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Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh

Roehrig, Catharine H., ed., with Renée Dreyfus and Cathleen A. Keller (2005)

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Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh

Hatshepsut (Hat-shep-soot), the first important female ruler known to history, lived a thousand years after the pyramids were built and seventeen centuries after the Egyptians had begun writing their language in hieroglyphs. She ruled Egypt for two decades (ca. 1473–1458 B.C.) during Egypt's Dynasty 18. Although less familiar to modern audiences than her much later successor, the notorious Cleopatra (51–30 B.C.), Hatshepsut's achievements were far more significant. Ruling first as regent for, then as co-ruler with, her nephew Thutmose III (who ruled for another thirty-three years after her death), Hatshepsut enjoyed a relatively peaceful reign, at the beginning of the New Kingdom. During this time, she restored monuments destroyed during the disruptive Second Intermediate Period, when northern Egypt was controlled by a dynasty of Asian princes and southern Egypt by a dynasty of Egyptians based in Thebes. She renewed trade with western Asia to the east, the far-off land of Punt to the south, and the Aegean Islands to the north. The resulting economic prosperity was reflected in the art of the time, which is characterized by remarkable innovations in sculpture and decorative arts and produced such architectural marvels as Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. For reasons that are still unclear, twenty years after Hatshepsut died her nephew had her statues smashed and her name and image erased from all monuments. In spite of this deliberate destruction, the memory of a female ruler persisted for more than a thousand years. In the third century B.C., an Egyptian priest named Manetho, who was writing a history of Egypt, included a twenty-one year reign for a female pharaoh in early Dynasty 18....