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Editing Hatshepsut Creating History in the Reigns of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III

Updated on January 11, 2012
Queen Hatshepsut as a sphinx
Queen Hatshepsut as a sphinx | Source

The monuments of Hatshepsut’s reign as co-ruler with her step-son Tuthmosis III and the subsequent mutilation of those monuments illustrate active participation by these rulers in the formation, and de-formation, of their own histories and reigns. The image of Hatshepsut formed a center of these activities, a fact which has led to theories of personal hostility between Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis. The degrees of conviction with which these theories are maintained are not consistent with the problematic, incomplete evidence of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis’ treatment of her monuments available. An examination of Hatshepsut’s texts focused at Deir el-Bahri, linking Tuthmosis’ proscription of his predecessor to other actions taken at the same time introduce the power of the temple of Amun and Tuthmosis’s concerns with creating a legitimate male-focused pharaonic lineage into the discussion of the damnatio memoriae of Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut's mortuary temple
Hatshepsut's mortuary temple | Source

The Rule and Disappearance of Hatshepsut

The situation in which Hatshepsut became co-ruler of Egypt with her son, Tuthmosis III, was unusual, and deciphering the key relationships between members of the royal family have long been complicated by usurpation of monuments, destruction related to Hatshepsut’s damnatio memoriae , destruction of the monuments of lesser figures not related to actions against Hatshepsut, destructions of the Amarna period, destructions that are not dated, and repairs carried out by later pharaohs, usually regarding erasures of Amun[i]. The interaction of all these various conditions on the set of monuments and texts of interest in the period of transition from the death of Tuthmosis I through the reign of Tuthmosis II and the co-rule of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III resulted in a confusion best exemplified by James H. Breasted’s introductory text to his translations of material related to the reigns of Tuthmosis III and Hatshepsut in which he promotes the following chronology: Tuthmosis III reigned alone after Tuthmosis I fell from power, then Hatshepsut was forced upon him as co-regent. For a brief time, all Tuthmosis I and II ruled together, but then Tuthmosis III returned to the throne, which he shared with Tuthmosis II until this ruler died, upon the death/disappearance of Tuthmosis I. Next, after Tuthmosis II’s death, Tuthmosis III ruled with Hatshepsut until her death, ruling on his own “at least thirty-four years more”[ii]. This complex chronology has been simplified over the years with the addition of new information and interpretive techniques, so that the succession from Tuthmosis I, to Tuthmosis II, to Tuthmosis III with Queen Hatshepsut as regent, followed by the co-rule of Tuthmosis III and Queen Hatshepsut until her death is reasonably well established.

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Tuthmosis I, a military man and leader whose virtues in this role earned him the pharaoh’s daughter, and, eventually, the throne, at a time when the Egyptians were in the final stages of their war against the Hyksos. Tuthmosis’s wife, Ahmose, was the figure that linked him to the throne, and thus the imperial tie lay with the women of this portion of the Eighteenth Dynasty, not with the men. This would remain true with Tuthmosis II, Hatshepsut’s half-brother husband, whose mother was a lesser wife of Tuthmosis I’s, and Tuthmosis III, whose mother was not Hatshepsut, but the consort Iset[iii]. Tuthmosis III and Hatshepsut appealed to the figure of Tuthmosis I as a role-model and figure that legitimated their rule, while Tuthmosis II’s brief reign was ignored by Hatshepsut[iv]. Tuthmosis III appeared to magnify Tuthmosis II only as it was necessary to create a male figure to fill the gap between the reigns of Tuthmosis I and himself, diminishing the role of Hatshepsut.

Tuthmosis II enjoyed a brief rule, from about 1481 to 1479 BCE. At the time of his death, his son and heir, Tuthmosis III, was a child, and so a regency was appropriate. The role of regent satisfied Hatshepsut until around 1473 BCE, the sixth year of Tuthmosis III’s rule, when she became co-ruler with her step-son, initiating a rule of two pharoahs within a single pharaonic house at Thebes, lasting until her death c. 1458 BCE[v]. After her death, Tuthmosis III, long associated with the military, began the military campaigns which occupied much of his reign as sole pharaoh and which he deatiled in the Annals inscriptions at Karnak. It was not until he dedicated himself to a campaign of construction in the latter portion of his reign that he addressed the monuments and constructions of his step-mother, beginning the large-scale destruction of her pharaonic images in Egypt and within her mortuary temple[vi].


[i] [i] The destruction of Amun’s figure in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri, for example, is likely attributable to persons acting for Akhenaten in the Amarna revolution, not to Tuthmosis III or his successor in their separate action against the image of Hatshepsut and her claims to the pharaoh’s position and power. The destruction of Senenmut’s tomb reliefs and artifacts related to his role in Hatshepsut’s court has been attributed by separate scholars to Tuthmosis and to Hatshepsut. Futhermore, the value of the art within the temple made specific blocks targets for theives and archaeologists who behaved very much like thieves. Queen Ahmose’s head, for example, from the Birth cycle at Deir el-Bahri, disappeared into the Castle Museum of Norwich in 1843, where it remained lost in storage until sold with other artifacts to Liverpool in 1956 (Dodson 1988, 212).

[ii] [ii] (Breasted 1962, ¶129)

[iii] Wilkinson

[iv] [iv] The legitimating power of Tuthmosis I extended to his corpse. As the proper treatment of the dead pharaoh was the duty of the next pharaoh, to hold the body of the former pharaoh, burying it in dignity and wealth, was one way in which legitimacy was affirmed in the public and religious space of Egypt. Hatshepsut pursued this by moving her father’s body into a new coffin in her temple. Later, Tuthmosis III had the body moved again, divorcing Tuthmosis I’s authority and legitimating power from Hatshepsut in the realm of the dead father and daughter both inhabited (Manuelian and Loeben 1993, 124-127). There is no evidence of a similar struggle and concern over the legitimating power of the body of Tuthmosis II.

[v] (Wilkinson 2007, 146, 327)

[vi] Some historians and archaeologists do not believe the entire campaign against Hatshepsut took place late in Tuthmosis III’s reign, but point to individual acts that may have preceded the larger actions linked with
Tuthmosis’s construction campaign: for example, Eaton-Krauss, M., “Four Notes on the Early Eighteenth Dynasty”, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 84 (1998), pp. 205-210. Historians and archaeologists supporting the campaign against Hatshepsut as coinciding with Tuthmosis III’s building efforts point to individual survivals and remnants that should have been destroyed if the proscription of Hatshepsut had taken place earlier. I find the argument for the case of a later date more convincing, but neither position is without reasonable evidence and no firm conclusions regarding this issue can be reached., 3078286575 fa4e25ec7e Damaged head of Hatshepsut from her mortuary temple, 3078286575 fa4e25ec7e Damaged head of Hatshepsut from her mortuary temple

The Evil Stepmother Theory

After nineteenth century archaeologists began investigating the monuments of Hatshepsut’s reign they rapidly narrated a history of her rule in line with dominant tropes of female-male interaction and interpretations of proper femininity in relation to the exercise of power rational within their own culture, producing a tale of Tuthmosis III and his evil-stepmother[i]. The tale of Hatshepsut’s seizure of power, the resistance of Tuthmosis III to this usurpation illustrated in his swift destruction of her monuments, and the naturalness of the animosity between them was present in the early papers describing the excavations produced by the Egypt Exploration Society in the 1890s when the excavation of the Deir el-Bahri structures was in the hands of Edouard Naville[ii]. Archaeologists publicizing the findings of the Egypt Exploration Society presented this full narrative, probably in good faith as an accurate interpretation of the available evidence, ignoring the damage that Naville did to the evidence by utilizing methods that focused only upon large monumental structures, destroying smaller artifacts that could contribute to an understanding of the site, and the damage centuries of use and re-use by others, including Coptic monks, had done to the area involved.

Despite the problems associated with forming such a full history of personal relations between Hatshepsut and her step-son, the ‘wicked step-mother’ became dominant in the writing of Hatshepsut’s history, illustrated most succinctly by William C. Hayes: “in 1482 BC Tuthmosis III was no longer a child, but a fiercely energetic and extremely capable leader of men, whose impatience with Hatshepsut’s weak foreign policy and whose long-cherished desire to see her out of the way cannot for a moment be doubted[iii]. In the same text, Hayes describes Hatshepsut as “this shrewd, ambitious, and unscrupulous woman”[iv], and presents Tuthmosis III’s sole rule as a seizure of power withheld from him by his step-mother[v]. The relation between peace and feminine rule that forms a subsidiary portion of Hayes’ rationale for animosity between Tuthmosis and Hatshepsut has formed a primary theme in the work of some feminist historians, such as Dr. Margaret Murray and Mrs. Barbara Mertz, who choose to stress the apparent lack of military vigor during Hatshepsut’s reign and her celebration within her mortuary temple of the trading expedition to Punt as an alternative to masculine militarization and violence in statecraft[vi]. Neither of these positions honors the complexity of the evidence involved, or the possibilities for strife and accommodation within Egyptian society, preferring to glorify either Tuthmosis III or Hatshepsut in a binary conflict.


[i] (Winlock 1928, 47-58) provides a very detailed analysis of Hatshepsut’s reign and relationship with Senenmut considering the condition of evidence and resources available to Winlock. This gendering of Hatshepsut’s administration also, I believe, contributes to the continuing speculation regarding her relationship to Senenmut. The evidence supports an address of his role within her administration, but their relationship is often sexualized in an absence of evidence to support the supposition, further muddying already murky waters while making no contribution to our understanding of the period.

[ii] For a full discussion of Naville’s methods, objections to those methods, and problems associated with the Hatshepsut temple as an archaeological site, see Davies, “Thebes”, in Excavating in Egypt: The Egypt Exploration Society 1882-1982, pp.51-70.

[iii] (Hayes 1966, 8) Italics are my own. The “peaceful reign” of Hatshepsut is also under revision. Although Tuthmosis III was closely tied to the military during her co-rulership, evidence points to military actions occurring at her behest. She may not have been in pursuit of empire, but she recognized the responsibility of the pharaoh to secure Egypt from invaders and weakness, against the memory of the Hyksos dominance of Egypt.

[iv] (Hayes 1966, 7)

[v] (Hayes 1966, 8)

[vi] (Cottrell 1967, 59).

Hatshepsut at Karnak
Hatshepsut at Karnak | Source

Looking at the Evidence Again

Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple was begun with her claim to pharaonic status in the Year 6 of Tuthmosis III’s reign, and its construction extended into the Year 22 of his reign[i]. Her temple at Deir el-Bahri followed the style of a temple of Mentuhotpe II, 11th Dynasty founder of the Middle Kingdom, but her architects far surpassed Mentuhotpe’s temple in both size and grandeur; where his had been made largely of clay, hers was made of stone, and dominated the landscape.[ii] At least, it dominated the landscape until her step-son, some twenty years after her death, built his own new temple at Deir el-Bahri, choosing inauspicious terrain that did not ensure structural stability, but did ensure that it was he who would be seen when people entered the valley on festival occasions[iii]. Tuthmosis mastered his predecessor by claiming dominance in sacred space as well by eliminating her pharaonic image in both public and private spaces.

Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple was extensively decorated with reliefs, statues, and pillars. Established in close proximity to the founder of the Middle Kingdom, it made an associative claim to legitimacy through its mastery of Mentuhotep’s space, in an usurpation not of his monument, a pracitice common in ancient Egypt, but through usurpation of his geography. The propagandistic element to Hatshepsut’s construction noted by archaeologists and scholars is more fitted to this element of the construction than to the internal reliefs, which would have been seen by very few, and thus would not serve the purpose of public impact propaganda must make[iv]. Her propaganda was the claim to space and the use of it at a monumental level, which, by moving her father’s tomb to this space as well, she further associated with legitimate rule by summoning the reputation and name of Tuthmosis I[v].

In the internal reliefs of her mortuary temple, often cited as examples of propaganda and treated as such by authors such as James Breasted, Hatshepsut was not speaking to a large audience, but establishing an identity that would support her claims in the afterlife. She was making herself truly pharaoh so that she would be treated as truly pharaoh by the gods after her death. Similarly, Tuthmosis in his destruction of those images of Hatshepsut that denoted her as pharaoh was editing her in the afterlife, returning her to the Great Wife identity she had shed in becoming his co-ruler. Perhaps he did not want to share the throne with her in an equality of power for eternity. The destruction of Hatshepsut’s Osirid columns had a more public effect, as these columns were visible from outside the temple[vi].

How did Hatshepsut want to define herself? She wanted to define herself as the legitimate pharaoh of Egypt, as if her husband, Tuthmosis II, never existed. She is the daughter of Amun and Queen Ahmose, recognized as the correct ruler by both Amun and his earthly representative, her earthly father, Tuthmosis I[vii]. It is notable that she did not neglect her step-son as extensively as she did her husband. In a study by Vanessa Davies, images and textual references to Tuthmosis III while Hatshepsut dominated patronage of construction projects in Egypt, revealed that he appeared in 62% of analyzed scenes without Hatshepsut, and that of 72 representations of him, 37 were at Deir el-Bahri. In the images analyzed he was depicted in a variety of roles associated with kingship, in the company of various deities appropriate to his status, and with a multitude of names signalling his authority and importance. The anomalous absence of the double crown in depictions of Tuthmosis III at this time are not connected to a predisposition to diminish him, according to Davies, but to the anomalous situation of two united kings. The solution to this situation was to depict the two kings as themselves uniting Egypt wearing separate crowns, the red and the white[viii].

One painting depicting Hatshepsut with her daughter, Neferure, survives at Deir el-Bahri [see Figure 3]. This painting is a problem. It was not hidden. It would have been easily recognized as a painting of Hatshepsut and her daughter. Why was it not destroyed? Had Tuthmosis III been married to Neferure, and did this stay his hand? Was he less committed to the obliteration of Hatshepsut than original investigators assumed?

The difficulty with dating Tuthmosis’s destruction of his step-mother’s memory may have much to do with the incomplete nature of this destruction. As Dr. Joyce Tyldesley writes, Tuthmosis attack on Hatshepsut’s images “is a remote, rather than an immediate, attack”, following the deaths of many who had served her, and continued into the reign of his son after Tuthmosis’s death. “Furthermore,” she continues, “the attack is not a thorough one. Enough remained of Hatshepsut to allow us to recreate her reign in some detail….she was never hated as Akehnaten ‘The Great Criminal’ would later be”[ix].

Tuthmosis III targeted images of Hatshepsut as pharaoh, while “her images and monuments as King’s Great Wife were spared”[x]. At Karnak, he did not destroy her pylons, but covered their inscriptions so that they could not be read, ironically preserving the inscriptions he wanted no one to read[xi][see Figure 4]. His usurpation of her monuments, replacing her name with either his own cartouche or that of his father, Tuthmosis II, created a public claim to exclusively male descent, correcting the public historical record to one that excluded her claims to the throne, however the reasons for such a concern with male-only succession late in his reign remains elusive[xii]. Certainly, if a later time for Tuthmosis III’s proscription program is accepted, rather than one immediately accompanying his assertion of sole rule, personal animosity is a less likely motive for his actions. Furthermore, it eliminates the problem of singular rage, so out of keeping with what is known of his actions in all other aspects of his reign[xiii]. The focus on images of Hatshepsut as pharaoh, not as queen or Great Wife and the late time frame of Tuthmosis III’s action suggest considerations guiding his policy that had little or nothing to do with his personal, emotional attachment or distance from his step-mother.


[i] (Deir el-Bahri 1996) It is important to note that Hatshepsut did not establish an independent dating system, but consistently used the regnal year of her co-ruler.

[ii] (Wilkinson 2007, 149)

[iii] (Lipinska 1967, 31). Lipinska identifies “[T]his determination to dominate” as a reasonable explanation of why Tuthmosis erected a monumental structure on a 50m x 60m cliff space, threatened by rock slips, with pavement higher than the upper terrace of Hatshepsut’s temple, when his mortuary temple at Qurna was complete and her name had already been erased within her mortuary temple.

[iv] (Cottrell 1967, 20). Cotterell notes that the reliefs on the inner walls of temples were not seen by the general public, but by family members and priests so long as the rites of offering food at the site continued. Existence of the person was tied to the image, such that whole or partial destruction of the image could affect the existence of the person whose image was mistreated (Cottrell 1967, 54).

[v] (Cottrell 1967, 24)

[vi] (Cottrell 1967, 56)

[vii] (J. W. Breasted, The Birth of Queen Hatshepsut 1962), the divine paternity of Hatshepsut is stressed in the “Birth Relief” of her temple at Deir el-Bahri, extensively damaged by multiple parties, including Tuthmosis III and agents of Akhenaten. In a parallel claim to legitimacy by divine recognition on earth by Amun’s representative, her father Tuthmosis I, Hatshepsut has created a new fact in Tuthmosis’s recognition of her as pharaoh, an event that did not occur apart from its establishment on the temple wall. It is also extensively mutilated (J. W. Breasted, The Coronation of Queen Hatshepsut 1962).

[viii] (V. Davies 2004, 56-57, 62-63)

[ix] (Tyldesley 2009)

[x] (Wilkinson 2007, 150)

[xi] (Cottrell 1967, 58)

[xii] One example of the re-insertion of Tuthmosis II into the historical record by Tuthmosis III is found at Deir el-Bahri, within the Hathor shrine. Tuthmosis III was included in the original reliefs, but he had Hatshepsut, in kingly attire, re-named Tuthmosis III on the lintel and the shrine doorway (V. Davies 2004, 61).

[xiii] Hayes describes the problem thus: Tuthmosis III was “a serious, methodical and industrious ruler, his reign—with the exception of one childish outburst of rage directed against the memory of Hatshepsut—was singularly free from acts of brutality, bad taste, and vainglorious bombast, and his records, for their period, are for the most part moderately phrased and sincere in tone” (Hayes 1966, 10).

More Recent Contributions to the Problem

Moving away from Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri, the recent identification of her mummy and Mariam Ayad’s study of the Gods Wives of Amun contribute more information to the discussion of Tuthmosis III’s proscription of Hatshepsut without providing a definitive answer as to its motive. Hatshepsut’s mummy was found with another female mummy, that of Sitre-in, her nurse, in her nurse’s tomb. The mummy was in good condition and appeared to have been processed in a way befitting one of royal lineage in the Eighteenth Dynasty[i]. If Tuthmosis III had been comfortable with obliterating Hatshepsut immediately after her death, there is no reason for him to have gone to the expense and trouble of properly mummifying, according to pharaonic ritual, one he did not consider pharaoh. The way in which her body was treated is, therefore, problematic. There is no evidence of her burial in a fitting tomb, but that does not mean she was not so buried. It is certain that she was at some point deposited in the tomb of her nurse, but the removal of bodies from royal tombs was not a rare practice when tomb robbing became a large problem, and we do not know when the body was moved, if it was moved at all[ii]. Perhaps, Tuthmosis III placed it there after her mummification. The body’s mummification testifies to appropriate treatment. No other archaeological evidence establishes the context of that mummification or the body’s further treatment, but historians such as Joyce Tydesley assume she was buried by Tuthmosis III with proper honors[iii].

Mariam Ayad’study of the neglected monuments of the God’s Wives of Amun provide information on what could be a retention of Hatshepsut’s historical presence in the memory of the Temple of Amun at Karnak. The God’s Wife of Amun acted as the king’s counterpart in ritual functions. The position was established by Ahmose for his wife, Ahmose-Nefertari, transforming an obscure title dating to the Middle Kingdom into a position of power and wealth in the Eighteenth Dynasty. Ahmose bestowed the God’s Wife of Amun with an estate attached to the position itself and outside the control of the pharaoh or the priest of Amun. Ayad suggests that Hatshepsut as God’s Wife of Amun used the wealth associated with this position to aid her in seizing the throne during Tuthmosis III’s youth[iv]. Tuthmosis III’s destruction of Ahmose’s donation steale, and its use as fill in his Pylon 3 at Karnak, further bolster her case that Tuthmosis III saw some connection between the independent estate of the God’s Wife of Amun and a threat to the pharaoh’s security and power[v].

Ayad finds a suggestion of an active memory of Hatshepsut as a powerful figure in the temple of Amun in the choice of name made by Shepenwepet I as God’s Wife. Hatshepsut had the name khnemet-Amun , United with Amun, as God’s Wife of Amun, a name she also used in her cartouche with her given name as king, as she did at the Chapelle Rouge in Karnak. Shepenwepet I took the name khenemet-ib-Amun , United with the Heart of Amun, as her God’s Wife name. The use of khnem in names of royal women according to Ayad to indicate a conscious modeling by Shepenwepet or those who chose a name on her behalf on the name used by Hatshepsut[vi]. Ayad’s data and interpretation suggest a source of historical memory continued that has not been the subject of archaeological study thus far, and that may not be revealed by such methods. For instance, if the memory of Hatshepsut within the temple of Amun was an oral tradition, it will not be revealed by future digs and epigraphy. However, if some evidence of Hatshepsut’s role remains in the neglected sites of Egypt, it may someday become available to historians. Ayad’s data certainly complicates the perception historians hold of the complete obliteration of Hatshepsut by Tuthmosis III, only to be recovered in the 18th century.


[i] (Scribe 2007)

[ii] The mummy caches in the Valley of the Kings were created by priests attempting to protect pharaoh mummies from robbers and destruction, a destruction which would have ended their existence. Tyldesley points to the mummification of Hatshepsut and the continuing presence of her mummy as evidence that Tuthmosis III did not intend her complete destruction, as she was guaranteed an afterlife so long as her body was whole (Tyldesley 2009)

[iii] (Tyldesley 2009)

[iv] (Ayad 2009, 6)

[v] (Ayad 2009, 6) According to Ayad, khnem is used in 6 royal names, 4 of them after the 23rd Dynasty.

[vi] (Ayad 2009, 33)

ahmose stelae displayed at the Louvre
ahmose stelae displayed at the Louvre

The Last Years of Tuthmosis III

Tuthmose III was closely connected to the military. His first actions as sole ruler of Egypt are to gather and equip an army of conquest, an achievement that indicates Hatshepsut’s neglect of the military was not detrimental to its effectiveness, if indeed she neglected it at all, despite Hayes’ statements to the contrary[i]. Royal women are not important in Tuthmosis’ solo reign which is wholly occupied with masculine kingship as the exercise of military force and, when he is old, the construction of monuments to the gods and to his rule. This absence of prominent women comes after a series of important, powerful women in the public space: Queen Ahomse, Ahmose-Nefertari, Hatshepsut[ii].

The pharaoh did remain closely tied to the temple of Amun during Tuthmosis III’s reign. His Annals record his military successes from the 23rd to the 42nd years of his reign and the great wealth he gained from them[iii]. Associated with the Annals is a separate text detailing the offerings to Amun made possible by these actions: “all [things] of silver, gold, lapis lazuli, malachite. My majesty presented to him gold, silver, lapis lazuli, malachite, copper, bronze, lead, colors, [emery,] in great quantity, in order to make every monument of my father, Amon”[iv]. The power of the priests of Amun thus increased during the reign of Tuthmosis III, eventually becoming a force threatening to overshadow the pharaoh, a power Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten responded to in a revolutionary way that made him ‘the Great Enemy’ of the resurgent Amun cult after his death[v].

The Amun cult was also presumably important in the rise of Hatshepsut, for it seems unlikely that she would have been able to seize power on her own without creating evidence of dislocation and resistance had she acted without the support of Egypt’s elites, and she had a pre-existing tie to the Amun cult as God’s Wife of Amun[vi]. The Biography of Ineni, composed during the co-rule of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III indicates that Hatshepsut’s power did not create a critical disturbance in the elites:

‘His [Tuthmosis II’s] son stood in his place as king of the Two Landshaving become ruler upon the throne of the one who begat him. His sister the Divine Consort, Hatshepsut, settled the [affairs] of the two Lands by reason of her plans. Egypt was made to labor with bowed head for her, the excellent seed of the god, which came forth from him. The bow-rope of the South, the mooring=stake of the Southerners; the excellent stern-rope of the Northland is she; the mistress of command, whose plans are excellent, who satisfies the Two Regions, when she speaks”[vii].

Late in his reign, Tuthmosis III retired from direct military action, ruling with his son and heir, Amenophis II, engaging in an extensive building campaign that coincides with his usurpation of many of Hatshepsut’s building efforts in his own name or that of his father, Tuthmosis II. Dr. Tydesley connects these efforts to an usurpation by Tuthmosis III of Hatshepsut’s achievements, magnifying his own greatness at her expense: “By removing all obvious references to his co-ruler Tuthmosis could incorporate her reign into his own. He would then become Egypt’s greatest pharaoh; the only successor to Tuthmosis II”[viii]. These efforts to erase Hatshepsut the Pharaoh from history extended into the reign of Tuthmosis’s successor, Amenophis/Amenhotep II, “a king who could not remember Hatshepsut, and who had no reason to respect her memory”[ix].

If Amenophis II had no reason to respect Hatshepsut’s memory, he also had no apparent investment in the destruction of those monuments after Tuthmosis’ death, which leads to the necessity of considering Amenophis’ position in the late years of Tuthmosis III’s reign and an investigation of possible gains accruing to him from Hatshepsut’s destruction. Amenophis II was not his father’s original heir. In Year 24 of Tuthmosis III’s reign, the heir was Amenemhet, ‘the king’s eldest son’, an older, perhaps half, brother of Amenophis II. This means that Amenemhet would have been born during the earlier portion of the co-rule of Tuthmosis III and Hatshepsut, making it probable, according to Donald Redford, that he was the son of Hatshepsut’s daughter, Neferure. The evidence seems to indicate that Amenophis was 18 when he rose to the throne, and was a son of Tuthmosis’s later years[x]. This means that the virtue in retaining the connection to Hatshepsut, her legitimating context for Tuthmosis III’s heir through her daughter Neferure, would not have been present once Amenemhet died. Hatshepsut brought nothing to Amenophis’s legitimacy, for he was not connected to her through blood or marriage, but to the long-ignored Tuthmosis II. Thus, Tuthmosis III may have been acting in his son’s interest in establishing strict father-son succession from Tuthmosis I to Tuthmosis II to Tuthmosis III, and so to his son, Amenophis, in the absence of a royal connection on the maternal side which would have maintained Hatshepsut’s importance as a thread in the claim of legitimacy. This possibility connects Tuthmosis III’s proscription of his step-mother, delayed for decades after her death, to political concerns of legitimation and succession that may have been important to him in the latter years of his reign and explains his son’s concern with continuing her erasure in order to establish the father-son succession as the only narrative of the recent past, strengthening his own position and claims to the throne.


[i] (Hayes 1966, 8) Hayes suggests that Hatshepsut’s pacifist policy angered the army with which Tuthmosis was associated, raising an unanswered question. If Tuthmosis was the darling of the army and had it under his control, and so strongly hated his stepmother, also hated by much of the Egyptian population according to Hayes, why did he not use this power to force her into a subordinate position? Ayad’s study highlighting the connection between Hatshepsut and the Temple of Amun may provide a partial answer to this question, but does not remove it.

[ii] (Wilkinson 2007, 138)

[iii] (J. W. Breasted, The Annals 1962)

[iv] (J. W. Breasted, Feasts and Offerings from the Conquest 1962); qt. ¶558.

[v] The Amarna Revolution has been interpreted in various ways and probably served a multitude of purposes, however, it was in its public expression of animus against images of Amun and in the transfer of funds away from the established temples, including Amun, a conflict with the power of the temple of Amun is clear (Clayton 1994, 120-123).

[vi] (Cottrell 1967, 53); (Ayad 2009, 6).

[vii] (J. W. Breasted, Biography of Ineni 1962, 341). Spalinger points out that no strict procedure for transferring power outside of the current dynastic line existed in ancient Egypt, so that inclusion within an existing line through marriage to a royal daughter was one way in which a threatened dynasty could ensure continuity even as power transferred to separate male bloodline, as occurred with Tuthmosis I. Unanimous acceptance of the sovereign allowed the Egyptian pharaoh to act effectively, so Hatshepsut could not have acted as pharaoh had not the elite and administration accepted her as such (Spalinger 2005, 175).

[viii] (Tyldesley 2009); (Redford, Hatshepsut 2001, 87), notes that Tuthmosis III continued Hatshepsut’s building program after her death by enlarging and decorating monuments whose construction she had begun, replacing some of her projects with his own, and that erasure of her name from such usurped monuments began in ca. Year 42 of his reign.

[ix] (Tyldesley 2009)

[x] (Redford, The Coregency of Tuthmosis III and Amenophis II 1965, 108);

Amenophis II
Amenophis II

Answering the Unanswerable

Why did Tuthmosis destroy his step-mother’s name, with his son’s participation, years after his death? How extensive was this destruction? The answers to these questions will remain speculative in the absence of a concrete explanation from Tuthmosis himself, which is not likely as Egyptian history was not given to forthright explication of contingent events, but focused upon significant achievements set in eternal verities and cycles. Addressing the damage Tuthmosis did to his step-mother’s monuments involves the historian in a complex dilemma regarding the evidence that is not easy soluble. The layers of destruction and occupation at the Deir el-Bahri site reveal multiple actors at multiple times contributed to erasures and damage of the site and its inscriptions.

Tuthmosis III and Amenophis II destroyed inscriptions of Hatshepsut, certainly, but Akhenaten’s agents contributed to the destruction with their campaign against Amun, and later pharaohs, including Ramesses II, contributed to the damage in their attempts to repair the destruction of Amun’s images by Akhenaten’s agents. Describing the effects of multiple erasures and restorations at the First Cataract, which also apply to the situation at Deir el-Bahri and the general context of Hatshepsut’s proscription, Robert Delia writes, “Hatshepsut’s prenomen was incompletely erased in a Sehel text of Ty, an official who served her and Thutmose III”, although this and other mutilations related to Hatshepsut in the area have also been attributed to Akhenaten’s agents[i]. In the post-Amarna period, attempts to restore monuments his agents had damaged involved a number of pharaohs over a long period of time, sometimes in competition with one another. Tutankhamun, Horemheb, Ay, Seti I, and Ramesses II all restored Amun to his rightful place, utilizing workmen of various levels of competence. Horemheb also pursued a practice of usurping repairs done by Tutankhamun as his own acts[ii]. In some cases, the restorer was far more concerned with making known his act of restoration than in preserving the inscription being restored, as Ramesses II inscription claiming as his the act of restoring Amun in a scene of Hatshepsut’s Birth at her Deir el-Bahri temple that runs over a 22-line inscriptionnof the original relief[iii].

The ancient destruction was followed by modern destruction and theft associated with antiquarian and archaeological interest in Egypt. The site was used by Tuthmosis III, Ramesses II, the Ptolemies, Coptic monks, and tourists for different purposes. The temple was noted by the French expedition of 1798, explored by various savants who increased knowledge of the site as well as robbing it of interesting artifacts, and then fell to destructive forms of archaeology that focused on the monumental, destroying smaller artifacts in its wake[iv]. Queen Ahmose’s head from Hatshepsut’s Birth scene disappeared by 1843, given in that year to the Castle Museum of Norwich by P. E. Wodehouse[v]. The combination of all these factors involving damage to the site of Deir el-Bahri, and by no means limited to this single site, makes firm conclusions regarding the extent of destruction of images attributable solely to Tuthmosis III’s proscription of Hatshepsut impossible. The best that can be done is to place the destruction he did commit in a context that fits the evidence available, while remaining aware that any solution offered to the problem is provisional and partial.


[i] (Delia 1999, 112)

[ii] (Brand 1999, 114)

[iii] (J. W. Breasted, The Birth of Queen Hatshepsut 1962, 192 d)

[iv] (W. V. Davies 1982, 51, 54)

[v] (Dodson 1988, 212)

Hatshepsut's mummy, identified as I was in the midst of writing this paper
Hatshepsut's mummy, identified as I was in the midst of writing this paper | Source

Concluding remarks

Hatshepsut created an image of co-rule that did not render her younger partner impotent, but recognized his full participation and equality in the possession of authority. After her death, Tuthmosis III went to war, returning to engage in an expansive building program and to eliminate her from history late in his reign, with the aid of his heir Amenophis II. The timing of Tuthmosis III’s action makes it unlikely that it was motivated solely by hostility to Hatshepsut. It is more reasonable to connect his action to a growing concern with providing his son, not related to Hatshepsut or the dynastic bloodline she represented, with a clear link to the throne through father-son descent. The careers of both Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III, in different ways, indicate the growing power of the cult of Amun, and the close links early Eighteenth Dynasty pharaohs had to the cult.


Ayad, Mariam. God's Wife, God's Servant: The God's Wife of Amun, c. 740-525 BC. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Brand, Peter. "Secondary Restoration in the Post-Amarna Period." The Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 36 (1999): 113-134.

Breasted, James H. "Reign of Thutmose III and Queen Hatshepsut: Introduction". Vol. 2, in Ancient Records of Egypt, by James H. Breasted, edited by James Henry Breasted, translated by James Henry Breasted. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962.

Breasted, James W. Biography of Ineni. Vol. 2, in Ancient Records of Egypt, by James W. Breasted, edited by James W. Breasted, translated by James W. Breasted, 340-343. New York: Russell & Russell , 1962.

Breasted, James W. Feasts and Offerings from the Conquest. Vol. 2, in Ancient Records of Egypt, by James W. Breasted, 541-573. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962.

Breasted, James W. The Annals. Vol. 2, in Ancient Records of Egypt, by James W. Breasted, 391-520. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962.

Breasted, James W. The Birth of Queen Hatshepsut. Vol. 2, in Ancient Records of Egypt, by James W. Breasted, 187-211. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962.

Breasted, James W. The Coronation of Queen Hatshepsut. Vol. 2, in Ancient Records of Egypt, by James W. Breasted, 215-242. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962.

Clayton, Peter A. "Akhenaten." In Chronicle of the Pharaohs, by Peter A. Clayton, 120-126. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1994.

Cottrell, Leonard. Lady of the Two Lands: Five Queens of Ancient Egypt. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1967.

Davies, Vanessa. "Hatshepsut's Use of Thutmosis III in Her Program of Legitimation." Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 41 (2004): 55-66.

Davies, W. V. "Thebes." In Excavating in Egypt: The Egypt Exploration Society, 1882-1982, edited by T. G. H. James, 51-70. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

"Deir el-Bahri." In Atlas of Ancient Egypt, edited by John Baines and Jaromir Malek, 95-98. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1996.

Delia, Robert D. "Palimpsests, Copyists, Atenists and Others at the First Cataract." Journal of he American Research Center in Egypt 36 (1999): 103-112.

Dodson, Aidan. "Two Royal REliefs from the TEmple of Deir el-Bahari." The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 74 (1988): 212-214.

Hayes, William C. Internal Affairs from Tuthmosis I to the Death of Amenophis III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

Lipinska, Jadwiga. "Names and History of Sanctuaries Built by Tuthmosis III at Deir el-Bahri." JEA 53 (December 1967): 25-33.

Manuelian, Peter der, and Christian E. Loeben. "New Light on the Recarved Sarcophagus of Hatshepsut and Thutmose I in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston." The Journal of Egyptian ARchaeology 79 (1993): 121-155.

Redford, Donald B. Hatshepsut. Vol. 2, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, edited by Donald B. Redford, 85-87. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Redford, Donald B. "The Coregency of Tuthmosis III and Amenophis II." The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 51 (December 1965): 107-122.

Scribe, The. Pharaoh Hatshepsut's Mummy Positively Identified. October 16, 2007. (accessed February 27, 2010).

Spalinger, Anthony John. War in Ancient Egypt: The New Kingdom. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., 2005.

Tyldesley, Joyce. "BBC History: Ancient History." BBC. November 5, 2009. (accessed March 12, 2010).

Wilkinson, Toby. "Hatshepsut, the Female Pharaoh." In Lives of the Ancient Egyptians, by Toby Wilkinson, 145-150. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 2007.

Winlock, H. E. "The Egyptian Expedition, 1925-1927: The Museum's Excavations at Thebes." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 23, no. 2 (February 1928): 3-58.

Selected books of interest

God's Wife, God's Servant: The God's Wife of Amun (ca.740-525 BC)
God's Wife, God's Servant: The God's Wife of Amun (ca.740-525 BC)

A very good, very exciting piece of modern Egyptology, but considering the price, do what I did: check it out of your university library.



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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great job! Thanks you very much.

    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • Ed Michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      Ed Michaels 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      A brief hunt for the placement of the relief in question was not productive. I have therefore removed the image. Thanks again.

    • Ed Michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      Ed Michaels 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Yes, the figures named as Hatshepsut and Neferure are depicted in alternative guises, that of a goddess and prince, but the basis of the representations remains consistent. Unfortunately, working with Egyptian representations is often tricky--there was a shading in and out of divine/mortal representations, especially among pharaonic images. I will, however, check on this particular images attributions again. Thank you for the heads up.

    • profile image

      Stuart Tyler 

      7 years ago

      The picture labelled "Hatshepsut (center) and her daughter Nefurere (behind her) at Deir el Bahri " is not correct. Here we see a Ramasside depiction of the 19th Dynasty. Neither from Deir el Bahri, nor depicting Hatshepsut and Neferure, nor from the 18th Dynasty. "Hatshepsut" is actually the goddess Hathor and "Neferure" is a young prince. To the far right we have (as per cartouche) something like Ramasses, ruler of (Ianu) Heliopolis.

      I hope this feedback will prove useful to you.



    • Ed Michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      Ed Michaels 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      This essay is from a few years ago when I was taking a class in the History of the Ancient Near East. It was a fun course, and I had fun doing the research and work on this paper.


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