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Hatshepsut: Great Pharaoh of Egypt

Updated on May 10, 2014
Hatshepsut  -  Pharaoh
Hatshepsut - Pharaoh | Source
Thutmose I - Father of Hatshepsut and Third Pharaoh 18th Dynasty
Thutmose I - Father of Hatshepsut and Third Pharaoh 18th Dynasty | Source

The Birth of Hatshepsut

When Thutmose I and his principal wife Ahmose had a daughter, no one could have predicted that she would rule Egypt for twenty-two years as pharaoh. She would later claim that her birth was mystical and that her father had named her to be his successor, but the fact that her brother/husband ruled for fourteen years after the death of their father would seem to contradict this claim. Still, she did rule Egypt almost as long as her father and brother combined.

Perhaps in an attempt to justify her rule though being a female, she had it recorded that as her mother Ahmose slept, the great god Amun came to her in the form of her husband, Thutmose I. He woke her with sweet smells and placed an ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life, up to her nose. This was how Hatshepsut was conceived. Next the god Khnum, creator of mortal children, created a body for Hatshepsut and Ahmose was taken by Heqet, goddess of fertility, to a lioness bed and she delivered Hatshepsut likening her to Sekhmet and Bast, both of whom were warrior cat goddesses.

Egyptian Gods from Hatshepsut's Birth Story (each god holds an ankh-symbol of life)
Egyptian Gods from Hatshepsut's Birth Story (each god holds an ankh-symbol of life)
Thutmose II - Hatshepsut's Husband
Thutmose II - Hatshepsut's Husband | Source
Hatshepsut's Daughter Neferure with Senenmut (her tutor and later adviser of Hatshepsut)
Hatshepsut's Daughter Neferure with Senenmut (her tutor and later adviser of Hatshepsut) | Source

Husband and Family

Hatshepsut had three brothers and a sister. Her sister Nefrubity is known to have also been the daughter of her mother Ahmose, while her brother Thutmose II was a half-brother born to her father's secondary wife, Mutnofret. Their brothers Amenmose and Wadjmose are believed to have been born from one of the pharaoh's two wives, but no clear evidence shows which son belongs to which mother. What is known is that both Amenmose and Wadjmose died before their father and therefore never had a chance to assume the throne of Egypt.

When Hatshepsut was twelve, her father died. Her only remaining brother, Thutmose II, assumed the throne and took her as his royal wife. From all appearances, her brother was younger than she was when he became pharaoh and they married. As husband and wife, Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had one child, a daughter named Neferure. Thutmose II also had a secondary wife named Iset and they were the parents of Thutmose III.

Many historians believe that throughout much of her husband's reign, Hatshepsut actually ran the country because he was so young. The support for this theory comes from the fact that little changed when Thutmose II died and Hatshepsut continued running the country as the regent for her late husband's young son.

Thutmose III - Stepson/Nephew of Hatshepsut
Thutmose III - Stepson/Nephew of Hatshepsut | Source

After the death of her husband, his only son by his other royal wife was far too young to assume the throne and run the country. The queen continued her control of Egypt as regent for Thutmose III. This was not unusual as Merneith, of the First dynasty, and Nimaethap, of the Third dynasty, served as regents for their sons. It was also not unheard of for a woman to assume the role of pharaoh out right as both Nitocris, of the Sixth dynasty, and Sobekneferu, from the Twelth dynasty, did this. However, neither of these two women served for more than a few years. Certainly nothing close to the twenty-two years of Hatshepsut. As the principal wife and daughter of Thutmose I, it would have been Hatshepsut's right to rule over that of Iset, the young pharaoh's birth mother. After a few years, however, Hatshepsut took the title of pharaoh and Thutmose III would have to wait until her death to assume the throne.

Goddess Mut
Goddess Mut | Source

Hatshepsut as Pharaoh

As pharaoh, Hatshepsut implemented her own building projects. She used Ineni, the same architect used by her father and husband. Some believe his work dated all the way back to her grandfather Amenhotep I. In the Karnak Temple complex at Thebes, modern day Luxor, she had a temple built for herself, but also had the Precinct of Mut rebuilt. Mut was a great primal goddess, associated with the waters from which the first ground was born, and the wife of Amun. Not much of the temple is still standing today.

Another of her buildings at Karnak is the Chapelle Rouge, or the Red Chapel. The chapel had been torn down, but the pieces were all located and it has been rebuilt at the complex. Its name comes from the color of the red quartzite stone used for the walls. The chapel contains hieroglyphs that depict many of the important events of the pharaoh's life.

The pharaoh also had two obelisks built at the site. The remaining obelisk continues to be the tallest of the ancient obelisks in the world. Its twin was unfortunately broken. In honor of her sixteenth year of reign she had two more obelisks created.

Near Al Minya, the pharaoh had a temple build to honor the goddess Pakhet. It is believed that this cat warrior goddess was a combination of Bast and Sekhmet, two of the goddesses associated with the birth of Hatshepsut. The temple became the home of a great many mummified cats and, as Sekhmet was transformed into Hathor the goddess of love and wife of Horus in the mythology, there were many mummified hawks at the site as well.

Building Projects of Hatshepsut
Building Projects of Hatshepsut

The most famous building project of Hatshepsut is, of course, the Djeser-Djeseru in the Valley of the Kings. This project was built by Senemut, her long time advisor. As the pharaoh's burial chamber it was built on the West Bank of the Nile River. It was a strong belief that all graveyards should be on the west side of a river as it was considered bad luck for the living to build shelter there. Although many later pharaohs wanted to have their burial chambers associated with hers in Beir el-Bahri, Hatshepsut's temple was the first grand building at the location and none have been able to surpass its magnificence. The perfect columns are a testament to the work of Senemut, and it should be noted that it was built a thousand years before the Parthenon in Athens.

Temple of Hatshepsut - Djeser-Djeseru
Temple of Hatshepsut - Djeser-Djeseru | Source
Images showing Hatshepsut's expedition to Punt
Images showing Hatshepsut's expedition to Punt | Source

In addition to her building projects, the pharaoh worked to establish trade with neighboring kingdoms of Egypt. She arranged a trade expedition with Punt. The main import from this land was myrrh. The tree was used as incense, perfume and medicine for some ailments. It was so valued, that the pharaoh had several myrrh trees brought back to Egypt. In addition to trade with Punt, Hatshepsut instigated trade with other nations and built the economy of Egypt to its highest point since the Second Intermediate Period, the Fifteenth through Seventeenth dynasties.

Most of her twenty-two year reign was a time of peace, but that does not mean the pharaoh did not prove her military power. Like her husband before her, she lead successful campaigns in Syria and Nubia. She also battled Levant successfully.

Statue of Senenmut
Statue of Senenmut | Source

Hatshepsut was still a young woman when her husband, Thutmose II, died. To assume that she never took a lover in the remainder of her life would be a mistake. As pharaoh, however, it would have never been possible for her to take another husband. Egyptologists believe that Senenmut eventually became her lover and there is some evidence to support this. Senenmut was born a commoner but eventually became the highest-ranking official in the pharaoh's court. The earliest traces of his association with the royal family appear when he became the steward of the princess Neferure, Hatshepsut's daughter, while Thutmose II was still alive. He would grow in importance when Hatshepsut became pharaoh to the point of becoming her high steward and master builder. While he never married, he is noted to have assisted the pharaoh in every aspect of her rule from building projects to foreign trade. His name and likeness appear in places that no other mere advisor has ever been placed. One additional piece, and perhaps the most telling, comes from a cave where workers, employed by Hatshepsut, carved graffiti of Senenmut and Hatshepsut having sex on the wall. Gossip generally has a great deal of truth to it.

Hatshepsut's Customary Osirian Statue
Hatshepsut's Customary Osirian Statue | Source
Hetshepsut's Mummy
Hetshepsut's Mummy

Hatshepsut's Death

Hatshepsut prepared well for her own death. She abandoned the tomb she started as queen and started on what would become known as KV20. She had her father, Thutmose I, reinterred in her own tomb so that they could be together for eternity. Both would be moved, however, most likely by Amenhotep II who was the son of Thutmose III. Why this was done in not known. It could have been to protect it from tomb robbers or it could have been because he was the pharaoh's son by a secondary wife and to protect his own authority, he continued with his father's campaign to discredit Hatshepsut as pharaoh. Her mummy was found in the tomb of her wet nurse, KV60. Her identity was not immediately known as her cartouche had been removed. While the mummy had the appearance of royalty with the bent left arm, there was nothing to prove who she was. Additional investigation found a canopic jaw inscribed with the pharaoh's name. MRI's of both the mummy and the jaw indicated that a tooth missing from the mummy was inside the jar. This confirmed that the royal mummy was that of Hatshepsut the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty. Examiners believe she had both diabetes and bone cancer that led to her death.

Despite the efforts of her stepson/nephew, Thutmose III, or more likely those of his son, Amenhotep II, to eliminate all traces of her existence, Hatshepsut left such a legacy of her reign that history shows she was a strong independent pharaoh and an even stronger independent woman.

Cartouche of Hatshepsut
Cartouche of Hatshepsut


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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 years ago from Chicago Area

      I recently saw some documentaries (History or Science Channel I think) on this amazing woman. Thanks for sharing her incredible story!


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