Queens of Ancient Egypt Historians and archaeologists have studied ancient Egyptian civilisation for more than 200 years. Although many fascinating discoveries have been made, not all is known about Ancient Egypt and therefore some aspects of its history are based on surmised interpretations and occasionally incomplete factual evidence. When discussing the role, contribution and significance of the ruling queens of Ancient Egypt, it is important to note the bias that authors/scribes placed on most historical documents of this ancient period.

Women, especially those of the Royal court and family, do appear in many Egyptian documents and inscriptions. However, only men in Egyptian society could become scribes and therefore male bias can make it difficult to investigate precise details of the lives of women. Through the study of documents, inscriptions and tombs, combined with the latest scientific techniques a picture of the life of the Egyptian women can take shape. Royal Women were generally regarded as the equals of their male counterparts, with many queens enjoying great influence and prestige over the men and their kingdom.

One such queen was Tetisheri, who maintained political influence over the ruling men of the 17th Dynasty of Thebes. Tetisheri was the commoner wife of the pharaoh Sequnenre Tao I who reigned during Hyksos occupation in the north, during 1594-1592. Her role in life was to raise the warriors of the Royal family who would eventually oust the Asiatics from the Delta. She was named “mother of the New Kingdom” because of her influence over its founders, her son Sequenenre Tao II and grandsons; Kamose and Ahmose, with the latter uniting who Egypt under one ruler and completing the liberation of Egypt through the expulsion of the Hyksos.

Not a lot is known about Tetisheri. However, we can assume she had great influence over her male relatives, especially Ahmose I, who, according a stela at Karnak, granted her a great estate and tomb with priests and servants to conduct mortuary rituals in her honour. Along with this, a cenotaph was made for her at Abydos. Although her contribution seems to be small, it appears obvious that this Queen held great emotional and spiritual ties within her family, allowing for a strong support network within the royal community- a necessary union for success against the Hyksos.

The next queen after Tetisheri was her daughter, Ahhotep. Her role, as the King’s Great wife”, was to produce heirs for her husband and King, Sequenre Tao II. She had two sons: Kamose (the son who took the first successful stand against the Hyksos) and Ahmose (whom dealt the final blow to Hyksos occupation in Egypt and united Upper and Lower Egypt) However, after the death of both her husband and eldest son, who had both fallen in battle against the Hyksos, Ahhotep ruled as regent for her son Ahmose, who at the time was obviously too young to be Pharaoh.

During this turbulent period, when the nation’s kings were engaged and eventually died in a protracted war of liberation, Ahhotep rallied the Egyptian Troops. Some evidence supports the idea that she may have personally directed the army. According to a stele at Amun-re Temple at Karnak, erected in her honour by her surviving son King Ahmose, “she is the one who has accomplished the rites and cared for Egypt; she has looked after Egypt’s troops and she has guarded them; she has brought back the fugitives and collected the deserters.

She has pacified Upper Egypt and expelled her rebels. ” Ahhotep was obviously a talented ruler/regent who played a significant political role in the pacification of rebellions of Upper Egypt and therefore safeguarded the south against further difficulties. Her significance to the 18th Dynasty and the success of her husband and son’s campaign against the Hyksos is evident in her gilded coffin and mummy, which were found in the 19th century.

Amongst her jewellery, which is one of the greatest treasures in the Cairo museum, a number of significant items were discovered which point to her status as a queen of great strength of character and political influence. A gold pendant with three large golden flies or the “fly of Valour” was found in her coffin. The ‘Golden Fly’, during the New Kingdom, was a symbol of great bravery and courage and this honorific award was given only for excellence in military service.

This shows Ahhotep’s military prowess and the values that were placed on her successful control of Upper Egypt, keeping the land stable while the kings were away fighting. Further evidence of the importance of her regency is seen through Ahmose’s ceremonial axe and dagger, which were also part of Ahhotep’s funerary equipment. The bronze axe, which on one side depicts Ahmose with Montu (a Theban god of war) and on the other shows the king as a sphinx holding the head of an enemy with symbols of both Upper and Lower Egypt, was of obvious importance to Ahmose as it showed him as a great ruler and conqueror of the Hyksos.

The fact that this axe sits in his mother’s tomb demonstrates the significance that Ahmose put on the relationship between himself and his mother, as though dedicating his victory to her, recognising her contribution to maintaining harmony and stability while the royal men were at war, thus letting her share the glory. The daughter of Ahhotep and Sequenre Tao II, Ahmose-Nefertari, became the next queen of Egypt. Her role was to produce the heir of her husband and half brother the King Ahmose, to whom she had six children, one being the eventual successor, Amenhotep I.

Ahmose-Nefertari was never a regent and so therefore never ruled by herself, however she was an influential queen with great political and religious titles. Ahmose-Nefertari had great religious status, which can generally be associated with the rise to pre-eminence of the god, Amun Re, at the time of her husband’s reign. According to the Donation stele at Karnak, her husband Ahmose bestowed the title of “God’s Wife of Amun” upon her, and although the exact duties of this title are not known it carried enormous status.

The stele explains that the title, previously held by the high priestess of Amun, whose marriage to the god was believed to have ensured the continuation of the work of creation, granted an endowment of goods and land together with the office, which would stay with her and her heirs for all eternity. Through the Harem of Amun, a body of priestesses and singers/musicians to which high-ranking women belonged; Ahmose-Nefertari received treasures and supplies of grain in her position as “God’s Wife of Amun”.

Her female descendents were entitled to inherit this position and all its wealth and power. The title of “God’s Wife” gave Ahmose-Nefertari great capacity to present gifts to the gods, with listed ritual offerings dedicated by queens and kings to temples at Karnak, Abydos, Deir-el-Bahri, and Serabit-el-Kadim in Sinai, demonstrating her commitment outdid any other royal, chronologically and numerically. This evidence tells us that her involvement in the cult of Amun allowed her to contribute to the buildings, rituals and the dedication of ritual objects to Amun.

Further evidence of her priestly role can be seen at the limestone quarries opposite Memphis and the alabaster quarries of Assuit, where her name is displayed. A stele at Abydos shows her involvement in the kings building projects. It appears that when King Ahmose planned to build a cenotaph to his grandmother, Tetisheri, he first gained approval from the “god’s Wife of Amun”, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari. Her importance continued after the death of her husband and son, whom she survived, as Thutmose I held her in high esteem and set up a statue of her in the temple at Karnak.

Her significance in terms of religious status can been seen after her death. It was rare, but not unheard of, for the ancient Egyptians to deify eminent individuals from the past. The king himself was considered a god to some extent, particularly after his death, but occasionally a local cult might grow up around a ruler in addition to his official funerary cult. He would then be worshipped as a patron deity in a more unusual way. Ahmose-Nefertari, along with her son Amenhotep I, were worshipped as the protective deities of the necropolis and the founders of Deir-el-Medina.

Her cult continued there throughout the New Kingdom. One of the most famous and controversial rulers of Ancient Egypt was the Pharaoh/Queen Hatshepsut who was to follow her mother, Ahmose as queen. Hatshepsut was the only surviving child of Thutmose I and his great wife, Ahmose. Her husband and half brother, Thutmose II, was the son by a lesser wife of Thutmose I. During Thutmose II reign, Hatshepsut titles were the typical ones for the principal wife of a pharaoh- “King’s Daughter, Kings sister, Gods Wife and King’s Great Wife. ” She performed these roles in a dutiful way and had a daughter Neferure by Thutmose.

However, upon the pharaoh’s death and with the future pharaoh Thutmose III too young to rule, as was customary the former queen became regent. ‘An inscription in the tomb of a noble, Ineni, who was Overseer of the granaries of Amun, explained the situation: When King Thutmose II appeared in heaven and rejoined the gods, his son took his place as king of Two Lands, and he was prince upon the throne of his father’s. His sister, the royal wife Hatshepsut, discharged the office of regent of the land. ” [1] However, during her regency, when

Thutmose was nearing manhood and therefore could make Hatshepsut step aside and allow him to rule alone, Hatshepsut crowned herself as pharaoh, changing her titles from” King’s Great Wife” to “King” and bestowing her previous titles upon her young daughter. Thutmose III and Hatshepsut now ruled in a dyarchy, “having taken the unusual step of proclaiming herself as pharaoh, Hatshepsut set out to legitimise her rule- just as many of the earlier male pharaohs had done. She could argue that she bore more royal blood in her veins then Thutmose III, but this obviously was not enough. [2] Hatshepsut appears to have gradually taken on the characteristics of a male pharaoh in portraits in order to justify her rule. Earlier statues show Hatshepsut as delicate, with an obviously female figure, while later statues present her in full pharaonic regalia, wearing the traditional pharaoh’s headdress, shown with a beard, and as a typical warrior-pharaoh in the guise of a sphinx. She argued that her father, Thutmose, chose her as the actual successor to the throne (of course ignoring the reign of her half-brother Thutmose II) and carved scenes of her coronation ceremony into the Middle Colonnade at Deir el-Bahri.

This may have been a very bold piece of propaganda put forward by Hatshepsut to secure her place on the throne. Many of the reliefs are badly damaged. However, evidence shows that she received various headdresses from the gods and later stands before Amun, wearing the double-crown of the two lands of Egypt and holding the crook and flail. Here Thutmose I states: “This is my daughter, Khnumt Amen Hatshepsut, living I put her in my place as she is on my throne; henceforth she will be sitting on the staircase…listen to her words, and submit to her commands.

Whoever praises her will live; but he who speaks evil against Her Majesty, he will die…let divine honours be conferred upon my royal daughter, for all the gods fight for her, they give up their protection. ”[3] Not only does Hatshepsut claim that she is the heir of her father, but she also claims that she was the physical daughter of the god, Amun. At Deir el- Bahri, reliefs show Amun, in the shape of Thutmose I, sitting opposite queen Ahmose and giving her the ankh- the sign of life. The next scene shows Amun calling on Khnum, the ram-headed creator god, after leaving the Queen. Khnum will shape the child and her ka. )“I will shape for you your daughter. Her form shall be more exalted than the gods, in her great dignity of King of Upper and Lower Egypt. ”[4]And after Hatshepsut is “made’, the goddess, Hathor, shows her to Amun and “his heart was exceedingly pleased. ”[5] Through propaganda and portrayal of herself as a male pharaoh, Hatshepsut was seen as the undisputed ruler with her subjects and court officials happy with the current situation in Egypt. She now had the power, control and ability to do what she liked and what she had planned was very ambitious. The divine consort, Hatshepsut, settles the affairs of the two lands by her plans. Egypt was to labour with bowed heads for her, the excellent seed of the gods. ” Building programs- “divine power will be restored- the queen of Egypt is capable of great things. ”[6] Previous kings of Egypt were too preoccupied with war and the logistics of battle to create a solid building campaign. As her reign was one of peace and prosperity, Hatshepsut was able to pursue a very active building program.

Her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri was the first temple to be created after the turmoil and showed not only beautiful carvings and monuments of Hatshepsut’s reign, but also served as a great political device and achievement. The temple, Djeser Djeseru, was designed by Senmut, the architect, who was an extremely important official and member of Hatshepsut’s successful reign. It is a three-terraced building with porticoes, and includes chapels to the gods- Hathor, Anubis, Ra-Horakhte, and Amun-Ra. Her temple was filled with many beautiful scenes of her rule and achievements that gave testament to her kingship.

Hatshepsut also created new areas to the grand temple at Karnak, which was the major temple of Amun-Re. She maintained the established tradition of adding to this temple by creating four enormous obelisks to Amun, various chambers, and the ‘Red Chapel’. Her two obelisks, which remain at Karnak, with one lying on its side, depict scenes carved on the lower colonnade of Deir el-Bahri, where their transportation by barges on the Nile is shown. A relief on the several fragmentary blocks at Karnak show the Queen presenting her monuments to Amun. She made these her monuments for her father’s moon, Lord of Thebes presiding over Karnak. Making for two obelisks of enduring from the south. These summits of electrum, the best of any country, are seen on both sides of the river. ”[7]- Hatshepsut, as recorded on the base of the obelisk that still stands. Along with these achievements Hatshepsut also erected a small temple at Buhen and one at Medinet Habu, while inscriptions at the fortress of Western Thebes, shows Hatshepsut, with Thutmose III behind her, worshipping Amun-Re. It mentions that she made repairs to the fortress of the necropolis of Western Thebes.

A lot of the evidence about Hatshepsut’s building program is extremely sketchy, as so much of her work was later altered or damaged, making it difficult to make an accurate assessment of her complete works and changes. Much of the building program expressed devotion to Amun and the gods, with the stone buildings and obelisks a constant reminder of her power as pharaoh and a reflection of the general prosperity of her reign. Military Campaigns- “ O my beloved daughter, Mistress of the Two Lands, Mistress of the Ritual, Hatshepsut.

I give you all strength, all might, all lands and every hill country crushed beneath your sandals like Re. ”[8] Although Hatshepsut’s reign is documented as one of peace and prosperity, many historians have concluded that Hatshepsut was a pacifist- perhaps on the assumption that she is female and therefore would not pursue military achievements. However fragmentary evidence points to several campaigns, and an inscription at Spers Artemido shows Hatshepsut emphasising her military role by upgrading the army and by portraying herself as the traditional warrior-pharaoh sphinx.

Although the reasons for the campaigns are never stated, perhaps Hatshepsut once again felt the insecurities being a female pharaoh and therefore wished to prove herself as a warrior for her people; the fact remains that they did happen and some mention direct involvement by the so-called ‘pacifist’ queen. The Deir el-Bahri wall on the eastern colonnade describes a campaign against the peoples of Nubia, where a Nubian god is depicted bringing the queen a series of captive nations of places, each represented by a cartouche surmounted by a Negro head.

The broken blocks at Karnak states: ‘Hatshepsut who makes excellent laws and divine plans, who comes forth from the god, who commands what happens…the Asiatics being in fear and the land of Nubia into submission” while the Punt relief claims that “she has no enemies among the southerners and no opponents among the Northerners…They come to her with a heart full of fear; their chiefs are bowing down; their presents are on their backs; they carry to her their children. Both pieces of evidence show Hatshepsut’s military achievements while the army was under the command of her stepson Thutmose III. However, some sources show direct evidence of Hatshepsut actually leading her troops into battle and collecting treasure. The Stela of Djehuty, states that he saw the queen on the battlefield collecting booty, while the graffito of Ty, the treasurer of Egypt, at Sehel Island says “I followed the good god, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ka-ma-re, given life. I saw him overthrowing the Nubian nomads, their chiefs being brought to him as prisoners.

I saw him destroying the Land of Nubia, while I was in the following of his Majesty. ” Hatshepsut, through her military campaigns, projects herself as protector of Egypt and its borders and a capable ruler to suppress any foreigner who may wish to rebel. Trade- Hatshepsut’s pride was in the internal development of Egypt and the peaceful prosperity of the time. However in order to maintain her building programs, providing raw materials and being able to afford rations to pay for the workforce involved, she had to promote trade with foreign lands.

Although inscriptions at the tomb of Thutiy point to materials being brought from the south and the northeast, indicating an expansion in trade during the time, most of the evidence promotes the trading expedition to Punt. Expeditions had already been made to Punt by previous Pharaohs, however no details were left and most of the Land of Punt remained mythical. Hatshepsut therefore took great pride in the expedition, and obviously regarded it as one of her major achievements, recording it at Deir el-Bahri, opposite the scenes of her divine birth. The expedition was extremely bold and needed careful organization.

A 600-mile journey south on the Red Sea was a great adventure, opening up further trade between Egypt and inner Africa. The trip appears to have gone ‘without a hitch’, with the exchange of goods-such as monkey, panthers, ebony, gold and importantly- incense, myrrh and frankincense trees, which were vital in the religious aspects of Egypt. Although the trade between the two sides appears to be satisfactory for both, propaganda on Hatshepsut’s monuments claim that that the items exchanged were tribute equating to a successful military campaign with defeated enemies paying tribute to the victors.

Hatshepsut, after recording the items exchanged, dedicates the best of the produce from Punt to Amun “The King himself, King of upper and Lower Egypt, Ramaka takes the good things of Punt, and the valuables of the Divine Land, presenting the gifts of the southern countries, the tributes of the vile Kush, the boxes (of gold and precious stones) of the land of the Negroes to Amun-Ra, the lord of the throne of the two lands”[9] The trading expeditions could only have been successfully carried out by a prosperous, well-governed country, once more testament to Hatshepsut’s power and contribution as ruler of Egypt.

Hatshepsut’s reign was significant as it highlighted a period of peace and prosperity for Egypt. She re-established the economic base of Egypt after years of the expulsion of the Hyksos and the expansion of Egypt. She added and restored temples to the gods and re-established religious emphasis by doing so. She encouraged agriculture and trade, while the arts, especially in terms of architecture flourished- as evidenced by her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri and the two obelisks at Karnak.

During her reign, she somehow managed to maintain Egypt’s stability, power and wealth without launching extreme military campaigns and went on to make notable contributions to society. “Those who shall see my monuments in future years and shall speak of what I have done, Beware, of saying it did not happen nor say it was a boast, but rather say How worthy of her father. ”[10]-Hatshepsut Had she been a man, Hatshepsut would surely be remembered for all these great accomplishments; instead a ruthless campaign was launched to erase her name and achievements from history.

Most of her monuments were either destroyed or usurped, her portraits were defaced and her name was omitted from the official “King’s List. ” Divine order had been upset, as it was not traditional for a woman to rule and therefore her descendents, namely Thutmose III, set about restoring maat. Many historians believe that he acted out of spite for his elongated wait for his rightful inheritance. However, evidence from later periods in Egypt suggests a change in religion.

The kings had begun to worship god’s another than Amun Re, which caused mass destruction of monuments, such as Hatshepsut’s, dedicated to Amun. Whether it was a stepson’s revenge or the development of a new religious emphasis, we can only hypothesise. Interestingly, it was Thutmose himself, who seemed to benefit the most from Hatshepsut’s rulership, as he inherited a prosperous, well governed country that had a maintained army, making his future campaigns successful. Bibliography ‘Ancient Egypt’ L.

Oakes and L. Gahlin, Hermes House, London, 2002 Video-“Hatshepsut: The Queen who would be King” Discovery School, Marcom Projects Pty Ltd, Australia, 2002 “Studies in Ancient Egypt: Periods and Personalities. ” J. Lawless (ed) et. al, Thomas Nelson Australia Pty Ltd. Melbourne, 2000 “Studies in Ancient Egypt. ” D. Hennessy (ed. Thomas Nelson Australia Pty. Ltd, Melbourne, 1993 “Ancient Egypt: Reconstructing the past. ” Pamela Bradley Cambridge University Press, Australia 1999 www. touregypt. net http://www. philae. nu/akhet/Queens. html ———————– [1] J. Lawless, K. Cameron, G. Kenworthy, “Studies in Ancient Egypt: Periods and Personalities”, pg 83 [2] D.

Hennessy, “Studies in Ancient Egypt”, pg 123 [3] J. Lawless, K. Cameron, G. Kenworthy, “Studies in Ancient Egypt: Periods and Personalities”, pg 87 [4] Ibid. pg 86 [5] D. Hennessy, “Studies in Ancient Egypt”, pg 128 [6] Discovery School, “Hatshepsut: The Queen who would be King” (Video) [7] Ibid. [8] J. Lawless, K. Cameron, G. Kenworthy, “Studies in Ancient Egypt: Periods and Personalities”, pg 93. [9] D. Hennessy, “Studies in Ancient Egypt”, pg 128 [10] Discovery School, “Hatshepsut: The Queen who would be King” (Video)

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