|Date of birth, Place:||1508, BCE|
|Date of death, Place:||1458, BCE|
|Burial site:||Tomb in the Valley of the Kings (Egypt), KV20|
The most famous woman in Egyptian history, was undoubtedly “His Majesty, Herself — Queen Hatshepsut”. As the first great woman in recorded history, she was the forerunner of such figures as Cleopatra, Catherine the Great and Elizabeth I. Her rise to power went against all the conventions of her time. She was the first wife and Queen of Thutmose II and on his death proclaimed herself Pharaoh, denying the old king’s son, her nephew Thutmose III, his inheritance. To support her cause she claimed the God Amun-Ra spoke, saying “welcome my sweet daughter, my favourite, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Hatshepsut. Thou art the King, taking possession of the Two Lands.” She dressed as a king, even wearing the traditional false pharaoh beard and the Egyptian people seem to have accepted this unprecedented behaviour.
In the twenty-one years that Hatshepsut ruled, there were no great military campaigns. Instead of expanding its borders, Egypt expanded its trade routes, and so the Egyptian economy flourished, which brought great wealth to Egypt. This enabled Hatshepsut to initiate building projects that raised the calibre of Ancient Egyptian architecture to a standard, comparable to classical architecture, that would not be rivaled by any other culture for a thousand years.
Eventually her nephew grew into a man and took his rightful place as pharaoh. The circumstances of this event are unknown and what became of Hatshepsut is a mystery. Some believe that she died of natural causes. Others believe that Thutmose III escaped his palace prison and murdered her. Either way, she died. Thutmose III, thirty years old now, was so angry with the woman who had kept him from the throne of Egypt for years that he tried to destroy her most famous accomplishments. He had her beautiful temple at Deir el Bahri smashed and destroyed. The tomb of Hatshepsut’s favorite architect was ravished and placed in a total wreck.
Hatshepsut established the trade networks that had been disrupted during the Hyksos occupation of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, thereby building the wealth of the eighteenth dynasty. She oversaw the preparations and funding for expeditions to the Land of Punt, in present-day Somalia. Under her rule, the most ambitious and famous expeditions were made to Punt between 1510 and 1490 BCE. These expeditions were proudly recorded pictographically in her Deir el-Bahri temple. Many trade goods were bought in Punt, and Egypt had a new supply of myrrh, trees, ebony, ivory, gold, cinnamon, incense, eye paint, skins of southern panthers, and live animals. Most notably, the Egyptians returned from the voyage bearing thirty-one live myrrh trees, the roots of which were carefully kept in baskets for the duration of the voyage. This was the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees. It is reported that Hatshepsut had these trees planted in the courts of her Deir el-Bahri mortuary temple complex. Egyptians also returned with living Puntites (people of Punt).
Like many civilizations that accumulate wealth, Hatshepsut took an interest in exotic animals and ordered to collect live animals, too. The animals brought to Egypt from Punt included apes, monkeys, birds, greyhounds, cattle, leopards, cheetahs, rhinoceroses, and giraffes. They formed the largest known animal collection in Egypt to that time. It is unknown how the animals were housed or maintained, despite the fact that the greatness of the acquisitions was depicted in murals.
Hatshepsut was one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout both Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, that were grander and more numerous than those of any of her Middle Kingdom predecessors. Later pharaohs attempted to claim some of her projects as theirs. Following the tradition of many pharaohs, the masterpiece of Hatshepsut’s building projects was her mortuary temple. She built hers in a complex at Deir el-Bahri. It was designed and implemented at a site on the West Bank of the Nile River near the entrance to what now is called the Valley of the Kings because of all the pharaohs who later chose to associate their complexes with the grandeur of hers. Her buildings were the first grand ones planned for that location. The focal point was the Djeser-Djeseru or “the Sublime of Sublimes”, a colonnaded structure of perfect harmony nearly one thousand years before the Parthenon was built. Djeser-Djeseru and the other buildings of Hatshepsut’s Deir el-Bahri complex are considered to be significant advances in architecture. Another one of her great accomplishments is the Hatshepsut needle (also known as the granite obelisks).