12 Major Facts about Queen Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut – The Egyptian queen regent who went on to become Egypt’s greatest female pharaoh | Image: Statue of Hatshepsut on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Queen Hatshepsut: Quick Facts

  • Father: Thutmose I
  • Mother: Ahmose
  • Birth date: 1507 BCE
  • Husband: Thutmose II
  • Daughter: Neferure
  • Most known for: longest reigning and most successful female pharaoh of Egypt; establishing trade relations; massive construction projects
  • Royal names and epithets: Maatkare (Truth is the Ka of Re), Khnumt-Amun Hatshepsut (“Joined with Amun”, or “Foremost of Noble Ladies”), Wesretkau (Mighty of Kas), Wadjrenput (“Flourishing of years”),
  • Reign: 20 years; from c. 1479 BCE – c. 1458 BCE
  • Dynasty: 5th pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt

The reign of Pharaoh Hatshepsut was said to be one of widespread peace and prosperity. Having ruled Egypt for more than twenty years, Hatshepsut, is credited with wonderful temples, protecting Egypt from foreign invasion, and establishing a very lucrative trading relationship with the Land of Punt in eastern Africa.  Although for centuries her achievements and reign remained hidden, it is widely accepted now that this female pharaoh was undoubtedly one of the most significant women of ancient history. What else was Hatshepsut most known for?

Below is a quick look at 12 major facts about Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh of Egypt whose remarkable reign lasted from around 1479 BCE to 1458 BCE.

Hatshepsut was not Egypt’s first female pharaoh

Hatshepsut is often hailed as ancient Egypt’s greatest pharaoh and one of the most successful pharaohs of all time; however, unbeknownst to many people, Hatshepsut was not the first woman to be crowned pharaoh of Egypt. That honor most likely belongs to a very powerful woman who reigned about three centuries before Hatshepsut. That woman in question was Queen Sobeknefru (c. 1807-1802 BCE), the last Egyptian ruler of the 12th Dynasty of Egypt.

Another very interesting point worth mentioning is that Hatshepsut was not the first female regent to rule Egypt on behalf of a pharaoh that had not yet come of age. According to the ancient texts, we know of at a good number of powerful women that served as regents long before the era of Hatshepsut. Neithhotep, a powerful queen of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt (c. 3150 BCE – c. 2613 BCE), probably ruled Egypt all by herself as regent on behalf of a pharaoh who had not yet attained the age of maturity. Then there were the powerful queens of the New Kingdom era (c. 1550 BCE – 1070 BCE) who at one point in their lives likely served as regents.

Longest reigning ancient Egyptian female pharaoh

Hatshepsut facts |After the death of her husband/brother Thutmose II, she became regent on behalf Thutmose II’s infant son. For reasons unknown to this day, Hatshepsut took the throne and went on to co-rule with her step son, Thutmose III. She was in effect the de facto ruler of the land |Image: A stone statue of Hatshepsut

Not only was she the greatest female pharaoh of ancient Egypt, but Hatshepsut was also the longest-reigning female pharaoh of Egypt, having reigned for more than two decades. Considering the fact that she died around 1458 BCE, she most likely claimed the throne of Egypt around 1428, perhaps when she was in her mid-50s.

In any case, the reign of Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, was one of remarkable progress in all spheres of the Egyptian society. Her reign was described in the ancient texts as an era of order, peace, and economic growth. It is likely that she being a woman ruler meant that she worked very hard, perhaps way harder than some of her male predecessors and successors, in a bid to leave her mark in history.

Hatshepsut’s two-decade or so reign made her a very remarkable and successful female pharaoh of Egypt, making her one of the greatest pharaohs of all time.

Ancient Egypt’s greatest female pharaoh

Regardless of all those powerful Egyptian women that came before her, Hatshepsut was undoubtedly the greatest female ruler of Egypt. Such was her impact that many Egyptologist and scholars reason that she ranks up there with some of the greatest pharaohs of Egypt, like …

In her two-decade reign, Hatshepsut accomplished a number of significant feats, including being the first Egyptian ruler to commission a trade expedition to the Land of Punt. The queen regent turned pharaoh was also one of the great builders of her dynasty, sanctioning the construction of magnificent structures, most notably the two 100-foot-tall obelisks at the Great Temple complex at Karnak, and her grand mortuary temple (the Djeser-Djeseru) at Deir el-Bahari near the west bank of the Nile River. The latter project is generally considered Hatshepsut’s greatest accomplishment.

Read more: 10 Greatest Accomplishments of Pharaoh Hatshepsut

Pharaoh Hatshepsut commissioned statues and sculptors that depicted her as a male

The ancient Egyptians compared to other civilizations were known to grant some bits of rights to women in the society. However, it was far from a bed of roses for women as the glass ceiling was visibly there to stop women from attaining certain positions in the society. A woman becoming a pharaoh was an inconceivable notion, one that bothered on sacrilege at some points. Besides, it was believed that a woman becoming a pharaoh went against the principles of Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of law, order and truth.

Female pharaoh

As one of the few female rulers of ancient Egypt, Hatshepsut took to depicting herself as male with the traditional false beard in order to clear any doubt that she was not a legitimate ruler | Image: Kneeling figure of Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, from Western Thebes, Deir el-Bahari, Egypt, c. 1475 BC. Neues Museum

In keeping up with tradition, she associated herself with many ancient Egyptian deities

The above point explains why Hatshepsut put in a lot of effort to make her reign as legitimate as possible. One of the first things that she did was to commission statues, paintings and sculptors that depicted her with a beard and huge upper body posture. She knew that she had to do way more in terms of putting up magnificent infrastructure and the development of the society in order to convince a relatively conservative upper class society that she being a woman pharaoh was not an insult to the gods.

It is for this reason why she associated herself with Amun, the Egyptian sun god. She also took the title Maatkare, a name which means “Truth is the Soul of the Sun God”. By taking that name, she was honoring both Ma’at and Amun, as well as reassuring everyone in her kingdom that she was truly the human embodiment of the Egyptian gods.

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut’s reign was one of peace and economic growth, coinciding with Egypt’s golden age. Undoubtedly Egypt’s greatest female ruler, she associated herself with gods like Hathor, Knum, Amun and Ma’at in order to communicate her right to rule as a pharaoh | Image: Osirian statues of Hatshepsut at her tomb in Deir el-Bahri

Egypt’s greatest trade expedition

At the peak of her reign, Hatshepsut is believed to have embarked on a very ambitious project that saw her dispatch a team of explorers to the Land of Punt. An ancient African empire located around the Horn of Africa, the land of Punt was famous for its vast trading networks and relations with places in modern-day Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen. Punt’s proximity to the Red Sea was also an added advantage as it facilitated the trade of wild animals, ivory, blackwood, ebony and among other goods.

Keen on laying her hands on some of those exotic goods, Pharaoh Hatshepsut is said to have organized a massive trade expedition to the Land of Punt. The expedition which ranks as one of the most famous trade adventures of the ancient world allowed Egypt to trade in linen, papyrus and grains for Punt’s ebony, wild animals, and all sorts of incense.

Considered one of her most significant accomplishments, the expedition to Punt went a long way in boosting Hatshepsut’s image both domestically and abroad.

She married her half-brother, Thutmose II

According to the ancient text, a 12-year-old Hatshepsut married her step-brother Thutmose II (reign – c. 1493 BCE-1479 BCE) in order to reemphasize the latter’s right to the Egyptian throne following the death of Thutmose I. While Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and his primary wife Ahmose; her step-brother, Thutmose II, was said to be son of Pharaoh Thutmose and one of his minor wives called Mutnofret.

The marriage between Hatshepsut and Thutmose II produced a single child – a daughter called Neferure. As the primary wife of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut’s inability to produce a male heir must have really troubled her. As it was common with Egyptian pharaohs to have multiple secondary wives, Thutmose II and Iset, his secondary wife, gave birth to Thutmose III (i.e. Hatshepsut’s successor).

Enormous attempts were made to remove Hatshepsut’s name from history

Within a few years after Hatshepsut’s death, many sculptures and images of the deceased pharaoh were defaced or vandalized by her successors, particularly by Amenhotep II, Hatshepsut’s  step grandson. It is likely that those pharaohs did so in order to appropriate many of her accomplishments. |Image: A chipped away image of Hatshepsut at the Ancient Egyptian wing of the Royal Ontario Museum

After her death in 1458 BCE, there was a conscious attempt by Hatshepsut’s successors to delete her name from history. Therefore, the question that begs to be answered is: why did Hatshepsut’s successors – like Thutmose III and his son Amenhotep II – work very hard to have her name removed from the annals of history? Those two pharaohs in particular made it a habit of taking down monuments and statues of Hatshepsut.

Some scholars have claimed that Hatshepsut’s immediate successor Thutmose III was peeved about the female queen usurping the throne. However, there exists no evidence to show that Hatshepsut usurped the throne. Clearly, this was far from a case of vengeance; besides there exists no record of Thutmose III trying to overthrow Hatshepsut during her reign. So we can say that it is unlikely that Hatshepsut and her stepson had a frosty relationship.

There is a theory that Hatshepsut’s successors – like Thutmose III and Amenhotep II – removed her monuments simply because they saw it as a way to re-establish the patriarchal system of Egypt. Perhaps Thutmose III wanted to appropriate to himself the magnificent accomplishments chalked during Hatshepsut’s reign. If this theory were to hold, it would explain why considerable efforts were made by Amenhotep II to undermine his step-grandmother’s legacy.

Senenmut, Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s close companion

Owing to the fact that her husband Thutmose II died in his early 30s, rumors of her having affairs with courtiers were probably not uncommon throughout her reign. The name that consistently pops up in the works of early Egyptologists is Senenmut, Hatshepsut’s closest advisor and chief architect.

The question that has puzzled historians for centuries is: Were Senenmut and Pharaoh Hatshepsut lovers? To answer this question, one must take not of the very close relationship that existed between those two Egyptians. It’s long been held that Senenmut played a crucial role in the personal life and reign of the female pharaoh, serving as her chief advisor in matters from construction to governance. Advisor Senenmut likely served as the tutor of Neferure, Hatshepsut’s only child.

However, Senenmut’s meteoric rise to the status of chief advisor to Hatshepsut constantly gets brought up by those who claim that the two were indeed lovers. To this day, however, archeologists and Egyptologists alike have yet to produce any concrete evidence to make the above claim true.

Read More:

Hatshepsut was an avid lover of trees

Very few ancient Egyptian rulers could have claimed to have more knowledge of arboriculture than Pharaoh Hatshepsut. This female pharaoh is said to have given clear instructions to the explorers and foreign diplomats that embarked on the famed expedition to the Land of Punt. One of those instructions was to bring three dozen trees from the Land of Punt. As an avid lover of trees, the pharaoh was certainly delighted when the explorers came back with trees such as myrrh and frankincense.

Also, Hatshepsut must have given the explorers clear instructions on how to care for and maintain those trees while they were being shipped to Egypt. Upon taking receipt of those trees, she is believed to have transplanted them and taken good care of them. It is for this reason why many scholars opine that Hatshepsut was likely the first known arborist of the ancient world.

A skin care lotion ended up killing the female pharaoh

Throughout the history of human beings, carcinogenic-based skin care and beauty medications (i.e. make-ups) have quietly killed leading historical figures, particularly women. Cases in point are Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) and Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Historians generally believe that those two monarchs died due to blood poisoning caused by their prolonged use of lead-based beauty products. | Image: Head of a statue of Hatshepsut

Aside from being leading female monarchs of history, what do Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) and Hatshepsut have in common? Well, they both did not give birth to an heir. In the case of Elizabeth I, the English queen was even childless.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the most striking similarity between those two women, monarchs who lived about three thousand years apart, is that they both died of blood poisoning.

In Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s case, experts reason that the female pharaoh was using a skin care lotion that unbeknownst to her, or for that matter anyone of her time, contained benzo(a)pyrene. Basically, the pharaoh was applying a lethal substance in attempt to remove a skin irritation. It’s likely that the carcinogenic beauty product caused her death around 1458 BCE.  We know this because of the close examination of the contents of a bottle found in her burial chamber.

Hatshepsut’s reign largely remained a secret for centuries

One could say Hatshepsut almost successfully erased her name from history as it was not until the early 18th century CE that archeologist made a startling rediscovery of her reign. After years of hard work, in 1822, archaeologists were able to decipher a set of hieroglyphics at Deir el-Bahari, the magnificent complex of mortuary temples that housed the remains of Hatshepsut and her father Thutmose I. Combined with her tomb that was discovered in 1903, the hieroglyphics pertaining to Pharaoh Hatshepsut gave us a glimpse of who this female pharaoh was, including her remarkable achievements.

Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s mummy

Hatshepsut is often regarded as one of the greatest ancient Egyptian pharaohs. | Image: Hatshepsut mummy

Although Hatshepsut’s tomb was discovered in 1903, it took archeologists and researchers more than a century to find her mummy. The 1903 researchers, led by British archaeologist Howard Carter, also found two empty sarcophagi, one for Hatshepsut and the second for her father Thutmose I. In a separate tomb, Carter and his team found mummies of two women. With one of the mummies confirmed as Hatshepsut’s wet nurse called Sitre-In, researchers worked very hard to find the identity of the other mummy.

Did you knowHoward Carter not only discovered the tomb of Hatshepsut, but also discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in November, 1923?

In 2007, the world was taken aback when news broke out that the famed female pharaoh’s mummy was found. The discovery came kind courtesy of the tooth which was found in Hatshepsut’s box. A team of researchers, led by one of Egypt’s foremost archeologists Zahi Hawass, proceeded to test the tooth. Their discovery was startling, as it showed that the unidentified mummy, which was discovered in 1903, had a missing tooth. It did not take too long for researchers to run some test and find out that the mummy was indeed Hatshepsut’s.

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