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Queen Hatshepsut: Facts, Accomplishments & Death

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  • 0:01 Long Live the Queen
  • 0:34 Background
  • 1:43 Accomplishments
  • 4:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the life and accomplishment of the Pharaoh-Queen Hatshepsut and test your understanding about Ancient Egypt, the pharaohs, and the development of the Ancient World in this lesson.

Long Live the Queen

History is full of powerful women who took charge and changed the world, but foremost of these noble ladies was Hatshepsut, whose name literally means 'Foremost of Noble Ladies.' Hatshepsut was a pharaoh of Egypt from roughly 1479 to 1458 BCE. She not only had the longest reign of any Egyptian female, but is also regarded as one of the most successful rulers in Egyptian history. Under Hatshepsut, Egypt explored, built, and grew.

Background

Hatshepsut was born around 1508 BCE to Pharaoh Thutmose I and his primary wife Ahmes. She was a member of the 18th Dynasty, or 18th family to control Egypt, which ruled from 1543 to 1292 BCE. She married her half-brother Thutmose II, which was a tradition amongst royalty. Although many details about her personal life have been lost to time, it's pretty clear from ancient hieroglyphics that she was a true pharaoh, as shown in this picture of a sphinx with her face, and not a queenly wife to the pharaoh.

Hatshepsut died around 1458 BCE, after a reign of about 22 years, possibly of bone cancer. She was mummified as a pharaoh, but her mummy may have been moved and archaeologists still debate if they have identified her remains. The prevailing theory is that her mummy was recovered in 1903 and identified in 2007, but tests are still ongoing. This mummy matched an individually mummified spleen and molar found in jars labeled with Hatshepsut's name.

Accomplishments

One of Hatshepsut's major achievements was expanding the trade routes of Ancient Egypt. Most notably was an expedition to the Land of Punt, which became a major trade partner supplying Egypt with gold, resin, wood, ivory, and wild animals. Scholars still debate the exact location of Ancient Punt, but many believe it to be roughly modern-day Somalia to Sudan.

Due partially to these new trade networks, her reign was marked by wealth, prosperity, and peace. Hatshepsut sent five massive ships to open trade with Punt; they returned filled with 30 live myrrh trees and other gifts, including frankincense. According to legend, Hatshepsut was the first to turn charred frankincense into eye-liner. Apparently, she knew how to accessorize.

Besides trade, Hatshepsut also oversaw an immense period of building across Egypt and may be responsible for hundreds of grand buildings and statues, along with her architect Ineni. Like most pharaohs, she added buildings to the massive temple complex at Karnak, but also restored old temples there and had two obelisks erected there; at the time, they were the tallest in the world.

Her Temple of Pakhet, a massive underground complex carved into a cliff wall (like the temple in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), was used to formally shame the Hyksos people who had taken over Egypt years before. The Hyksos conquest interrupted traditional Egyptian culture and religion, which were never truly restored to their former glory until Hatshepsut.

Like many pharaohs, Hatshepsut also built herself a mortuary temple, and chose an area now called the Valley of the Kings because so many later pharaohs wanted to emulate her grand temple and were buried nearby. Hatshepsut's temple, called the Djeser-Djeseru, or 'Sublime of Sublimes,' featured rows of columns designed to reflect perfect visual harmony and originally had lush gardens surrounding it.

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