Hatshepsut: How She Became a Female Pharaoh of Egypt

How Did She Become a Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt?

Hatshepsut as King, Offering Food to the God Horus
Hatshepsut as King, Offering Food to the God Horus: Image from the Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor, Egypt. Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

Hatshepsut was a pharaoh (ruler) of Egypt, one of very few women to hold that title. A major temple in her honor was built at Deir el-Bahri (Dayru l-Bahri) near Thebes. We know Hatshepsut mostly through references to her during her lifetime that were meant to reinforce her power. We don't have the sort of personal biographical material that we might have for more recent women of history: letters from the woman herself or from those who knew her, for instance.

She was lost from history for many years, and scholars have had different theories about when to date her reign.

Hatshepsut was born about 1503 BCE. She reigned from about 1473 to 1458 BCE (the dates are not certain).  She was part of the Eighteenth Dynasty, New Kingdom.

Family

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and Ahmose. Thutmose I was the third pharaoh in Egypt's 18th Dynasty, and was likely the son of Amenhotep I and Senseneb, a minor wife or concubine. Ahmose was the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose I; she may have been a sister or daughter of Amenhotep I. Three children, including Hapshetsup, are associated with her.

Hatshepsut married her half-brother Thutmose II, whose father was Thutmose I and mother was Mutnofret. As Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut bore him one daughter, Neferure, one of three known offspring of Thutmose II. Thutmose II

Thutmose III, son of Thutmose II and a minor wife, Iset, became the Pharaoh on the death of Thutmose II, who ruled for about 14 years.

Thutmose III was likely very young (estimated between 2 and 10 years old), and Hatshepsut, his stepmother and aunt, became his regent.

Hatshepsut as King

Hatshepsut claimed, during her reign, that her father had intended her to be a co-heir with her husband. She gradually assumed the titles, powers and even the ceremonial clothing and beard of a male Pharaoh, claiming legitimacy through a divine birth, even calling herself a "female Horus." She was formally crowned as king in about year 7 of her co-reign with Thutmose III.

Senenmut, the Advisor

Senenmut, an architect, became a key advisor and powerful official under the reign of Hatshepsut. The relationship between Hatshepsut and Senenmut is debated; he was given unusual honors for a palace official. He died before the end of her reign and was not buried in the tombs (2) which had been built for him, leading to speculation on his role and his fate.

Military Campaigns

The records of Hatshepsut's reign claim that she led military campaigns against several foreign lands including Nubia and Syria. The mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri records a trading expedition in Hatshepsut's name to Punt, a legendary land thought by some to be Eritrea and argued by others to be Uganda, Syria, or other lands. This trip was dated to the 19th year of her rule.

Thutmose III's Rule

Thutmose III eventually became sole Pharaoh, presumably on the death of Hatshepsut when she was 50 years old. Thutmose III was general of the army before Hatshepsut's disappearance. Thutmose III is probably responsible for the destruction of many of Hatshepsut's statues and images, at least 10 and probably 20 years after she died.  

Scholars have debated how Hatshepsut died.

Finding Hatshepsut's Mummy

In June 2007, the Discovery Channel and Dr. Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced a "positive identification" of a mummy as Hatshepsut's, and a documentary, Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen.  

Egyptologist Dr. Kara Cooney was also involved in the documentary. Many of these details are still being debated by scholars.

Places: Egypt, Thebes, Karnak, Luxor, Deir el-Bahri (Deir el Bahari, Dayru l-Bahri)

Hatshepsut also known as: Hatchepsut, Hatshepset, Hatshepsowe, Queen Hatshepsut, Pharaoh Hatshepsut

Bibliography

  • Cooney, Kara.  The Woman Who Would Be King. 2014. 
  • Robins, Gay. Women in Ancient Egypt. 1993. 
  • Tyldesley, Joyce. Hatchepsut, the Female Pharaoh. 1996. 
  • Andronik, Catherine M., and Fiedler, Joseph Daniel. Hatshepsut, His Majesty, Herself. 2001. Ages 9-12.
  • Carter, Dorothy Sharp; illustrated by Michele Chessare. His Majesty, Queen Hatshepsut. 1987. Young Adult. 
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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Hatshepsut: How She Became a Female Pharaoh of Egypt." ThoughtCo, Nov. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/hatshepsut-biography-3524878. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, November 19). Hatshepsut: How She Became a Female Pharaoh of Egypt. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hatshepsut-biography-3524878 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Hatshepsut: How She Became a Female Pharaoh of Egypt." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hatshepsut-biography-3524878 (accessed November 23, 2017).