Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt: The Queen that Would Become a Pharaoh

Ancient Egyptian statue (painted limestone) remain showing bust of Queen Hatshepsut that was originally attached to a larger stone work representing the queen as the god Osiris.

"I have restored that which was in ruins. I have raised up that which was destroyed." 
- Queen Hatshepsut

There was a woman who ruled over Egypt from 1479 to 1458 B.C. -- the 18th dynasty, the New Kingdom. During that time the word "Egypt" did not exist. The best English translation of the name the Nile Valley natives called themselves in ancient Egypt is Kemet. For 21 years, as queen regent to her young stepson Thutmose III and surrounded by the great kingdoms of Nubia, Kush, and Punt, Queen Hatshepsut (meaning "foremost of noble ladies") ruled this valley. 

Photo: Valley of the Kings, royal cemetery at Luxor that embraces Hatshepsut's mortuary temple.

It was not until 2007 that Hatshepsut's lost mummy was not discovered. In 1903, archaeologist Howard Carter found a sarcophagus that belonged to Hatshepsut in KV20 Valley of the Kings. The sarcophagus, a cubicle funeral receptacle for a corpse, was empty. Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Mummy Project and secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities honed in on mummy KV60a, discovered more than a century earlier and then deemed a minor tomb. It had no gold or other jewels but was tested and determined to be the late queen regent.

This was a far cry from the treasures found in the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun. There was no gold or other jewels adorning Hatshepsut's mummy, only the remains of the ancient Egyptian royal family. It was soon discovered that there was a concerted effort to eradicate the historical record of her reign. Thumose III, her co-regent and successor, systemically removed evidence of her rule during the time he was too young to rule. Temples, obelisks and monuments underwent a systematic chisel job.

Born in the 15th century BC, Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and Aahmes, both of royal lineage. She would marry Thutmose II, the son of her father by another. The marriage of Hatshepsut as wife-sister to Thutmose II was part of the traditions used to fortify royal lineages. Thutmose II fathered one child, Isis, not with Hatshepsut -- to whom he never bore children.  Isis bore the male child Thutmose III. After Thutmose II's death in 1479 BC, Thutmose III was too young to assume control as the male royal. Hatshepsut was allowed to rule as the young pharaoh's queen regent.

Queen Hatshepsut effectively ruled the Egyptian kingdom for about 21 years. In public, she portrayed herself as a man, the traditional gender of a pharaoh. She wore male clothing and a pharaonic beard. Suggestions of her femininity are portrayed, however, in the surviving sculptures that depict her with feminine breasts. Hatshepsut's dynastic rule was a clear break from the traditional role of the queen regent, such as seen in other Nile Valley royal dynasties like that of Nigiste Negaste (Empress Regent) Zewditu Menelik of Ethiopia.

Photo: only remaining obelisk of Karnak, erected by Pharaoh Hatshepsut
Queen Hatshepsut was a grand renovator of shrines and temples, from Nubia to Sinai. Four great granite obelisks were erected at Karnak, at the temple of the great god Amun. During her reign hundreds of monumental public works were commissioned, including focused public efforts on Thebes, her capital, which is known today as Luxor and Karnak.

One of the Karnak obelisks commissioned by Hatshepsut read: "Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what the people will say. Those who see my monuments in years to come, and who shall speak of what I have done."  One of the four great obelisks erected by Pharaoh Hatshepsut still stands.

Queen Hatshepsut established international trading partners with kingdoms as close as Nubia and Punt, as well as those across the great seas. Her rule was a time of economic growth for her people.

Today, the tomb of Hatshepsut is said to be in one of the two of the Egyptian Museum's Royal Mummy Rooms. If visiting, however, check to determine status because the location and public presentment of certain antiquities change and are limited during social and political upheaval in a region.

Above video: on-site lecture at Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

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