Hatshepsut – in Life and in Death

Hatshepsut is one of the first symbols of feminism that we see buried deep in the sands of time. Three thousand and five hundred years ago, she ruled Egypt more successfully than many other Pharaohs, and yet her monuments were defaced, and attempts were made to obliterate her from history.

Who was this woman Pharaoh who defied tradition and strapped a false beard to her chin? 

Imagine a young girl, about fourteen or fifteen, married to an aging Pharaoh, who finds herself widowed at the age of thirty and finds herself at the helm of the affairs of state – co-ruling Egypt with her two-year-old stepson. The infant pharaoh, still in his swaddling clothes would contribute little more than ear-splitting shrieks to the administration of Egypt. We see here, a capable woman, possibly ruling in the stead of a child, who is not her son.

She obviously was in a position to control the destiny of Egypt and also steer the career of the young Pharaoh, who, upon attaining majority, was promptly sent off to the Egypt-Syrian border to defend it.

Djeser Djeseru, the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut tells us a lot about this woman Pharaoh, and also introduces us to a possible paramour. Senenmut. Senenmut was the architect of this temple, and possibly the man behind the Pharaoh in this etching, left behind by the workers in a limestone cave behind the temple.

The mummy of Pharaoh Hatshepsut has been identified positively, and it tells us a lot more about the personal life of this woman Pharaoh than the defaced walls of Djeser Djeseru. It tells us the she died around the age of fifty, possibly of cancer; had bad teeth, and was corpulent.

Did we expect anything else?

Perhaps we did, for all the renderings and etchings of her show her as an attractive woman in excellent physical shape – an idealized figure. While we consciously understand that the Ancient Egyptians stylized the royalty in their art, for their art had a higher purpose. It enabled the dead to have a perfect afterlife. So despite our cynicism we imagined her to be a woman in robust health.

And yet, the fact that she was a royal and not given to physical labor but served the richest of food, and that the ancients had little by way of scientific methods of treatment and healing, it shouldn’t surprise us that she was obese, had bad teeth, and died of cancer at the age of fifty. Her mummy tells us the story of her life from a more personal angle.

“The Keeper of Secrets,” one of the five novellas in the short-story collection “Mysterious Kemet – Book I,” tells the story of the illicit affair of Master Builder Senemut’s concubine and Pharaoh Hatshepsut.

The Keeper of Secrets
Anen, an artist who works at the building site of Djeser Djeseru is the favorite pupil of Senenmut, the Master builder. He is also the secret lover of Senenmut’s mistress. As he toils over the relief of the Punt expedition and prepares himself for the visit of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, a mysterious man turns his life upside down.

One of the Five Novellas from the collection “Mysterious Kemet – Book I: Intrigue and Drama in Ancient Egypt.

 

Image Credits:
Postdlf from w [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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