Pharaoh Hatshepsut of Egypt Biography

A Rare Female Pharaoh of the New Kingdom in Egypt

Pharaoh Hatshepsut making an offering to Horus.
Pharaoh Hatshepsut making an offering to Horus.

Hatshepsut (Hatshepsowe), one of the rare women pharaohs of Egypt, had a long and successful reign marked by remarkable building projects and lucrative trading expeditions. She campaigned in Nubia (perhaps not in person), sent a fleet of ships to the land of Punt, and had an impressive temple and mortuary complex built in the Valley of the Kings.

Hatshepsut was the half-sister and wife of Thutmose II (who died after only a few years on the throne). Hatshepsut's nephew and stepson, Thutmose III, was in line for the throne of Egypt, but he was still young, and so Hatshepsut took over.

Being a woman was an obstacle, although a Middle Kingdom female pharaoh, Sobekneferu/Neferusobek, had ruled before her, in the 12th dynasty, so Hatshepsut had precedent.

After her death, but not immediately. her name was erased and her tomb destroyed. The reasons continue to be debated.



Dates and Titles

Hatshepsut lived in the 15th century B.C. and ruled in the early part of the 18th Dynasty in Egypt -- the period known as the New Kingdom. The dates of her rule are variously given as 1504-1482, 1490/88-1468, 1479-1457, and 1473-1458 B.C. (according to Joyce Tyldesley's Hatchepsut). Her reign dates from the start of Thutmose III, her stepson, and nephew, with whom she was co-regent.

Hatshepsut was pharaoh or king of Egypt for about 15-20 years. The dating is uncertain. Josephus, quoting Manetho (the father of Egyptian history), says her reign lasted about 22 years. Before becoming pharaoh, Hatshepsut had been Thutmose II's main or Great Royal Wife. She had not produced a male heir, but he did have sons by other wives, including Thutmoses III.


Hatshepsut was the oldest daughter of Tuthmose I and Aahmes. She married her half-brother Thutmose II when their father died. She was the mother of Princess Neferure.

Other Names

  • Wosretkau
  • Maat-ka-re
  • Khnemetamun Hatshepsut

Feminine or Masculine Appearance of Hatshepsut

A fascinating New Kingdom ruler, Hatshepsut is depicted in a short kilt, a crown or head cloth, a collar and a false beard (Tyldesley, p.130 Hatchepsut). One limestone statue shows her without a beard and with breasts, but usually, her body is masculine. Tyldesley says a childhood depiction presents her with male genitalia. The pharaoh seems to have appeared female or male as need dictated. The pharaoh was expected to be a male in order to maintain the right order of the world -- Maat. A female upset this order. Besides being male, a pharaoh was expected to intervene with the gods on behalf of the people and be fit.

Hatshepsut's Athletic Skill

Wolfgang Decker, an expert on sport among the ancient Egyptians, says that at the Sed festival, pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, made a circuit of the pyramid complex of Djoser. The pharaoh's run had 3 functions: to demonstrate the pharaoh's fitness after 30 years in power, to make a symbolic circuit of his territory, and to symbolically rejuvenate him.
[Source: Donald G. Kyle. Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World]

It is worth noting that the mummified body, thought to be that of the female pharaoh, was middle-aged and obese.

Deir El-bahri (Deir El Bahari)

Hatshepsut had a mortuary temple known -- and without hyperbole -- as Djeser-Djeseru 'Sublime of the Sublimes'. It was built of limestone at Deir el-Bahri, near where she had her tombs built, in the Valley of the Kings. The temple was primarily dedicated to Amun (as a garden to her so-called [divine] father Amun), but also to the gods Hathor and Anubis. Its architect was Senenmut (Senmut) who may have been her consort and seems to have predeceased his queen. Hatshepsut also restored Amun's temples elsewhere in Egypt.

Sometime after Hatshepsut's death, all temple references to her were chiseled off. For more information on this temple, see Archaeology Guide Kris Hirst's The Cache at Deir el-Bahri - Hatshepsut's Palace in Egypt.

Hatshepsut's Mummy

In the Valley of the Kings is a tomb, called KV60, that Howard Carter found in 1903. It contained 2 badly damaged mummies of women. One was of Hatshepsut's nurse, Sitre. The other was an obese middle-aged woman about 5'1 tall with her left arm across her chest in a "royal" position. Evisceration had been performed through her pelvic floor instead of the normal side cut -- because of her obesity. Sitre's mummy was removed in 1906, but the obese mummy was left. American Egyptologist Donald P. Ryan rediscovered the tomb in 1989.

It has been suggested that this mummy is that of Hatshepsut and that it was removed to this tomb from KV20 either following a robbery or to protect her from the attempted obliteration of her memory. Egypt's Minister of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, believes a tooth in a box and other DNA evidence proves this is the body of the female pharaoh.


The cause of Hatshepsut's death, according to a New York Times article from June 27, 2007, citing Zahi Hawass, is thought to be bone cancer. She also appears to have been diabetic, obese, with bad teeth, and about 50-years-old. The body of the pharaoh was identified by a tooth.


  • Chronicle of the Pharaohs, by Peter A. Clayton; Thames & Hudson: 1994.
  • Silent Images: Women in Pharaonic Egypt, by Zahi Hawass
  • Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh, by Joyce A. Tyldesley