Thursday, March 20, 2008

History Bite: Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut (lived in 15th century) was the eldest daughter of Thutmose I, ruler of the 18th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) of Ancient Egypt. The Middle Kingdom has been noted by scholars to perhaps be the most progressive culturally, socially and artistically in the legacy of this great civilization. Under Thutmose I, Egyptians were able to re-conquer Nubia and reassert their power of neighbouring Palestine and Syria. Upon the death of Thutmose I, his son Thutmose II succeeded him as ruler of Egypt. As pharaonic tradition dictated the great pharaoh was to marry his eldest sister, thus Thutmose married his half-sister, Hatshepsut.

Thutmose II was very ill however. Thutmose II and Hatshepsut co-ruled the Egyptian lands until his death in 1479 BC. His youngest brother, Thutmose III, who was son of Thutmose I and a concubine then ascended to the throne. Thutmose III had been married to the daughter of Hatshepsut by Thutmose II prior to his death. At the time Thutmose III was barely a child, thus Hatshepsut saw this as an opportunity to rise into a position of power and so she did.

In 1473 BC. she crowned herself as pharaoh of Egypt, a position in which she reigned marvelously until 1458 BC. Hatshepsut played the part of pharaoh formidably, even taking on the regalia of pharaohs before her with a false beard and crown. She erected iconographic images of herself as her predecessors, as the son of god.

Under her rule Egypt peaked in its glory. She led a very peaceful reign that was marked by great construction projects such as the projects in Luxor and Karnack, two vital cities to the heart of Egyptian culture and achievement at the time. However her greatest accomplishment may just be her ability to act as a peaceful ambassador of the Egyptian lands, as while ruling she led a large-scale mission to Punt, a country to the south of Egypt that had not been tapped for any of its natural resources.

Thutmose III ruled alone for 33 years after over throwing Hatshepsut in 1458 BC. Suspicion is that he was aggravated and very peeved at her and may have had her killed or hidden in exhale, though it is not certain. Thutmose III ordered the destruction of her face from many monuments and sculptures; he literally tried to de-face her from history.

However her legacy far succeeds his accomplishments. Her funerary temple at Deir el Bahri is a masterpiece in Egyptian architecture, under the steady hand of her court architect, Senmut. This temple is an immortalization of her expedition to Punt with a series of massive landscaped terraces and an abundance of magnificent singular pieces of craftsmanship.

She was a woman of intelligence, strength and vigor and held the power to rule as a man in a time where women were not often permitted to rise to the privilege of pharaoh.

In 2007 archeologists claimed to have found her mummified body in the Valley of the Kings. They placed a relic tooth that had been associated with Hatshepsut in the mouth of the mummy and it fit perfectly. But it is un-confirmed if this is actually the body of this great Queen-Pharaoh. If this is actually her body it would be the greatest find in archeology since the tomb of Tutankhamen.
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