orn circa 1508 B.C., Queen Hatshepsut reigned over Egypt for more than 20 years. She served as queen alongside her husband, Thutmose II, but after his death claimed the role of pharaoh while acting as regent to her nephew, Thutmose III. She reigned peaceably, building temples and monuments, resulting in the flourish of Egypt. After her death, Thutmose III erased her inscriptions and tried to eradicate her memory.
The only child born to the Egyptian king Thutmose I by his principal wife and queen, Ahmose, Hatshepsut was expected to be queen. After the death of her father at age 12, Hatsheput married her half-brother Thutmose II, whose mother was a lesser wife -- a common practice meant to ensure the purity of the royal bloodline. During the reign of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut assumed the traditional role of queen and principal wife.
ASCENT TO POWER
Thutmose II died after a 15 year reign, making Hatshepsut a widow before the age of 30. Hatshepsut had no sons -- only a daughter, Neferure -- and the male heir was an infant, born to a concubine named Isis.
Since Thutmose III was too young to assume the throne unaided, Hatshepsut served as his regent. Initially, Hatshepsut bore this role traditionally until, for reasons that are unclear, she claimed the role of pharaoh. Technically, Hatshepsut did not ‘usurp’ the crown, as Thutmose the III was never deposed and was considered co-ruler throughout her life, but it is clear that Hatshepsut was the principal ruler in power.
She began having herself depicted in the traditional king’s kilt and crown, along with a fake beard and male body. This was not an attempt to trick people into thinking she was male; rather, since there were no words or images to portray a woman with this status, it was a way of asserting her authority.
Hatshepsut’s successful transition from queen to pharaoh was, in part, due to her ability to recruit influential supporters, and many of the men she chose had been favored officials of her father, Thutmose I. One of her most important advisors was Senenmut. He had been among the queen’s servants and rose with her in power, and some speculate he was her lover as well.
Under Hatshepsut’s reign, Egypt prospered. Unlike other rulers in her dynasty, she was more interested in ensuring economic prosperity and building and restoring monuments throughout Egypt and Nubia than in conquering new lands.
She built the temple Djeser-djeseru ("holiest of holy places"), which was dedicated to Amon and served as her funerary cult, and erected a pair of red granite obelisks at the Temple of Amon at Karnak, one of which still stands today. Hatshepsut also had one notable trading expedition to the land of Punt in the ninth year of her reign. The ships returned with gold, ivory and myrrh trees, and the scene was immortalized on the walls of the temple.
DEATH AND LEGACY
The queen died in early February of 1458 B.C. of unknown causes.
Late in his reign, Thutmose III began a campaign to eradicate Hatshepsut’s memory: He destroyed or defaced her monuments, erased many of her inscriptions and constructed a wall around her obelisks. While some believe this was the result of a long-held grudge, it was more likely a strictly political effort to emphasize his line of succession and ensure that no one challenged his son Amunhotep II for the throne.
Nefertiti, whose name means "the beautiful one has come," was the queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten during the 14th century B.C. She and her husband established the cult of Aten, the sun god, and promoted Egyptian artwork that was radically different from its predecessors. A bust of Nefertiti is one of the most iconic symbols of Egypt.
Little is known about the origins of Nefertiti, but her legacy of beauty and power continue to intrigue scholars today. Her name is Egyptian and means "the beautiful one has come." Some evidence suggests that she hailed from the town Akhmim and is the daughter or niece of a high official named Ay. Other theories have suggested that she was born in a foreign country.
The exact date when Nefertiti married Amenhotep III's son, the future pharaoh Amenhotep IV, is unknown. It is believed she was 15 when they wed, which may have been before Akhenaten assumed the throne. They apparently ruled together from 1353 to 1336 B.C. and had six daughters, with speculation that they may have also had a son. Artwork from the day depicts the couple and their daughters in an unusually naturalistic and individualistic style, more so than from earlier eras. The king and his head queen seem to be inseparable in reliefs, often shown riding in chariots together and even kissing in public. It has been stated that the couple may have had a genuine romantic connection, a dynamic not generally seen in ancient pharaoh depictions.
WORSHIP OF SUN GOD
Nefertiti and the pharaoh took an active role in establishing the Aten cult, a religious mythology which defined Aten, the sun, as the most important god and only one worthy of worship in Egypt's polytheistic canon. Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten (also seen as "Akenhaten" in some references) to honor the deity. It is believed that the king and queen were priests and that only through them ordinary citizens obtained access to Aten. Nefertiti changed her name to Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, meaning "beautiful are the beauties of Aten, a beautiful woman has come," as a show of her absolutism for the new religion. The royal family resided in a constructed city meant to honor their god, also called Akhenaten in what is now known as el-Amarna. There were several open-air temples in the city, and at the center stood the palace.
Nefertiti was perhaps one of the most powerful women to have ever ruled. Her husband went to great lengths to display her as an equal counterpart. In several reliefs she is shown wearing the crown of a pharaoh or smiting her enemies in battle. Despite her great power, Nefertiti disappears from all depictions after 12 years. The reason for her disappearance is unknown. Some scholars believe she died, while others speculate she was elevated to the status of co-regent, equal in power to the pharaoh, and began to dress herself as a man. Some say she became known as Pharaoh Smenkhkare, ruling Egypt after her husband’s death. Others suggest she was exiled when the worship of the deity Amen-Ra came back into vogue. Her mummy has not been found.