CAIRO: Although the concept of monarchy in ancient Egypt was traditionally limited to males, a woman progressed from the role of co-regent to pharaoh and was a forerunner of such figures as Cleopatra.
Hatshepsut (1479 B.C.-1458 B.C,) whose name means “her majesty,” was the first female Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. She was the 5th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (1580B.C.-1080B.C.) archaeologist Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post.
“The way to become a Pharaoh in ancient Egypt was not only being the deceased pharaoh’s eldest son, you also became a Pharaoh by getting married to the right woman of pure royal blood flowing through her veins,” said Sabban.
Being the sole royal blood child of the 18th-dynasty king Thutmose I and his wife Queen Ahmose Nefertari, Hatshepsut was married to her half brother Thutmose II whose mother was one of Thutmose I’s wives, former Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities Abdel Halim Nour el-Din told The Cairo Post Thursday.
There were three possible relationships a woman could have with the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt; the first is the “Great Wife.”
“There is always one Great wife as the pharaoh could have plenty of wives and concubines,” said Nour el-Din adding that all the children from the Great Wife and the Pharaoh were the royals.
The second possible relationship was as a wife who lived in the harem and can have all kinds of legal and property rights while the third is a concubine who was also an important woman in the royal court and her children from the Pharaoh could also ascend the throne in ancient Egypt, according to Nour el-Din.
“A Pharaoh becomes one by getting married to the great wife’s daughter,” he said, adding that when Thutmose I died, he had a royal legitimate heir to the throne of Egypt; his son Thutmose I, but not by the great wife.
He also had a daughter by the Great Wife: Hatshepsut. So Thutmose II married the 12 year-old Hatshepsut and became a Pharaoh.
“The then-20-year-old Pharaoh Thutmose II and Queen Hatshepsut were married for over 20 years during which Hatshepsut; who had an eye over the throne of Egypt, learnt a lot. During the 20 years marriage, they had a daughter,” said Nour el-Din.
Thutmose II died leaving a daughter from his marriage to the Hatshepsut and a 7-year-old son named Thutmose III but from a secondary wife, said Nour el-Din.
“So the widow Queen Hatshepsut became regent of Egypt and decided to rule for a while until the legitimate infant Pharaoh Thutmose III grew up and could rule by himself,” he added.
A major and unique temple in her honor was built at Deir el-Bahri on the west bank of Luxor where scenes of her “divine birth”, supporting her legitimate right to be the ruler of Egypt, are to be seen at the western wing of the three-story temple, tour guide Magdy Abdel Mohsen told The Cairo Post Thursday.
“She depicted herself, in detailed scenes, as a result of the divine marriage between God Amun and her mother Queen Ahmose Nefertari. After a few years of ruling Egypt as a co-regent, Queen Hatshepsut proclaimed herself as Pharaoh. The boy was kept away from the court, and was sent off to join the army where he grew up,” Abdel Mohsen said.
Statues were erected and scenes were carved of the Queen depicted wearing all royal features of pharaohs including the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, the royal headdress, the uraeus [Cobra] on her forehead and also the ceremonial beard, he added.
Hatshepsut was not interested in military campaigns but was most proud of sending trade expeditions to neighboring African areas including the “land of Punt (probably modern Eritrea or Somalia) through the Red Sea,” according to Abdel Mohsen.
The trade expedition to Punt was the first depiction of sub-Saharan Africa in the history of mankind, he said, adding that it was “an anthropological expedition and the scenes at her temple show the houses of Punt along with accurate details and carvings of Egyptian workers loading boats with goods including ivory, incense and frankincense.”
Queen Hatshepsut was also known for erecting obelisks, some of which still stand at the ancient Egyptian temples in Luxor while some others are scattered in squares all over the world.
After her death, her monuments, names and statues were deliberately defaced and demolished apparently by her co-ruler and step-son/nephew Thutmose III, according to Nour el-Din.
“Her mummy was discovered in one of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings west of Luxor in 1895 and was left their unidentified until it was brought to the Egyptian museum for examination in June 2007. Evidences indicated the Queen has suffered diabetes and died from bone cancer in her mid-50s,” he added.