hatshepsut’s temple was built for herself and her father, and was dedicated to the gods Anubis and Hathor, with chapels for other gods and goddesses.
The temple is set at Deir el Bahari, across the Nile River from Thebes, in a valley known as the Valley of the Kings. It is made of rock and consists of three layered terraces against the natural backdrop of the huge cliffs at Deir el Bahari. The rows of colonnades that Senenmut designed play off the vertical patterns on the cliffs. Thus, the temple’s setting is not only stunning in itself, but harmonizes well with the architecture.
An avenue lined by trees and sphinxes leads to the forecourt, which was a garden with vines and fragrant trees from Punt. There was also a huge gate, which was later destroyed. The three terraces are divided by columns and linked to each other by ramps. The walls of the temple bore painted reliefs that told of Hatshepsut’s accomplishments. Since construction started at the beginning of Hatshepsut’s reign, these scenes were filled in as the accomplishments took place.
On either side of the first level ramp are papyrus pools and a galleries, with a double row of columns supporting the roofs. The porticoes on this terrace were restored in 1906 to protect the reliefs that show the giant obelisks being transported by barge to Karnak. Thus, these porticoes are a different color and are out of proportion compared with the rest of the building. Another gallery runs along the west side of the second level court, and holds the chapels for Anubis and Hathor. A shrine for Amun, the sun god, is cut out of rock. The south side of this terrace had the reliefs depicting the expeditions into Punt, across the Red Sea. The third level is a hall of columns with chapels on either side, including one for Hatshepsut’s parents. Along its front is a series of large statues of Queen Hatshepsut that look out over the valley. Behind the top terrace, built into the cliff, is a sanctuary.
Statues and sphinxes of the queen were numerous throughout the temple. In some places, Hatshepsut was represented as a lion, clawing at her enemies and capturing evil birds. Many of the statues have been carefully restored from broken fragments. These and other important artworks from the temple reside mainly at the Cairo Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
As Pharaoh, Hatshepsut continued to honor her nephew maintaining his status as her co-ruler, another situation acceptable under ancient Egyptian law. Some scholars even believe that their power was divided, Hatshepsut looking after commercial and administrative affairs while Thutmose III dealt with military affairs. However, as Thutmose III grew up, he became more envious of Hatshepsut’s position and wanted the throne for himself. Hatshepsut used several tactics to reconfirm and strengthen her status as ruler.
One of the tactics she used was to emphasize her relationship to the popular Pharaoh Thutmose I. She claimed that he had favored her over her two brothers and her half-brother. The words of the divine potter Khnum are written in her temple:
I will make you to be the first of all living creatures, you will rise as king of Upper and Lower Egypt, as your father Amon, who loves you, did ordain. (Bediz)
In addition to her first claim, Hatshepsut also proclaimed her true father to be Amun-Ra, the sun god, who had impregnated her mother through divine conception. In her temple is depicted the story of the night when Amun-Ra came to Ahmose in the form of Tuthmose I. The walls also recount the story of Amun-Ra speaking through an oracle and requesting Hatshepsut to rule Egypt. This assertion cannot be validated like the first can, but it did have important effects on Egyptian society. Her reign saw an increase in the number of priests of Amun, and gave new life to the Opet festival of Amun. Although all pharaohs were considered sons of Amun-Ra, Hatshepsut contributed to the expansion of his worship and strengthened her rule with the myth of her birth.
As Thutmose III grew older, he also grew more powerful, and eventually staged a revolt against Hatshepsut in 1458 BC, at which time she disappeared. Whether Thutmose III murdered her or not is unknown. Hatshepsut’s tomb was destroyed, and her mummy stolen. Only her liver, preserved in a canopic jar, was found. Thutmose III had also resented the presence of Senenmut, and Senenmut’s sarcophagus, housed in his own tomb near Hatshepsut’s, was also destroyed, and his mummy has never been found.
It is likely that Thutmose III arranged for the removal of Hatshepsut’s name from all her constructions. As most of the images of her pictured her as male (in the traditional pharaoh costume), these could remain, and only the name underneath was changed to Thutmose I, II, or III. Senenmut’s name was also removed. Historians can only speculate as to the reasons Thutmose III would have had for removing his aunt’s name. One sensible explanation is that he wanted to ensure a smooth transition of power to his own son, and therefore attempted to erase the history of Hatshepsut’s rule, along with any changes to the system of lineage it might have brought about.
As one of the few female pharaohs, Hatshepsut’s 15-year reign is a significant one in the history of ancient Egypt. Her period of rule was marked by an absence of military campaigns and a focus on commerce, renovation, and construction. This legacy is both exemplified by and depicted in the building of her mortuary temple at Dier el Bahari, a monument of grandeur both in its scale and its representation.
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