Thenis Eloff – Photograph by Sanabelle Ebrahim


 The December 2018 meeting was addressed by Society member Theunis Eloff on the fascinating story of King Maatkara Hatshepsut. The document below summarizes the story of this ancient Egyptian King;

A well illustrated power point presentation was enjoyed by all. Below is a selection of some of the images presented.




Maatkara  Hatshepsut was the fifth king of 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt and ruled from about 1503 to 1482 BC. She was the eldest of two daughters born to King Ahkheperkara Thutmose I and his great Royal wife, Queen Ahmose. There were no sons born of this marriage so Hatshepsut and her sister, Neferubity, became two indulged little girls.

When Hatshepsut reached what her father thought was a suitable age, she was married to her half-brother, Thutmose. He was the son of Thutmose I and  a secondary wife, named Queen Mutnofra. There were other children: sons named Amenmose, Ramose, Wadjmose, but their maternity is unknown. Young Thutmose’s marriage to the eldest daughter of his father’s Great Royal Wife, strengthened his claim to the throne. When their father died in about 1512 BC, they ascended the throne as Akheperenra Thutmose II and his Great Royal Wife Queen Hatshepsut.

Thutmose and Hatshepsut had a single child, a daughter named Neferura. His reign was uneventful and relatively short, ending in his death in 1504BC, or thereabouts. He was succeeded by his son by a lesser wife, Isis (or Iset). Isis was probably of humble origin, so Hatshepsut acted as Regent to the six year old king.

For the first year or two, she gave the Boy King Precedence before herself and recognised his position, but she soon realised that her own position was precarious as was that of her step-son/ nephew, Thutmose III (Nebmara Thutmose III). There were a number of powerful men who could easily overthrow them and seize the throne. Amongst these were her half-brother, Amenmose, who held the ranks of “Great Army Commander” and “Master of the King’s Chariots.”  Hatshepsut was a strong chartered woman and an ambitious one. She had no intention of giving up the power she wielded. As regent she was not the absolute ruler. She found this position unacceptable.

Hatshepsut firstly built up a coterie of capable and trusted ministers and advisers around her. Many of these she had inherited from her father and supplemented their number with carefully selected men of relatively humble background. None of these men ever showed any hesitation over Hatshepsut’s claims or actions and supported her faithfully. On her death, most of them continued to work for Thutmose III and were never penalised for their former allegiance.

She was the only child of Thutmose I and his Great Royal Wife. Her titles included those of King’s Daughter, Kings Sister, King’s Great Royal Wife, Mistress of the Two Lands, Regent and protector of The King. Very impressive, but easily overthrown.  She needed to strengthen and cement her position, and this required both firm action and good propaganda.

Secondly, she claimed to be the daughter of the Great God Amen Ra.  (King of the gods.) She explained that Amen had seen Queen Ahmose lying in her chamber and desired her because of her great beauty, and is encouraged by Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing. He disguised himself as her husband and spent the night in her bed. The result was the birth of Hatshepsut, who thus claimed to be divine, and the child of the Great God. The reliefs show Amen sitting on Queen Ahmose’s bed, giving her an n ankh, the symbol of life, while the god Khnum forms the body and Ka of the baby on his potter’s wheel. Then she claimed that because of this divine birth, her father, Thutmose I, Who himself, claimed to be a son of Amen, as well as an incarnation of the god Horus, had appointed her as his successor on the throne of Egypt following instructions he had receive from Amen. As a woman could not be the King, she declared herself to be a man. She adopted the name Maatkara Hatshepsut, Son of Amen, Whom He loves, Lord of the two Lands, King of Egypt. She claimed that her father had crowned her as his Co-Regent. There is no historical evidence to support this claim. She hastily had herself crowned and appointed Thutmose III as her CO-Regent, or assistant king. She had herself portrayed as a man, wearing all the kingly accoutrements including the false gold beard of the gods. Queen Hatshepsut was now King Maatkara. She even took this a step further and claimed that she had been suckled by the goddess Hathor, and portrayed herself kneeling beneath this goddess who was shown as a cow.



Because she had declared herself to be a man, she could never remarry. This, however did not prevent her from taking a lover. It has been rumoured that Senenmut, the tutor and steward, and later Comptroller of the Household to her Daughter, Nefrure, was her lover. In support of this claim, writers have pointed to the fact that he had his tomb built close beside Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple, a rare privilege, as well as the fact that he had over eighty official titles and positions at court. It appears that he was one of Hatshepsut’s advisors. He is also shown as having been very close to Hatshepsut’s daughter. Of course, this proves nothing, but it makes an interesting story. After Hatshepsut’s death, he disappeared from the record, and his special tomb was never used.

Another man with great influence during her reign was Hapu-Seneb, who was both High Priest of Amen and her Vizier (Chief Minister). He supported her claim to Divine birth and was greatly favoured at court.

Because Hatshepsut was physically a woman, who had declared herself to be a man, we sometimes come across inscriptions where the scribe appears to have been uncertain as to whether he should refer to the King as being male, or female. We therefore get inscriptions that run something like this: “Maatkara Hatshepsut, son of Amen, Lord of the Two Lands, she is very beautiful”. On the other hand, this could have been deliberate. She also had her name recorded in its feminine form, but most of her formal titles were male.

Most Egyptian kings, including her father, Thutmose I, and later also Thutmose III, recorded their great military victories on the walls of their temples. Hatshepsut, being a woman, did not undertake any military campaigns. Instead, she gloried in scenes showing her divine conception and her famous trading expedition to the land of Punt. Punt was probably somewhere on the coast of modern day Somalia. 

A series of reliefs in her temple at Deir el Bahri shows, in detail, her first great trading expedition to Punt. These were meticulously copied in water-colour by Howard Carter, early in the twentieth century, but have sadly, never been printed. In the seventh year of her reign, an expedition set off from Koptos, on the River Nile, just north of Thebes, under the leadership of Nehery, who was from Nubia. They crossed the desert and went up to the Red Sea, with their goods packed on donkeys. The rout appears to have followed the Wadi Hammamat to a port near modern Quseir. There they boarded five ships and sailed for the Land of Punt. The sea journey would have taken them several days.

When they reached Punt, they noticed that the people round domed huts with high doors, built on stilts and reached by ladders. They were well received by the people and welcomed by the King and Queen. The Egyptians were fascinated by this ugly, fat woman and her thin husband and recorded their appearance in some detail. One relief shows the Egyptians loading their good onto the boats prior to their return to Egypt. These goods included ebony, ivory, gold, insence, pepper, weapons, jewellery, leopard skins, baboons, greyhounds and other exotic animals. There were also a number of myrrh trees, with their roots wrapped in baskets and packed carefully into baskets, so that they could be replanted. The carved relief at Deir el Bahri shows many of these goods clearly, including several baboons clambering about on board the boat. It also shows a fascination with the local fish, many of which were foreign to the Egyptians.

Once back in Egypt, these goods were packed onto sledges, pulled by oxen. The myrrh trees were slung from poles and carried by workmen. A contingent of soldiers accompanied the expedition  to provide security. After everything had been presented to Hatshepsut, the trees were planted on one of the terraces of her “Funeral” temple, where their remains have been found.

Although there was not a lot of military activity during Hatshepsut’s reign, and some losses in occupied territory occurred, Egypt remained prosperous and there was enough Tribute from her foreign vassals to fund vast building projects. She undertook a series of temple repairs throughout the country and made major additions to the Great Temple of Amen at Karnak. (Part of Thebes). One of the reliefs at her “funeral” temple shows ships carrying two massive obelisks down the Nile, from the quarries at Elephantine, near Aswan. One of these still stands, over 30 meters tall, at the Temple of Amen at Karnak. The obelisk was a symbol of the sun and its tip (or pyramidion) was often covered in gold or electrum (a mixture of gold and silver) to reflect the sun’s rays. Other reliefs show how these monuments were quarried and subsequently erected.

By far, her most important building achievement was her “Funeral” or Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri, on the west bank of the Nile. More correctly this is her Temple of Millions of Years, to perpetuate her cult after her death. It is built in a natural semicircle in the mountainside not far from the Valley of the Kings, and is regarded by many as the most beautiful building in Egypt. Part of the temple is carved out of the mountainside itself and the burial chamber of her tomb, built in the Valley of the Kings on the opposite side of the mountain, is located deep, beneath the inner most sanctuary. The temple was dedicated to the worship of Hatshepsut, the goddess Hathor and the gods Anubis and Amen-Ra.

Although the relationship between Hatshepsut and her co-regent was probably strained and Thutmose III must have felt some resentment, he showed no animosity towards her during her lifetime. She had provided him with military training and even placed him at the head of Egypt’s army. From this position, he had an ideal opportunity to overthrow her using military force. This he did not do, which suggests that he was prepared to tolerate the situation. It was suggested at one stage that he may have had her murdered, but we now know that this did not happen. Hatshepsut died from illness. The period of co-regency, for much of which he was portrayed as Hatshepsut’s equal, provided Thutmose with the opportunity to hone his political skills. It even appears that Hatshepsut’s daughter Nefrure (Neferura) had been married to Thutmose, but she disappears from the historical record before her mother’s death in about 1457 or 1458 BC.

With Hatshepsut’s death, on tenth day of the sixth month of year22, Thutmose III embarked on his personal reign. While he did embark on a campaign to remove her from the historical record, and to destroy many of her images in her mortuary temple, this was not done for another 20 years. If this had been done from hate or resentment, he would not have waited so long. He would also have done a more thorough job. Her name and statues remain in other parts of Egypt and in the Great Temple of Amen. There are even intact examples in her mortuary temple. At Karnak he did not tear down her obelisks, he went to the trouble of building a wall round them so they could not be seen. This was neither hatred nor revenge, Thutmose had decided that he had better do something to restore maat before the end of his own life. Maat is o foreign concept to the western world. Often translated as ‘Truth”, Maat was far more than that. It referred to the natural balance of the Universe. A balance between right and wrong. Maat was the way things should be under ideal circumstances. In an ideal world, a woman could not be King. Hatshepsut had been king and this upset Maat. Pharaoh had as one of his divine tasks, the maintenance of Maat. To remove Hatshepsut, a usurper, from the record, would restore Maat, and this is what Thutmose III did. He tried to restore the natural order in the historical record. He went on to become one of Egypt’s greatest warrior Pharaohs.

Then, if Thutmose III hated his aunt/step mother, why did he leave her burial and especially her body intact. He honoured her wish to be buried in KV20, which she had enlarged to serve both her father and herself, with the burial chamber located below the sanctuary of her mortuary temple. In the meantime, He built KV38 to which he moved his grandfather, several years later. Still he did  not desecrate Hatshepsut’s burial.

  Sarcophagus made for Hatshepsut, redetailed                    for her father Thutmose.

 As the wife of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut had prepared a tomb for herself at Wadi Sikket Taqa el-Zeide, High in an unaccusable cliff. It was unfinished and never used.

  Hatshepsut’s mummy was discovered by Howard Carter in KV60 in 1903. (Hatshepsut was probably moved here during the 22nd Dynasty or even later, when tomb robbing was rife and an attempt was made to collect and preserve earlier burials.) This very small, roughly cut tomb, probably built for a close member of the royal family, contained a very badly rifled burial with the stripped   bodies of two women and some mummified geese. The human remains were unidentified. After a cursory examination of the tomb, Carter sealed it up again. In 1906, Edward Ayreton came across the tomb during the course of his work. One of the bodies, that of Hatshepsut’s wet-nurse, Sitra In, was taken to Cairo and placed in the Egyptian Museum. The tomb was resealed and abandoned once more. In 1966, Elizabeth Thomas reopened the tomb, found part of a faceplate from a coffin designed for a king, but simply resealed th tomb again.

In 1989/90,   D. P. Ryan, from the Pacific Lutheran University, reopened the tomb and undertook a complete clearance. The remaining mummy was lying in the middle of the burial chamber. She had long hair, which was laying on the floor. In life, she had been rather obese. Her left arm was crossed over her chest in queenly pose and she had had her internal organs removed through the floor of the pelvis, probably as a result of her size. It was suggested that this was Queen Hatshepsut.

 In 2007, Dr Zahi Hawas reopened the tomb. He gathered several unidentified female mummies from the Egyptian Museum’s collection in Cairo as well as the remaining KV 60 mummy for closer examination.  The mummies of Thutmose II and Thutmose III were also prepared for CT scans. In addition, Hatshepsut’s canopic jars from KV 20 as well as a canopic box, bearing Hatshepsut’s cartouches which had been found with the Royal Cashe in tomb DB 320 in 1881 were also examined.


           Reconstruction of Hatshepsut’s temple.

The box contained the mummified liver, or spleen as well as a single molar tooth, which was missing a root. The tooth was found to be of the exact size and shape to fit a gap in Hatshepsut’s jaw, which also contained the missing root. Hawass announced that he had finally identified the mummy of Hatshepsut.

Subsequently, the Discovery Channel donated a state of the art DNA lab to the Egyptian Museum, valued at 5 Million USD. The selected mummies and associated material were tested and confirmed that Hawass was correct. There was a close familial match between DNA from Thutmose II, Thutmose III and Queen Ahmose Nefertari (Hatshepsut’s grandmother).

Queen Hatshepsut was approximately 50 years old at her death, which occurred early in the 22nd year of her reign. She was just over five feet tall and rather obese. She had suffered from tooth decay, diabetes and bone cancer. It is believed that the last of these caused her death.

Meeting – December 2018 – King Maatkara Hatshepsut – The Woman who was King – by Theunis Eloff