It afforded her with many opportunities to laud herself, but it also reflects the wealth that her policies and administration brought to Egypt, enabling her to finance such projects. Aggrandizement of their achievements was traditional when pharaohs built temples and their tombs.
Women had a high status in ancient Egypt and enjoyed the legal right to own, inherit, or will property. A woman becoming pharaoh was rare, however; only Khentkaues, Sobekneferu, Neferneferuaten and possibly Nitocris  preceded her in known records as ruling solely in their own name. The existence of this last ruler is disputed and is likely a mis-translation of a male king.
Twosret, a female king and the last pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty, may have been the only woman to succeed her among the indigenous rulers.
In Egyptian history, there was no word for a "queen regnant" and by the time of her reign, pharaoh had become the name for the ruler. Hatshepsut is not unique, however, in taking the title of king.
Sobekneferu, ruling six dynasties prior to Hatshepsut, also did so when she ruled Egypt. Hatshepsut had been well trained in her duties as the daughter of the pharaoh. During her father's reign she held the powerful office of God's Wife. She had taken a strong role as queen to her husband and was well experienced in the administration of her kingdom by the time she became pharaoh.
There is no indication of challenges to her leadership and, until her death, her co-regent remained in a secondary role, quite amicably heading her powerful army—which would have given him the power necessary to overthrow a usurper of his rightful place, if that had been the case. Hatshepsut assumed all of the regalia and symbols of the pharaonic office in official representations: the Khat head cloth, topped with the uraeus, the traditional false beard, and shendyt kilt. Statues portraying Sobekneferu also combine elements of traditional male and female iconography and, by tradition, may have served as inspiration for these works commissioned by Hatshepsut.
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At her mortuary temple, in Osirian statues that regaled the transportation of the pharaoh to the world of the dead, the symbols of the pharaoh as Osiris were the reason for the attire and they were much more important to be displayed traditionally, her breasts are obscured behind her crossed arms holding the regal staffs of the two kingdoms she ruled. This became a pointed concern among writers who sought reasons for the generic style of the shrouded statues and led to misinterpretations.
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Understanding of the religious symbolism was required to interpret the statues correctly. Interpretations by these early scholars varied and often, were baseless conjectures of their own contemporary values. The possible reasons for her breasts not being emphasized in the most formal statues, were debated among some early Egyptologists, who failed to take into account the fact that many women and goddesses portrayed in ancient Egyptian art often lack delineation of breasts, and that the physical aspect of the gender of pharaohs was never stressed in art.
With few exceptions, subjects were idealized. Modern scholars, however, have theorized that by assuming the typical symbols of pharaonic power, Hatshepsut was asserting her claim to be the sovereign rather than a "King's Great Wife" or queen consort. The gender of pharaohs was never stressed in official depictions; even the men were depicted with the highly stylized false beard associated with their position in the society.
Moreover, the Osirian statues of Hatshepsut—as with other pharaohs—depict the dead pharaoh as Osiris , with the body and regalia of that deity.
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All of the statues of Hatshepsut at her tomb follow that tradition. The promise of resurrection after death was a tenet of the cult of Osiris. Since many statues of Hatshepsut depicted in this fashion have been put on display in museums and those images have been widely published, viewers who lack an understanding of the religious significance of these depictions have been misled.
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Most of the official statues commissioned of Hatshepsut show her less symbolically and more naturally, as a woman in typical dresses of the nobility of her day. Notably, even after assuming the formal regalia, Hatshepsut still described herself as a beautiful woman, often as the most beautiful of women, and although she assumed almost all of her father's titles, she declined to take the title "The Strong Bull" the full title being, The Strong Bull of his Mother , which tied the pharaoh to the goddesses Isis , the throne , and Hathor , the cow who gave birth to and protected the pharaohs —by being her son sitting on her throne—an unnecessary title for her, since Hatshepsut became allied with the goddesses, herself, which no male pharaoh could.
Rather than the strong bull, Hatshepsut, having served as a very successful warrior during the early portion of her reign as pharaoh, associated herself with the lioness image of Sekhmet , the major war deity in the Egyptian pantheon. Religious concepts were tied into all of these symbols and titles. By the time of Hatshepsut's reign, the merger of some aspects of these two goddesses provided that they would both have given birth to, and were the protectors of, the pharaohs.
They became interchangeable at times. Hatshepsut also traced her lineage to Mut , a primal mother goddess of the Egyptian pantheon , which gave her another ancestor who was a deity as well as her father and grandfathers, pharaohs who would have become deified upon death. While Hatshepsut was depicted in official art wearing regalia of a pharaoh, such as the false beard that male pharaohs also wore, it is most unlikely that she ever wore such ceremonial decorations, just as it is unlikely that the male pharaohs did.
Statues such as those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, depicting her seated wearing a tight-fitting dress and the nemes crown, are thought to be a more accurate representation of how she would have presented herself at court. As a notable exception, only one male pharaoh abandoned the rigid symbolic depiction that had become the style of the most official artwork representing the ruler, Pharaoh Amenhotep IV later Akhenaten of the same eighteenth dynasty, whose wife, Nefertiti , also may have ruled in her own right following the death of her husband.
One of the most famous examples of the legends about Hatshepsut is a myth about her birth. In this myth, Amun goes to Ahmose in the form of Thutmose I and awakens her with pleasant odors. At this point Amun places the ankh , a symbol of life, to Ahmose's nose, and Hatshepsut is conceived by Ahmose.
Heqet , the goddess of life and fertility, and Khnum then lead Ahmose along to a lioness ' bed where she gives birth to Hatshepsut. Reliefs depicting each step in these events are at Karnak and in her mortuary temple. The Oracle of Amun proclaimed that it was the will of Amun that Hatshepsut be pharaoh, further strengthening her position. She reiterated Amun's support by having these proclamations by the god Amun carved on her monuments:. Hatshepsut claimed that she was her father's intended heir and that he made her the heir apparent of Egypt. Almost all scholars today view this as historical revisionism, or prolepsis, on Hatshepsut's part since it was Thutmose II—a son of Thutmose I by Mutnofret—who was her father's heir.
Moreover, Thutmose I could not have foreseen that his daughter Hatshepsut would outlive his son within his own lifetime. Thutmose II soon married Hatshepsut and the latter became both his senior royal wife and the most powerful woman at court.
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Biographer Evelyn Wells, however, accepts Hatshepsut's claim that she was her father's intended successor. Once she became pharaoh herself, Hatshepsut supported her assertion that she was her father's designated successor with inscriptions on the walls of her mortuary temple:. American humorist Will Cuppy wrote an essay on Hatshepsut which was published after his death in the book The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. Regarding one of her wall inscriptions, he wrote,. Hatshepsut died as she was approaching, what we would consider middle age given typical contemporary lifespans, in her twenty-second regnal year.
If the recent identification of her mummy see below is correct, however, the medical evidence would indicate that she suffered from diabetes and died from bone cancer which had spread throughout her body while she was in her fifties. Hatshepsut had begun construction of a tomb when she was the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II, but the scale of this was not suitable for a pharaoh, so when she ascended the throne, preparation for another burial started.
For this KV20, originally quarried for her father Thutmose I and probably the first royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings , was extended with a new burial chamber. Hatshepsut also refurbished the burial of her father and prepared for a double internment of both Thutmose I and herself within KV It is therefore likely that when she died no later than the twenty-second year of her reign , she was interred in this tomb along with her father.
At the same time Hatshepsut's mummy might have been moved into the tomb of her wet nurse, Sitre-Re, in KV It is possible that Amenhotep II , son to Thutmose III by a secondary wife, was the one motivating these actions in an attempt to assure his own succession. Besides what was recovered from KV20 during Howard Carter's clearance of the tomb in , other funerary furniture belonging to Hatshepsut has been found elsewhere, including a lioness "throne" bedstead is a better description , a senet game board with carved lioness-headed, red-jasper game pieces bearing her pharaonic title, a signet ring, and a partial shabti figurine bearing her name.
In the Royal Mummy Cache at DB, an ivory canopic coffer was found that was inscribed with the name of Hatshepsut and contained a mummified liver or spleen as well as a tooth. However, there was a royal lady of the twenty-first dynasty of the same name, and this could belong to her instead. Toward the end of the reign of Thutmose III and into the reign of his son, an attempt was made to remove Hatshepsut from certain historical and pharaonic records.
This elimination was carried out in the most literal way possible. Her cartouches and images were chiselled off some stone walls, leaving very obvious Hatshepsut-shaped gaps in the artwork. At the Deir el-Bahri temple, Hatshepsut's numerous statues were torn down and in many cases, smashed or disfigured before being buried in a pit.
At Karnak, there even was an attempt to wall up her obelisks. While it is clear that much of this rewriting of Hatshepsut's history occurred only during the close of Thutmose III's reign, it is not clear why it happened, other than the typical pattern of self-promotion that existed among the pharaohs and their administrators, or perhaps saving money by not building new monuments for the burial of Thutmose III and instead, using the grand structures built by Hatshepsut.
Amenhotep II , who became a co-regent of Thutmose III before his death, however, would have had a motive because his position in the royal lineage was not so strong to assure his elevation to pharaoh. He is suspected by some as being the defacer during the end of the reign of a very old pharaoh. He is documented, further, as having usurped many of Hatshepsut's accomplishments during his own reign. His reign is marked with attempts to break the royal lineage as well, not recording the names of his queens and eliminating the powerful titles and official roles of royal women such as, God's Wife of Amun.
For many years, presuming that it was Thutmouse III acting out of resentment once he became pharaoh, early modern Egyptologists presumed that the erasures were similar to the Roman damnatio memoriae. This appeared to make sense when thinking that Thutmose might have been an unwilling co-regent for years.
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This assessment of the situation probably is too simplistic, however. It is highly unlikely that the determined and focused Thutmose—not only Egypt's most successful general, but an acclaimed athlete, author, historian, botanist, and architect—would have brooded for two decades of his own reign before attempting to avenge himself on his stepmother and aunt. According to renowned Egyptologist Donald Redford:. The erasures were sporadic and haphazard, with only the more visible and accessible images of Hatshepsut being removed; had it been more complete, we would not now have so many images of Hatshepsut.
Thutmose III may have died before these changes were finished and it may be that he never intended a total obliteration of her memory.
In fact, we have no evidence to support the assumption that Thutmose hated or resented Hatshepsut during her lifetime. Had that been true, as head of the army, in a position given to him by Hatshepsut who was clearly not worried about her co-regent's loyalty , he surely could have led a successful coup, but he made no attempt to challenge her authority during her reign and, her accomplishments and images remained featured on all of the public buildings she built for twenty years after her death. Writers such as Joyce Tyldesley hypothesized that it is possible that Thutmose III, lacking any sinister motivation, decided toward the end of his life, to relegate Hatshepsut to her expected place as the regent—which was the traditional role of powerful women in Egypt's court as the example of Queen Ahhotep attests—rather than king.
By eliminating the more obvious traces of Hatshepsut's monuments as pharaoh and reducing her status to that of his co-regent, Thutmose III could claim that the royal succession ran directly from Thutmose II to Thutmose III without any interference from his aunt. The deliberate erasures or mutilations of the numerous public celebrations of her accomplishments, but not the rarely seen ones, would be all that was necessary to obscure Hatshepsut's accomplishments. Moreover, by the latter half of Thutmose III's reign, the more prominent high officials who had served Hatshepsut would have died, thereby eliminating the powerful religious and bureaucratic resistance to a change in direction in a highly stratified culture.
Hatshepsut's highest official and closest supporter, Senenmut seems either to have retired abruptly or died around Years 16 and 20 of Hatshepsut's reign and, was never interred in either of his carefully prepared tombs. Tyldesley also put forth a hypothesis about Hatshepsut suggesting that Thutmose III's erasures and defacement of Hatshepsut's monuments were a cold but rational attempt on Thutmose's part to extinguish the memory of an "unconventional female king whose reign might possibly be interpreted by future generations as a grave offence against Ma'at , and whose unorthodox coregency" could "cast serious doubt upon the legitimacy of his own right to rule.