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Valley of the Kings

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Merneptah

Merenptah 1213 – 1203 BC. In his last years, Rameses II had allowed the whole of the west side of the Delta to fall into the hands of foreigners, and on the east side the native Egyptians were being rapidly ousted by foreign settlers. His extravagant building projects had damaged the economy of the country and the people were impoverished. Now, through neglect, Egypt was in danger of losing the whole Delta, first to foreign immigrants and then by armed invasion.

This is the situation Rameses’ son, Merenptah, inherited. He spent the first few years of his reign making preparations for the struggle which he knew to be inevitable. For the first time in over 400 years, since the Hyksos shepherd kings had seized the delta at the end of the middle kingdom, Egypt was in danger of being overrun.

The Libyan chief, Meryawy, had decided to attack and conquer the Delta he was convinced of an easy victory believing the Egyptians to have grown soft. So confident was he that he brought his wife and children and all his possessions with him.

The night before the decisive battle Merenptah had a prophetic dream, “His Majesty saw in a dream as if a statue of the god Ptah stood before his Majesty. He said, while holding out a sword to him, ‘Take it and banish fear from thee.”

Merenptah had stationed archers in strategic positions, and they poured their arrows into the invading armies. “The bow -men of his Majesty spent six hours of destruction among them, then they were delivered to the sword.”

Then when the enemy showed signs of breaking, Merenptah let loose his charioteers among them. He had promised his people that he would bring the enemy “like netted fish on their bellies”, and he fulfilled his promise. His Triumph-Song shows that he regarded the defeat of the Libyans not so much as a great victory but rather as a deliverance.

“To Egypt has come great joy. The people speak of the victories which King Merenptah has won against the Tahenu: How beloved is he, our victorious Ruler! How magnified is he among the gods! How fortunate is he, the commanding Lord!

Sit down happily and talk, or walk far out on the roads, for now there is no fear in the hearts of the people.

The fortresses are abandoned, the wells are reopened; the messengers loiter under the battlements, cool from the sun; the soldiers lie asleep, even the border-scouts go in the fields as they list.

The herds of the field need no herdsmen when crossing the fullness of the stream. No more is there the raising of a shout in the night, ‘Stop! Someone is coming! Someone is coming speaking a foreign language!’ Everyone comes and goes with singing, and no longer is heard the sighing lament of men.

The towns are settled anew, and the husband man eats of the harvest that he himself sowed.

God has turned again towards Egypt, for King Merenptah was born, destined to be her protector.”

The defeat of the Libyans saved Egypt from utter ruin but her economic and political decline continued at a steady pace. The only other record of this time is of a grain shipment to the Hittites to relieve a famine so it seems the treaty between the two peoples continued to hold firm.

The rest of the dynasty is torn by political struggles for the throne. These pharaohs were all weaklings and their disputes only served to plunge the country into civil disorder.

“The land of Egypt was overthrown. Every man was his own guide, they had no superiors. The land was in chiefships and princedoms, each killed the other among noble and mean.”

Campaigns

Merneptah had to carry out several military campaigns during his reign. In year 5 he fought against the Libyans, who— with the assistance of the Sea Peoples— were threatening Egypt from the West. Merneptah led a victorious six-hour battle against a combined Libyan and Sea People force at the city of Perire, probably located on the western edge of the Delta. His account of this campaign against the Sea Peoples and Libu is described in prose on a wall beside the sixth pylon at Karnak, which states:

[Beginning of the victory that his majesty achieved in the land of Libya] -I, Ekwesh, Teresh, Lukka, Sherden, Shekelesh, Northerners coming from all lands.
Later in the inscription, Merneptah receives news of the attack:

… the third season, saying: ‘The wretched, fallen chief of Libya, Meryre, son of Ded, has fallen upon the country of Tehenu with his bowmen–Sherden, Shekelesh, Ekwesh, Lukka, Teresh, Taking the best of every warrior and every man of war of his country. He has brought his wife and his children–leaders of the camp, and he has reached the western boundary in the fields of Perire.’

In the Athribis Stele, in the garden of Cairo Museum, it states “His majesty was enraged at their report, like a lion”, assembled his court and gave a rousing speech. Later he dreamed he saw Ptah handing him a sword and saying “Take thou (it) and banish thou the fearful heart from thee.” When the bowmen went forth, says the inscription, “Amun was with them as a shield.” After six hours the surviving Nine Bows threw down their weapons, abandoned their baggage and dependents, and ran for their lives. Merneptah states that he defeated the invasion, killing 6,000 soldiers and taking 9,000 prisoners. To be sure of the numbers, among other things, he took the penises of all uncircumcised enemy dead and the hands of all the circumcised, from which history learns that the Ekwesh were circumcised, a fact causing some to doubt they were Greek.

There is also an account of the same events in the form of a poem from the Merneptah Stele, widely known as the Israel Stele, which makes reference to the supposed utter destruction of Israel in a campaign prior to his 5th year in Canaan: “Israel has been wiped out…its seed is no more.” This is the first recognised ancient Egyptian record of the existence of Israel–“not as a country or city, but as a tribe” or people.

Limestone block showing a pair of unfinished cartouches of Merenptah (Merneptah) I. 19th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

Succession

Merneptah was already an elderly man in his late 60s, if not early 70s, when he assumed the throne. Merneptah moved the administrative center of Egypt from Piramesse (Pi-Ramesses), his father’s capital, back to Memphis, where he constructed a royal palace next to the temple of Ptah. This palace was excavated in 1915 by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, led by Clarence Stanley Fisher.

Merneptah’s successor, Seti II, was a son of Queen Isetnofret. However, Seti II’s accession to the throne was not unchallenged: a rival king named Amenmesse, who was either another son of Merneptah by Takhat or, much less likely, of Ramesses II, seized control of Upper Egypt and Kush during the middle of Seti II’s reign. Seti was able to reassert his authority over Thebes in his fifth year, only after he overcame Amenmesse. It is possible that before seizing Upper Egypt, Amenmesse had been known as Messuwy and had been viceroy of Kush.

Merneptah makes an offering to Ptah on a column

Merneptah’s Tomb and Mummy

Stone sarcophagus of Merneptah in KV8.

Merneptah suffered from arthritis and atherosclerosis and died an old man after a reign which lasted for nearly a decade. Merneptah was originally buried within tomb KV8 in the Valley of the Kings, but his mummy was not found there. In 1898 it was located along with eighteen other mummies in the mummy cache found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) by Victor Loret. Merneptah’s mummy was taken to Cairo and eventually unwrapped by Dr. G. Elliott Smith on July 8, 1907. Dr. Smith notes that:

The body is that of an old man and is 1 meter 714 millimeters in height. Merneptah was almost completely bald, only a narrow fringe of white hair (now cut so close as to be seen only with difficulty) remaining on the temples and occiput. A few short (about 2 mill) black hairs were found on the upper lip and scattered, closely clipped hairs on the cheeks and chin. The general aspect of the face recalls that of Ramesses II, but the form of the cranium and the measurements of the face much more nearly agree with those of his [grand]father, Seti the Great.

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Smenkhkare

Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare Djeser Kheperu (sometimes spelled Smenkhare, Smenkare or Smenkhkara) was a short-lived pharaoh in the late 18th dynasty. His names translate as ‘Living are the Forms of Re’ and ‘Vigorous is the Soul of Re – Holy of Forms’. His reign was during the Amarna Period, a time when Akhenaten sought to impose new religious views. He is to be distinguished from his immediate predecessor, the female ruler Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten (usually identified as Nefertiti). Unlike Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare did not use epithets in his royal name or cartouche.

King Smenkhare

Very little is known of Smenkhkare for certain because later kings, beginning with Horemheb, sought to erase the entire Amarna Period from history.

Smenkhkare was known as far back as 1845 from the tomb of Meryre II. There he and Meritaten, bearing the title Great Royal Wife, are shown rewarding the tomb’s owner. The names of the king have since been cut out but had been recorded by Lepsius circa 1850.

Later, a different set of names emerged using the same throne name: “Ankhkheperure mery Neferkheperure [Akhenaten] Neferneferuaten mery Wa en Re [Akhenaten]”. This led to a great deal of confusion since throne names tended to be unique. For the better part of a century, the repetition of throne names was taken to mean that Smenkhare changed his name to Neferneferuaten at some point, probably upon the start of his sole reign. Indeed, Petrie makes exactly that distinction in his excavation notes of 1894.

Smenkhkare King

Akhenaten’s nominal successor was Smenkhkare, probably a younger brother of the king, but it appears that they may have died within months of each other. Smenkhkare’s two-year reign was in reality a coregency during the last years of Akhenaten’s life. A graffito in the tomb of Pairi at Thebes (TT 139) records a third regnal year, and there are indications that Smenkhkare was preparing the ground for a return to the old orthodoxy and had left Akhetaten. He was married to Merytaten, the senior heiress of the royal blood line, but she seems to have predeceased him. Her sister Ankhesenpaaten thus became the senior survivor of the six daughters – having herself borne a small daughter by Akhenaten, named after her – and was married to the young Tutankhaten, the heir apparent (who was later to change his name to Tutankhamun).

Mysteries of Smenkhkare

The scenes in the tombs of Meryre II and Huya (located in the Amarna Northern tombs necropolis) depicting the “reception of foreign tribute” are the last clear view of the Amarna period. The events depicted in the tomb of Meryre II are dated to the second month of Akhenaten’s regnal year 12. (In the tomb of Huya they are dated to year 12 of the Aten.)

They show the last appearance of the royal family as a whole (that is: Akhenaten and his chief-queen Nefertiti, together with their six daughters), which scholars have dated to their satisfaction. These scenes are the first dated occurrence of the latter name-forms of the Aten. After this date, the events at Amarna and their chronology become far less clear. It is only with the accession of Tutankhamun, and the restoration early in this king’s reign, that events appear to become clear again.

A scene from the tomb of Meryre II, depicts pharaoh Smenkhkare and his Great Royal Wife Meritaten handing out tribute from the “window of appearances”. The inscription was recorded upon discovery, but has since been lost.

This image is commonly taken to be Smenkhkare and Meritaten, though it may be Tutankhaten and Ankhesenpaaten. Image: wikipedia

It is in this late Amarna period that Akhenaten’s co-regent and probable immediate successor comes to the fore. Akhenaten is generally assumed to have died in the late autumn of his 17th regnal year (after the bottling of wine in that year). Nefertiti disappears from view somewhat earlier (around regnal year 14); the reasons for this are unclear and under scholarly debate (see below). Around the same time a new co-regent is first attested.

Another Historical Context

Many of the questions surrounding Akhenaten’s co-regent and successor revolve around the names attested for this individual (or individuals). Two closely similar, yet distinct sets of names, appear in the records available for the late Amarna period. These are:

  • Ankhkheprure+epithet Neferneferuaten+epithet (sometimes transliterated as Nefernefruaten)
  • Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu

Both these sets are written in two cartouches. The epithets in the former name-set are “desired of Neferkheprure/Waenre” (i.e. Akhenaten). The first set of names also sometimes appears in feminine form as “Ankhetkheprure Neferneferuaten” and sometimes the epithet for the nomen is then replaced by “beneficial to her husband”. The former set of names appears to be earlier, and the association of these names with Akhenaten seems more substantial than is the case for the latter set. Both names are associated with Meritaten as great royal wife.

Both sets of names are only poorly attested. To date, no objects other than a wine jar label and six royal seals bearing the names of Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu are known. Only one named-depiction of Smenkhkare along with Meritaten (in the tomb of Meryre II) is known. Some objects with the names of Ankhkheprure Neferneferuaten were reused in the burial of Tutankhamun (see below), and the female variant of these names appears on faience-ring bezels.

Because of the presence of the feminine Ankhetkheperure Neferneferuaten, scholars have generally dropped the old view that there was only one, male individual involved. The theory used to suggest he first acted as Akhenaten’s co-regent under the name Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten and, after the death of Akhenaten, succeeded him under the name Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare.

Several theories have been proposed to accommodate a woman:

  • To some scholars, the shared prenomen, function, and queen indicate that there is only one person associated with these different names. They seek to identify this individual as a female member of the royal family
  • Others, based on the feminine variation of the Neferneferuaten name on the one hand, and the identification of the body in KV55 as that of Smenkhkare (see below), see evidence for two distinct individuals, one female and the other male

It must be noted there is disagreement as to which names belong to each individual.

The mystery of Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings

A great deal of controversy surrounds the question of Smenkhkare’s mummy and burial. In January 1907, Edward Ayrton (working for Theodore Davis) discovered the badly water-damaged contents of an unfinished tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 55). Arguments have raged ever since over the identity of the occupant of the rishi-type coffin, because the cartouches on it had all been hacked out. Initially Davis believed he had found the tomb of Queen Tiy – the damaged body being identified as female – and published it as such.

Subsequently, the body changed sex and was identified as Akhenaten, the previously thought female characteristics of the skeleton being paralleled with those of Akhenaten’s portrayals, especially the pelvic area. More detailed forensic examination, however, now suggests that the body belonged to Smenkhkare, and serological examination (blood grouping) of tissue, as well as close skull measurement comparisons, indicate that the occupant was a brother, or possibly half-brother, of Tutankhamun – the entrance to whose tomb (KV 62) is a mere 15 yards (13.7 m) away across the Valley floor.

At one time, it appears that there were three bodies in the tomb. One of them was that of Queen Tiy, and parts of her great gold overlaid wooden sarcophagus shrine were found there. Her body was probably taken from here round into the West Valley to join her husband, Amenhotep III, in KV 22 (p. 119). Four alabaster canopic jars with finely carved female heads wearing the characteristic court wig of the period were found in the tomb; they show evidence of having been adapted by the addition of a royal uiaeus to the brow which was subsequently broken off. Unfortunately they are uninscribed, but were presumably en suite with the coffin. It has been suggested that the canopic lids are portraits of Kiya, a hitherto obscure junior queen of Akhenaten.

The cartouches on the coffin had all been deliberately hacked out, literally to deny the occupant access to the next world because loss of name was a terrible thing. The texts still in place, however, had feminine endings to the appropriate words, indicating that the coffin had been made for a royal female. This was thought possibly to have been Merytaten, Smenkhkare’s wife, or now, Kiya. The cartouches, it was suggested, had been hacked out because the perpetrators believed that the occupant was the hated Akhenaten (his could have been the third body in the tomb at the time).

It seems that they hoped to remove the bodies of Queen Tiy and Smenkhkare from the contamination of association with the heretic king Akhenaten, but made a mistake and removed Akhenaten’s body instead. On that basis, somewhere in a small undiscovered tomb or cache in or near the Valley of the Kings, Akhenaten’s body may still lie undisturbed. It will be accompanied by whatever of Smenkhkare’s funerary equipment was removed from Tomb 55, and that should include ushabti figures for Smenkhkare because, although examples are known for the rest of the royal family, not even a fragment of one survives bearing his name.

hatshepsut-temple

The Temple of Hatshepsut

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, also known as the Djeser-Djeseru (“Holy of Holies”), is an ancient funerary shrine in Upper Egypt. Built for the Eighteenth dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut, it is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari, on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. The mortuary temple is dedicated to the sun deity Amun and is situated next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, which served both as an inspiration, and later, a quarry. It is considered one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt.”

There are many examples of these great monuments and temples throughout Egypt from the pyramid complex at Giza in the north to the temple at Karnak in the south. Among these, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) at Deir el-Bahri stands out as one of the most impressive.

The building was modeled after the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE), the great Theban prince who founded the 11th Dynasty and initiated the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2040-1782 BCE). Mentuhotep II was considered a ‘second Menes’ by his contemporaries, a reference to the legendary king of the First Dynasty of Egypt, and he continued to be venerated highly throughout the rest of Egypt’s history. The temple of Mentuhotep II was built during his reign across the river from Thebes at Deir el-Bahri, the first structure to be raised there. It was a completely innovative concept in that it would serve as both tomb and temple.

The king would not actually be buried in the complex but in a tomb cut into the rock of the cliffs behind it. The entire structure was designed to blend organically with the surrounding landscape and the towering cliffs and was the most striking tomb complex raised in Upper Egypt and the most elaborate created since the Old Kingdom.

Hatshepsut, an admirer of Mentuhotep II’s temple had her own designed to mirror it but on a much grander scale and, just in case anyone should miss the comparison, ordered it built right next to the older temple. Hatshepsut was always keenly aware of ways in which to elevate her public image and immortalize her name; the mortuary temple achieved both ends.

It would be an homage to the ‘second Menes’ but, more importantly, link Hatshepsut to the grandeur of the past while, at the same time, surpassing previous monumental works in every respect. As a woman in a traditionally male position of power, Hatshepsut understood she needed to establish her authority and the legitimacy of her reign in much more obvious ways that her predecessors and the scale and elegance of her temple is evidence of this.

The Temple Design

She commissioned her mortuary temple at some point soon after coming to power in 1479 BCE and had it designed to tell the story of her life and reign and surpass any other in elegance and grandeur. The temple was designed by Hatshepsut’s steward and confidante Senenmut, who was also tutor to Neferu-Ra and, possibly, Hatshepsut’s lover. Senenmut modeled it carefully on that of Mentuhotep II but took every aspect of the earlier building and made it larger, longer, and more elaborate. Mentuhotep II’s temple featured a large stone ramp from the first courtyard to the second level; Hatshepsut’s second level was reached by a much longer and even more elaborate ramp one reached by passing through lush gardens and an elaborate entrance pylon flanked by towering obelisks.

Walking through the first courtyard (ground level), one could go directly through the archways on either side (which led down alleys to small ramps up to the second level) or stroll up the central ramp, whose entrance was flanked by statues of lions. On the second level, there were two reflecting pools and sphinxes lining the pathway to another ramp which brought a visitor up to the third level.

The first, second, and third levels of the temple all featured colonnade and elaborate reliefs, paintings, and statuary. The second courtyard would house the tomb of Senenmut to the right of the ramp leading up to the third level; an appropriately opulent tomb placed beneath the second courtyard with no outward features in order to preserve symmetry. All three levels exemplified the traditional Egyptian value of symmetry and, as there was no structure to the left of the ramp, there could be no apparent tomb on its right.

On the right side of the ramp leading to the third level was the Birth Colonnade, and on the left the Punt Colonnade. The Birth Colonnade told the story of Hatshepsut’s divine creation with Amun as her true father. Hatshepsut had the night of her conception inscribed on the walls relating how the god came to mate with her mother:

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, and 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, 173)

As the daughter of the most powerful and popular god in Egypt at the time, Hatshepsut was claiming for herself special privilege to rule the country as a man would. She established her special relationship with Amun early on, possibly before taking the throne, in order to neutralize criticism of her reign on account of her gender.

Birth Colonnade – Hatshepsut’s Temple

The Punt Colonnade related her glorious expedition to the mysterious ‘land of the gods’ which the Egyptians had not visited in centuries. Her ability to launch such an expedition is a testimony to the wealth of the country under her rule and also her ambition in reviving the traditions and glory of the past. Punt was known to the Egyptians since the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE) but either the route had been forgotten or Hatshepsut’s more recent predecessors did not consider an expedition worth their time.

At either end of the second level colonnade were two temples: The Temple of Anubis to the north and The Temple of Hathor to the south. As a woman in a position of power, Hatshepsut had a special relationship with the goddess Hathor and invoked her often. A temple to Anubis, the guardian, and guide to the dead, was a common feature of any mortuary complex; one would not wish to slight the god who was responsible for leading one’s soul from the tomb to the afterlife.

The ramp to the third level, centered perfectly between the Birth and Punt colonnades, brought a visitor up to another colonnade, lined with statues, and the three most significant structures: the Royal Cult Chapel, Solar Cult Chapel, and the Sanctuary of Amun. The whole temple complex was built into the cliffs of Deir el-Bahri and the Sanctuary of Amun – the most sacred area of the site – was cut from the cliff itself. The Royal Cult Chapel and Solar Cult Chapel both depicted scenes of the royal family making offerings to the gods. Amun-Ra, the composite creator/sun god, is featured prominently in the Solar Cult Chapel with Hatshepsut and her immediate family kneeling before him in honor.

Hatshepsut’s Reign

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE) by his Great Wife Ahmose. Thutmose I also fathered Thutmose II (1492-1479 BCE) by his secondary wife Mutnofret. In keeping with Egyptian royal tradition, Thutmose II was married to Hatshepsut at some point before she was 20 years old. During this same time, 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 one which would become increasingly political and important.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter, Neferu-Ra, while Thutmose II fathered a son with his lesser wife Isis. This son was Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) who was named his father’s successor. 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. In the seventh year of her regency, though, she broke with tradition and had herself crowned pharaoh of Egypt.

Painting of Queen Hatshepsut

Her reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Egypt’s history. There is evidence that she commissioned military expeditions early on and she certainly kept the army at peak efficiency but, for the most part, her time as pharaoh is characterized by successful trade, a booming economy, and her many public works projects which employed laborers from across the nation.

Her expedition to Punt seems to have been legendary and was certainly the accomplishment she was most proud of, but it also seems that all of her trade initiatives were equally successful and she was able to employ an entire nation in building her monuments. These works were so beautiful and so finely crafted that they would be claimed by later kings as their own.

Hatshepsut’s Rediscovery

Hatshepsut’s name remained unknown for the rest of Egypt’s history and up until the mid-19th century CE. When Thutmose III had her public monuments destroyed, he disposed of the wreckage near her temple at Deir el-Bahri. Excavations in the 19th century CE brought these broken monuments and statues to light but, at that time, no one understood how to read hieroglyphics – many still believed them to be simple decorations – and so her name was lost to history.

The English polymath and scholar Thomas Young (1773-1829 CE), however, was convinced that these ancient symbols represented words and that hieroglyphics were closely related to demotic and later Coptic scripts. His work was built upon by his sometimes-colleague-sometimes-rival, the French philologist and scholar Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832 CE). In 1824 CE Champollion published his translation of the Rosetta Stone, proving that the symbols were a written language and this opened up ancient Egypt to a modern world.

Champollion, visiting Hatshepsut’s temple, was mystified by the obvious references to a female pharaoh during the New Kingdom of Egypt who was unknown in history. His observations were the first in the modern age to inspire an interest in the queen who, today, is regarded as one of the greatest monarchs of the ancient world.

Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut

How and when Hatshepsut died was unknown until quite recently. She was not buried in her mortuary temple but in a tomb in the nearby Valley of the Kings (KV60). Egyptologist Zahi Hawass located her mummy in the Cairo museum’s holdings in 2006 CE and proved her identity by matching a loose tooth from a box of hers to the mummy. An examination of that mummy shows that she died in her fifties from an abscess following this tooth’s extraction.

Although later Egyptian rulers did not know her name, her mortuary temple and other monuments preserved her legacy. Her temple at Deir el-Bahri was considered so magnificent that later kings had their own built in the same vicinity and, as noted, were so impressed with this temple and her other works that they claimed them as their own. There is, in fact, no other Egyptian monarch except Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE) who erected as many impressive monuments as Hatshepsut. Although unknown for most of history, in the past 100 years her accomplishments have achieved global recognition. In the present day, she is a commanding presence in Egyptian – and world – history and stands as the very role model for women that Thutmose III may have tried so hard to erase from time and memory.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu), Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org).

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Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut – Foremost of Noble Ladies. Hatshepsut was born in the 18th Dynasty. This Dynasty is also referred to as the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut entered this world as the daughter of royal parents. Her father was Tuthmosis I and ruled Egypt for approximately 12 to 14 years. Her mother was Ahmes. Ahmes was the sister of Amenophris I (Pharaoh who ruled Egypt for 21 years). In addition to Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis I and Ahmes had a son. They named him Anenemes. By birthright, Anenemes should have inherited the throne as the son of Tuthmosis I and Ahmes; however, he never became king.

Hatshepsut, on the other hand, went on to rule Egypt in later years for approximately 21 years. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt between 1479-1458/57. She ruled in a time when women were allowed to own property and to hold official positions. They were given rights to inherit from deceased family members and were allowed to present their cases in court. Women of Ancient Egypt had more freedom than other ancient cultures such as Greece where women were expected to stay home.

Hatshepsut Bust. Image: Dailymail

After the death of Hatshepsut’s father (Tuthmose I), her half-brother (Tuthmose II) succeeded the throne. As it was customary in royal families, the oldest daughter of the pharaoh would marry a brother to keep the royal bloodlines intact. Therefore, Hatshepsut married her half-brother. Tuthmose II was the son of one of her father’s lesser wives (Mutnofret); however, his reign would be short and his life short-lived. It may have been that Tuthmose II died of an illness and thus held the throne only for 14 years.

During their marriage, Hatshepsut and Tuthmose II were not able to produce a male heir but rather had a daughter whom they named Neferure. In later years, it appears that Neferure may have been married to her half-brother (Tuthmose III); much like her mother had married a half-brother in previous years. Tuthmose III was the son of Tuthmose II (Hatshepsut’s husband) and one of his royal concubines named Isis. This bloodline made Tuthmose III a stepson to Hatshepsut. Because Tuthmose III was very young when his father died, Hatshepsut became a co-regent and ruled right alongside the young stepson. It appears that within the second or third year of this co-regency reign, Hatshepsut proclaimed herself king with complete titles. She would be known as Maatkare (Matt is the ka of Ra) and also Khnemet-Amun-Hatshepsut (She who embraces Amun, the foremost of women). After this proclamation, Tuthmosis III would no longer reign as co-regent with Hatshepsut. In order to make Hatshepsut’s proclamation to king more official and more accepting to the Egyptian citizens, she invented a co-regency with her father Tuthmosis I. She even went as far as incorporating this fabricated co-regency into texts and representations. These were found decorating her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. In addition, and also to make things still more official, Hatshepsut dedicated a chapel to her father in her mortuary temple. She hoped to acquire more acceptance as the new ruler of Egypt by changing the beliefs of her people.

Hatshepsut was a very unique and intelligent individual. She used various strategies to legitimize her position as pharaoh. Not only did she proclaim herself as pharaoh and fabricate a co-regency with her father (Tuthmose I), but she also tried to make herself more god-like by the invention of stories with the attachment to gods. She did this by making it appear as if the gods had spoken to her and her mother while in she was still in her mother’s womb. Hatshepsut misled her subjects and the uneducated public by indicating that Amon-Ra had visited her pregnant mother at the temple in Deir el-Bahri in the Valley of the Kings.

Hatshepsut was unique because she took on several male adornments while she ruled Egypt. Unlike most women of that time, she attached a false beard, wore male clothing, and was depicted in statutes as a pharaoh. She might have done this to make her transition to kingship and the acceptance of the priesthood more convincing. It may be that if she had ruled strictly with a more feminine-looking disposition she may not have been so readily accepted by the masses. Her strategy seemed to work and the priests supported her reign as pharaoh.

There were many prominent figures during her reign but there appears to be one person in particular who was probably foremost in her circle. This prominent person was Senenmut who was born of a humble family in Armant. He came to be known as Hatshepsut’s spokesman and steward of the royal family. In addition, he was known as superintendent of the buildings of the God Amun. During the later years, Hatshepsut had obelisks installed in the Temple of Amon-Re at Karnak. Senenmut supervised the transport and erection of these obelisks as well as the mortuary temple that was built for Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. 

It appears that he must have been very well favored by the Queen as he had a separate tomb constructed close to Hatshepsut’s tomb for himself. He had this second tomb dugout in front of Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb in spite of owning another tomb at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. During Hatshepsut’s reign, gossip followed the pair as it was suggested that his good fortune was due as a result of his intimate relations with the Queen. To add to this deduction, it was further fueled by the fact that he played a heavy role in the education of Hatshepsut’s only daughter Neferure. His brother, Senimen, also acted as nurse and steward to Neferure and this caused more gossip to run rampant. Several statues were found associating Senenmut with the Princess Neferure. History shows that Senenmut was a prominent figure during three-fourths of Hatshepsut’s reign and possibly after the death of Neferure (it appears that she died around the 11th year of Hatshepsut’s reign), that he fell out of graces with the queen for unknown reasons. Speculation has it that he may have had some kind of alliance with Tuthmosis III (Hatshepsut’s stepson) and this could have led to the demise of their relationship.

History also shows that the construction of the famous temple of Deir el-Bahri was most probably started by Tuthmose II and later finished by Queen Hatshepsut. The walls of the temple depict major achievements such as the expedition to Punt near the Red Sea. This trading expedition brought back many riches for the country.

To this day, the death of Hatshepsut remains a mystery. It appears that she reigned for fifteen years and her stepson took the throne after her disappearance. It’s also believed that the hatred for his stepmother pushed him to erase the memory, existence, and any depictions of Queen Hatshepsut by destroying any monuments erected during her reign. Although her temple still stands, neither her tomb nor her mummy has ever been found. She has now come to be known as having been the only female pharaoh to erect the most monuments during her reign.