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Maatkare Hatshepsut (c. 1504 BC - 1458 BC) was the fifth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. Many people also regard her as the earliest known queen regnant in history and the first woman to take the title of Pharaoh, though Queen Sobeknefru actually preceded her.

Hatshepsut is generally regarded by modern Egyptologists as one of the most successful Pharaohs. She was one of the most prolific builders in Ancient Egypt, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout Egypt. She also began rebuilding Egypt's trade networks which had been disrupted by the Hyksos occupation of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period.

She is believed to have ruled from 1473 BC to 1458 BC. Josephus quotes Manetho as stating that she reigned 21 years and 9 months, while Africanus (who was also quoting Manetho) states her reign lasted 22 years. Her name is sometimes spelled Hapshepsut, Hatchepsut or Hat-shep-set.



She was the daughter of Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose. Hatshepsut was favored by the Temple of Karnak over her two brothers who did not live into adulthood. She apparently also had a loving relationship with her parents and assumed the prestigious title of god's wife of Amun before either parent died. After the death of her father in 1492 BC she married her half-brother Thutmose II and assumed the title of Great Royal Wife. Thutmose II ruled for only a few years, during which it is believed Hatshepsut exerted tremendous influence. Thutmose II had only two daughters with Hatshepsut, Nefrure and Meritre, but managed to father a male heir, Thutmose III, by a lesser wife named Isis before his death.

As Thutmose III's aunt and stepmother, Hatshepsut was selected to be regent until the boy king came of age. At first it seemed that Hatshepsut was patterning herself after the powerful female regents of Egypt's then recent history, but it soon became apparent that she had only one model in mind, Sobekneferu, the last monarch of the Twelfth dynasty, who ruled in her own right. She took one step further than Sobekneferu and had herself crowned Pharaoh about 1473 BC and took the throne name Maatkare.

As Pharaoh

Here ye, all persons! Ye people as many as ye are! I have done things :according to the design of my heart...
-Inscription at Djeser-Djeseru

Pharaoh was an exclusively male title; at this point in Egyptian history there was no word for a female ruler (the closest equivalent, which was used by Sobeknefru, was King's Wife), thus Queen Hatshepsut became King Hatshepsut. Over time she slowly assumed all of the regalia and symbols of that office with many statues existing that show her in a form that is both feminine and masculine. However after this period of transission ended all depictions of her only showed her in a masculine form. The symbols she wore included the false beard, which was a symbol of Pharaonic power and by wearing it Hatshepsut was asserting her right and position as King or Ruler and not King's Wife or ruler's wife of Egypt. Historians who believe in traditional explanation of Hatshepsut believe her motivation for wearing men's clothing was sexual, however historians who typically believe in the alternative (and more recent theories) concerning Hatshepsut disagree and believe it was merely political.

The wealth of the 18th dynasty – so famous since the discovery of the burial of Tutankhamun – began to be collected under Hatshepsut. She organised for a mission to Punt in her name to buy myrrh, which was said to be her favorite fragrance, and other goods. Although many Egyptologists have claimed that her foreign policy was mainly peaceful, there is evidence that she led a successful military campaign in Nubia and in modern-day Israel and Syria early in her career.

As Pharaoh, Hatshepsut initiated building projects that were grander and more numerous than any of her New Kingdom predecessors. She employed two great architects: Ineni, who had worked for both her husband and father, and her friend and presumed lover the royal steward Senemut. Hatshepsut, like most Pharaohs, had monuments constructed at the Temple of Karnak. She had twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, erected at the entrance to the Temple of Karnak. One still stands today; the other broke in two and toppled centuries ago. Karnak's Red Chapel , or Chapelle Rouge, was intended as a barque shrine and may have originally stood between the two obelisks. She later ordered for two more obelisks to be made to celebrate her 16th year as Pharaoh. However one of the obelisks broke while being made, causing for a third to be made to replace it. The broken obelisk was left in Aswan, where it was made, and where it still lies to this day.


As with most pharaohs, Hatshepsut had a number of names. Her birth name, or nomen, was Hatshepsut, to which she suffixed the epithet Khenmetamun, and prefixed the praenomen, or throne name Maatkare. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, her names are written as shown on the right. The names are technically transliterated as m3t-k3-r ḥ3t-špswt–hnmt-ỉmn, meaning "Mat is the ka-spirit of Ra, Foremost of distinguished women, Joined with Amun".


I have restored that which was in ruins, I have raised up that
which was unfinished since the (invasion of) Asiatics...
-Inscription at Djeser-Djeseru

The masterpiece of her building projects was her mortuary temple complex at Deir el-Bahri. It was designed and implemented by Senemut on a site on the West Bank of the Nile close to the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. The focal point was the Djeser-Djeseru or "the Sublime of Sublimes", a colonnaded structure of perfect harmony nearly one thousand years before the Parthenon. Djeser-Djeseru sits atop a series of terraces that once were graced with gardens. Djeser-Djeseru is built into a cliff face that rises sharply above it. Djeser-Djeseru and the other buildings of the Deir el-Bahri complex are considered to be among the great buildings of the ancient world.


After her death, many of her monuments were defaced or destroyed. Replacing the names on older monuments with one's own was a common practice of Egyptian Pharaohs, but in some cases it was an act of damnatio memoriae -- condemning a person by erasing him or her from recorded existence. The traditional belief among historians is that Thutmose III was responsible; however, researchers such as Charles Nims and Peter Dorman have examined these erasures and found that those which can be dated were done after year 42 of Thutmose's reign. As with many details about Hatshepsut, historians have opposing views on who defaced her monuments. There is also much debate about Thutmose's motivation for removing her name from her the monuments: reasons include resentment for being denied the throne for so long, and/or the belief that a female Pharaoh was against Mat. Egyptologist Donald B. Redford suggests a more sympathetic -- and complex -- motivation, Thutmose's own need to demonstrate his legitimacy; Redford notes that "here and there, in the dark recesses of a shrine or tomb where no plebeian eye could see, the queen's cartouche and figure were left intact ... which never vulgar eye would again behold, still conveyed for the king the warmth and awe of a divine presence."


As part of her propaganda, Hatshepsut created some myths to help legitimize her rule.

Divine Conception

This myth has Ammon-Re going to Ahmose in the form of Thutmose I and wakening her with pleasant odors at which point he places the ankh (key of life) to her nose and then she conceives Hatshepsut. Khnum is then instructed to create a body and ka which is to be Hatshepsut's. Khnum and Heket then lead Ahmose along to a lion bed where she gives birth to Hatshepsut..

Further reading

  • Joyce Tyldesley, Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh, Penguin Books, 1998, paperback, 270 pages, ISBN 0140244646
  • Evelyn Wells, Hatshepsut, Double Day, 1969, hardback, 211 pages


See also

External link

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