Strong Women Part II


The tomb was discovered in 1903 by archaeologist, Howard Carter, who later would go on to discover King Tut’s tomb. Called KV20 because it was the 20th discovered in the Valley of the Kings (scientists are so unimaginative when it comes to naming their discoveries), the tomb opened at the end of a narrow, curving tunnel that had been chiseled some 700 feet downward into the rock. But when Carter made his way to the entrance of the burial chamber, he found whatever treasurers the tomb might have contained had long ago been looted. And the royal sarcophagus was empty. The mummified body of Hatshepsut was gone.

Hatshepsut reigned as king from about 1479 to 1458 B.C. during the golden age of Egypt's 18th dynasty. When her husband, Thutmose II, passed into the afterlife, leaving her stepson, Thutmose III (he had been born to Hapshepsut's husband by a lesser wife) to rule the land, Hatshepsut assumed a role as pharaoh’s queen because the new king was simply too young to rule. This was not without precedence when young heirs ascended to the throne, but what was unusual is what transpired sooner after.

Hatshepsut maintained appearances for a while, but eventually she could not resist throwing off the guise of governess to assume the absolute power of a full-blown king. She guided Egypt through a period of prosperity and peace, and following suit of pharaohs before and after her, she commissioned hundreds of monuments in her honor. She reigned openly as king, and as such did something no other female before or after dared to do. She adopted all the accouterments of male rule. As a result, many of her monuments depicted her as being male rather than female.

Obviously Hatshepsut possessed the necessary ambition and drive to seize power and maintain it. She was indeed a dominant woman. It’s interesting however, that apparently she came to feel it necessary to assume a masculine persona. Was this necessary to gain acceptance from the people she ruled? What a shame it would be if dominant women in today’s FemDom and wife-led marriages felt this way--and acted and dressed like men in order to gain acceptance in a traditionally patriarchal society.

(I wonder though, if I think about it, is strapping on a dildo all that far removed from Hatshepsut’s actions of old?)

After Hatshepsut's death, Thutmose III ascended as king and set about erasing all record of his stepmother’s reign. He commanded that all the images of her as king be systematically chiseled off temples, monuments, and obelisks. Happily, an obelisk honoring Hatshepsut, and amazingly sculpted from a single block of granite, still soars one hundred feet above the ruins of Karnak. It is the tallest such monument in Egypt.

What of Hatshepsut herself? Her mummy, along side that of her wet nurse, was found in nearby tomb KV60. She had been discovered years before but never identified, known only as mummy KV60a. Apparently ancient priests moved had her mummy to a lesser tomb to thwart attempts to desecrate her remains. Happenstance led to discovery of a wooden box with Hatshepsut’s name on it. And inside that box was a single tooth. When investigators completed MRIs of a number of female mummies, it was discovered that a space left by a missing tooth in the lower jaw of mummy KV60a, perfectly matched up with the tooth from the box. Though the proof is not iron-clad, most are convinced that Hatshepsut had been found. Nearly 3,500 years after her death, her mummy has assumed its rightful place alongside the most royal of rulers of ancient Egypt.

Some of Hatshepsut’s expressions inscribed on her obelisk at Karnak still resonate private worries of a dominant, yet sometimes insecure female king: "Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what the people will say. Those who see my monuments in years to come, and who shall speak of what I have done." See could never have forseen the likes of yours truly, writing... or the likes of you, reading about what an amazing woman she must have been.