Hatshepsut (/hætˈʃɛpsʊt/; also Hatchepsut; Egyptian: ḥꜣt-špswt “Foremost of Noble Ladies”; c. 1507–1458 BC) was the fifth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. She was the second historically confirmed female Pharaoh after Sobekneferu. Various other women may have also ruled as pharaohs or at least regents before Hatshepsut, as early as Neithhotep around 1,600 years prior.
Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC. As the principal wife of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut initially ruled as regent to Thutmose III, a son of Thutmose II, by another wife and the first male heir. While Thutmose III inherited the throne at about two years old, Hatshepsut continued to rule by asserting her lineage as the daughter and only child of Thutmose I and his primary wife, Ahmose.
Her husband, Thutmose II, was the son of Thutmose I and a secondary wife named Mutnofret, who carried the title ‘King’s daughter’ and was probably a child of Ahmose I. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter named Neferure. With Iset, a secondary wife, Thutmose II would father Thutmose III, who would succeed Hatshepsut as Pharaoh.
Reign of Hatshepsut
Although contemporary records of her reign are documented in diverse ancient sources, Hatshepsut was thought by early modern scholars as only having served as a co-regent from about 1479 to 1458 BC, during years seven to twenty-one of the reign previously identified as that of Thutmose III. Today Egyptologists generally agree that Hatshepsut assumed the position of Pharaoh.
Hatshepsut was described as having a reign of about 21 years by ancient authors. Josephus and Julius Africanus quote Manetho’s king list, mentioning a woman called Amessis or Amensis who has been identified (from the context) as Hatshepsut. In Josephus’ work, her reign is described as lasting 21 years and nine months, while Africanus stated it was twenty-two years. At this point in history, records of the power of Hatshepsut end since the first major foreign campaign of Thutmose III was dated to his 22nd year, which also would have been Hatshepsut’s 22nd year as Pharaoh.
Dating the beginning of her reign is more complex, however. According to the high and low estimates of her power, her father’s reign began in either 1526 or 1506 BC. However, the length of the authorities of Thutmose I and Thutmose II cannot be determined with absolute certainty. With short reigns, Hatshepsut would have ascended the throne 14 years after the coronation of Thutmose I, her father. More extended rules would put her ascension 25 years after king Thutmose I’s coronation. Thus, Hatshepsut could have assumed power as early as 1512 BC or as late as 1479 BC.
The earliest attestation of Hatshepsut as Pharaoh occurs in the tomb of Ramose and Hatnofer, where a collection of grave goods contained a single pottery jar or amphora from the tomb’s chamber—which was stamped with the date “Year 7”. Another jar from the same tomb—which was discovered in situ by a 1935–36 Metropolitan Museum of Art expedition on a hillside near Thebes — was stamped with the seal of the “God’s Wife Hatshepsut” while two jars bore the seal of “The Good Goddess Maatkare.” The dating of the amphorae, “sealed into the [tomb’s] burial chamber by the debris from Senenmut’s tomb,” is undisputed, which means that Hatshepsut was acknowledged as Pharaoh, and not Queen, of Egypt by Year 7 of her reign.
Hatshepsut’s legacy is often dominated by a debate on whether her reign challenged or upheld the patriarchy. On the one hand, Hatshepsut was an innovator. She managed to rule as regent for a son who was not her own, defying the system which had previously only allowed direct mothers to rule on behalf of their biological sons. Moreover, she used this regency to manufacture her female kingship, constructing extensive temples to celebrate her reign, forcing the public to grow accustomed to seeing a woman in such a decisive role. This ensured that the Egyptian public readily accepted her status when the oracle declared her king. She did so while feigning a lack of ambition and cunning, thus ensuring that she would not alienate potential supporters.
On the other hand, Hatshepsut was not an innovator in other respects and arguably was placed in power by males to further their wealth. She gained power during a time when Egypt had recently amassed extensive wealth, implying that she was placed in power by Egyptian elites due to her record as successful in various domains – as High Priestess or as a placeholder serving for her father Thutmose I in Thebes while he was away on military campaigns. This record of success made such elites confident that they could handle Egyptian wealth and trade, capitalizing on Egypt’s moment of prosperity. Indeed, historian Kara Cooney describes Hatshepsut as “the only woman to have ever taken power as king in ancient Egypt during a time of prosperity and expansion.”
Hatshepsut re-established the trade networks that had been disrupted during the Hyksos occupation of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, thereby building the wealth of the Eighteenth Dynasty. She oversaw the preparations and funding for a mission to the Land of Punt. This trading expedition to Punt was during the ninth year of Hatshepsut’s reign. It set out in her name with five ships, each measuring 70 feet (21 m) long, bearing several sails[dubious – discuss] and accommodating 210 men, including sailors and 30 rowers. Many trade goods were bought in Punt, notably frankincense and myrrh.
Hatshepsut’s delegation returned from Punt bearing 31 live myrrh trees, the roots of which were carefully kept in baskets for the duration of the voyage. This was the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees. It is reported that Hatshepsut had these trees planted in the courts of her mortuary temple complex. Egyptians also returned with several other gifts from Punt, including frankincense. Hatshepsut would grind the charred frankincense into kohl eyeliner. This is the first recorded use of the resin.
Hatshepsut had the expedition commemorated in relief at Deir el-Bahari, also famous for its realistic depiction of the Queen of the Land of Punt, Queen Ati. Hatshepsut also sent raiding expeditions to Byblos and the Sinai Peninsula shortly after the Punt expedition. Very little is known about these expeditions. Although many Egyptologists have claimed that her foreign policy was mainly peaceful, it’s possible that she led military campaigns against Nubia and Canaan.
Hatshepsut was one of the most prolific builders in Ancient Egypt, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Many of these projects were temples to build her religious base and legitimacy beyond her position as God’s Wife of Amun. At these temples, she performed religious rituals that had hitherto been reserved for kings, corroborating the evidence that Hatshepsut assumed traditionally male roles as Pharaoh. Her buildings were grander and more numerous than those of her Middle Kingdom predecessors. Later, pharaohs attempted to claim some of her projects as theirs. She employed the great architect Ineni, who also had worked for her father, her husband, and the royal steward Senenmut. During her reign, so much statuary was produced that almost every major museum with Ancient Egyptian artefacts in the world has Hatshepsut statuary among their collections; for instance, the Hatshepsut Room in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is dedicated solely to some of these pieces. The extant artefacts of the sculpture provide archaeological evidence of Hatshepsut’s portrayals of herself as a male pharaoh, with physically masculine traits and traditionally male Ancient Egyptian garb, such as a false beard and ram’s horns.
Following the tradition of most pharaohs, Hatshepsut had monuments constructed at the Temple of Karnak. She also restored the original Precinct of Mut, the great ancient goddess of Egypt, at Karnak that the foreign rulers had ravaged during the Hyksos occupation. It later was ravaged by other pharaohs, who took one part after another to use in their pet projects. The precinct awaits restoration. She had twin obelisks erected at the entrance to the Temple, which at the time of building was the tallest in the world. Only one remains upright, the second-tallest ancient obelisk still standing, the other having toppled and broken in two. The official in charge of those obelisks was the high steward Amenhotep.
Another project, Karnak’s Red Chapel, or Chapelle Rouge, was intended as a barque shrine and initially may have stood between her two obelisks. It was lined with carved stones that depicted significant events in Hatshepsut’s life.
Later, she ordered the construction of two more obelisks to celebrate her 16th year as Pharaoh; one of them broke during construction, and a third was constructed to replace it. The broken obelisk was left at its quarrying site in Aswan, where it remains. Known as the Unfinished Obelisk, it provides evidence of how obelisks were quarried.
Hatshepsut built the Temple of Pakhet at Beni Hasan in the Minya Governorate south of Al Minya. The name, Pakhet, was a synthesis that combined Bast and Sekhmet, who were similar lioness war goddesses, in an area bordering the north and south divisions of their cults. The cavernous underground Temple, cut into the rock cliffs on the eastern side of the Nile, was admired and called the Speos Artemidos by the Greeks during their occupation of Egypt, known as the Ptolemaic Dynasty. They saw the goddess as akin to their hunter goddess, Artemis. The Temple is thought to have been built alongside much more ancient ones that have not survived. This Temple has an architrave with a long dedicatory text bearing Hatshepsut’s famous denunciation of the Hyksos that James P. Allen has translated. The Hyksos occupied Egypt and cast it into a cultural decline that persisted until a revival of her policies and innovations. This Temple was altered later, and some of its inside decorations were usurped by king Seti I of the Nineteenth Dynasty in an attempt to have his name replace that of Hatshepsut.
Following the tradition of many pharaohs, the masterpiece of Hatshepsut’s building projects was a mortuary temple. She built hers in a complex at Deir el-Bahri. It was designed and implemented by Senenmut at a site on the West Bank of the Nile River near the entrance to what now is called the Valley of the Kings because of all the pharaohs who later chose to associate their complexes with their grandeur of hers. Her buildings were the first grand ones planned for that location.
Djeser-Djeseru and the other buildings of Hatshepsut’s Deir el-Bahri complex are significant architectural advances. The complex’s focal point was the Djeser-Djeseru, or “the Holy of Holies,” a collonaded structure of perfect harmony built nearly one thousand years before the Parthenon. Djeser-Djeseru sits atop a series of terraces that once were graced with lush gardens. Djeser-Djeseru is built into a cliff face that rises sharply above it. Another one of her outstanding accomplishments is the Hatshepsut needle (also known as the granite obelisks).
Hyperbole is typical to virtually all royal inscriptions of Egyptian history. Aggrandizement of their achievements was traditional when pharaohs built temples and tombs. While all ancient leaders used it to laud their achievements, Hatshepsut has been called the most accomplished Pharaoh at promoting her accomplishments. This may have resulted from the extensive building executed during her time as Pharaoh, compared with many others. It afforded her many opportunities to laud herself, but it also reflected the wealth her policies and administration brought to Egypt, enabling her to finance such projects.
Women had a relatively high status in Ancient Egypt and enjoyed the legal right to own, inherit, or will property. However, a woman becoming Pharaoh was rare; only Sobekneferu, Khentkaus I and possibly Nitocris preceded her. Nefernferuaten and Twosret may have been the only women to succeed among the indigenous rulers. In Egyptian history, there was no word for a “queen regnant” as in contemporary history, “king” being the ancient Egyptian title regardless of gender. 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 before 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 vital 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. 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 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. Many existing statues alternatively show her in typically feminine attire and those that depict her in the royal ceremonial dress. After this period of transition ended, however, most formal depictions of Hatshepsut as Pharaoh showed her in the royal attire, with all the Pharaonic regalia, and some previously feminine depictions were carved over to now be masculine. Hatshepsut was ambiguous and androgynous in many of her statues and monuments. She would create a male version of herself to establish herself in the Egyptian patriarchy.
She also named herself Maatkare, or “Truth is the Soul of the Sun God.” This name emphasized the Pharaoh Maatkare Hatshepsut’s connection to one of the many evolutions of Amun while referencing a Pharaoh’s responsibility to maintain “ma’at,” harmony, through respecting tradition.
Moreover, as with other pharaohs, the Osirian statues of Hatshepsut depict the dead Pharaoh as Osiris, with the body and regalia of that deity. The promise of resurrection after death was a tenet of the cult of Osiris. All the statues of Hatshepsut at her tomb follow that tradition.
The Hawk of the Pharaoh, Hatshepsut—Temple at Luxor
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 odours. At this point, Amun places the ankh, a symbol of life, on Ahmose’s nose, and Ahmose conceives Hatshepsut. Khnum, the god who forms the bodies of human children, is then instructed to create a body and ka, or corporal presence/life force, for Hatshepsut. Heket, the goddess of life and fertility, and Khnum then lead Ahmose to a lioness’ bed, where she gives birth to Hatshepsut. Reliefs depicting each step in these events are at Karnak and her mortuary Temple.
The Oracle of Amun proclaimed that it was the will of Amun that Hatshepsut was Pharaoh, further strengthening her position. She reiterated Amun’s support by having these proclamations by the god Amun carved on her monuments:
Welcome my sweet daughter, my favourite, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Hatshepsut. Thou art the Pharaoh, taking possession of the Two Lands.
Furthermore, on Khnum’s potter’s wheel, she is depicted as a little boy to cement further her divine right to rule.
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 lifetime. Thutmose II soon married Hatshepsut, and the latter became his senior royal wife and the most powerful woman in court. 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:
The royal nobles, the dignitaries, and the leaders of the people heard this proclamation of the promotion of his daughter, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare—may she live eternally. Then his majesty said to them: “This daughter of mine, Khnumetamun Hatshepsut—may she live!—I have appointed as my successor upon my throne… she shall direct the people in every sphere of the palace; it is she indeed who shall lead you. Obey her words, unite yourselves at her command.”
Death, burial, and mummification
Hatshepsut died in her twenty-second regnal year as she approached what we would consider middle age given typical contemporary lifespans. No recent mention of the cause of her death has survived. The precise date of Hatshepsut’s death—and when Thutmose III became the next Pharaoh of Egypt—is considered Year 22, II Peret day 10 of her reign, as recorded on a single stela erected at Armant or 16 January 1458 BC. This information validates the essential reliability of Manetho’s king list records since Hatshepsut’s known accession date was I Shemu day 4 (i.e., Hatshepsut died nine months into her 22nd year as king, as Manetho writes in his Epitome for a reign of 21 years and nine months).
Hatshepsut had begun constructing a tomb when she was the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II. Still, this scale was unsuitable for a pharaoh, so preparation for another burial started when she ascended the throne. For this, KV20, quarried initially 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 her father’s burial and prepared for a double interment of both Thutmose I and her within KV20. Therefore, it is likely that when she died (no later than the twenty-second year of her reign), she was interred in this tomb with her father. During the reign of Thutmose III, however, a new tomb (KV38), together with new burial equipment, was provided for Thutmose I, who was removed from his original burial and re-interred elsewhere. At the same time, Hatshepsut’s mummy might have been moved to the burial of her nurse, Sitre In, in KV60. It is possible that Amenhotep II, son of Thutmose III by a secondary wife, motivated these actions to assure his uncertain right to succession. Besides what was recovered from KV20 during Howard Carter’s clearance of the tomb in 1903, 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 holding her name. In the Royal Mummy Cache at DB320, a wooden canopic box with an ivory knob was inscribed with the name of Hatshepsut and contained a mummified liver or spleen as well as a molar tooth. There was a royal lady of the twenty-first Dynasty of the same name, however, and for a while, it was thought possible that it could have belonged to her instead.
In 1903, Howard Carter discovered tomb KV60 in the Valley of the Kings. It contained two female mummies: one identified as Hatshepsut’s wetnurse and the other unidentified. In spring 2007, the unidentified body, called KV60A, was finally removed from the tomb by Dr Zahi Hawass and brought to Cairo’s Egyptian Museum for testing. This mummy was missing a tooth, and the space in the jaw perfectly matched Hatshepsut’s existing molar, found in the DB320 “canopic box”. Based on this, Hawass concluded that the KV60A mummy is likely Hatshepsut. While the mummy and the tooth could be DNA tested to see if they belonged to the same person and confirm the mummy’s identity, Dr Zahi Hawass, the Cairo Museum, and some Egyptologists have refused to do it because it would require destroying the tooth to retrieve the DNA. Her death has since been attributed to a benzopyrene carcinogenic skin lotion in possession of the Pharaoh, which led to her having bone cancer. Other members of the Queen’s family are thought to have suffered from inflammatory skin diseases that tend to be genetic. Assuming that the mummy is that of Hatshepsut, it is likely that she inadvertently poisoned herself while trying to soothe her itchy, irritated skin. It also would suggest that she had arthritis and bad teeth, which may be why the tooth was removed.
However, in 2011, the tooth was identified as a molar from a lower jaw. In contrast, the mummy from KV60 was missing a molar from its upper jaw, thus casting doubt on the supposed identification.
Toward the end of Thutmose III’s reign and into his son’s power, an attempt was made to remove Hatshepsut from certain historical and pharaonic records — a damnatio memoriae. This elimination was carried out in the most literal way possible. Her cartouches and images were chiselled off some stone walls, leaving pronounced Hatshepsut-shaped gaps in the artwork. Erasure methods ranged from destruction of any instance of her name or picture to replacement, inserting Thutmose I or II where Hatshepsut once stood. There were also instances of smoothing and patchwork jobs that covered Hatshepsut’s cartouche. Examples of this can be seen on the walls of the Deir el-Bahri temple. More straightforward methods also included covering, where a new stone was added to cover reliefs or sacred stonework fully.
At the Deir el-Bahari 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, the son of Thutmose III, who became a co-regent during his father’s reign, is suspected by some as the defacer during the end of the power of an ancient pharaoh. He would have had a motive because his position in the royal lineage was not so strong as to assure his elevation to Pharaoh. He is further documented as usurping many of Hatshepsut’s accomplishments during his 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 Thutmose III acting out of resentment once he became Pharaoh, early modern Egyptologists assumed 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. This assessment of the situation probably is too simplistic, however. It is doubtful 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 reign before attempting to avenge himself on his stepmother and aunt. According to renowned Egyptologist Donald Redford:
Here and there, in the dark recesses of a shrine or tomb where no plebeian eye could see, the Queen’s cartouche and figure were left intact … which never vulgar eye would again behold, still conveyed for the king the warmth and awe of a divine presence.
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 pictures 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. We have no evidence to support the assumption that Thutmose hated or resented Hatshepsut during her lifetime. Had that been confirmed, as head of the army, in a position given to him by Hatshepsut (who was not worried about her co-regent’s loyalty), he undoubtedly could have led a successful coup. Still, he did not 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.
Joyce Tyldesley hypothesized that it is possible that Thutmose III, lacking any sinister motivation, may have 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 the Pharaoh. Tyldesley fashions her concept 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 interfering with 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. According to Tyldesley, the enigma of Senenmut’s sudden disappearance “teased Egyptologists for decades” given “the lack of solid archaeological or textual evidence” and permitted “the vivid imagination of Senenmut-scholars to run wild”, resulting in a variety of firmly held solutions “some of which would do credit to any fictional murder/mystery plot.” In such a scenario, newer court officials appointed by Thutmose III also would have had an interest in promoting the many achievements of their master to assure the continued success of their own families.
Presuming that it was Thutmose III (rather than his co-regent son), Tyldesley also put forth a hypothesis about Thutmose, suggesting that his erasures and defacement of Hatshepsut’s monuments could have been a cold but rational attempt on his part to extinguish the memory of an “unconventional female king whose reign might 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 right to rule. Hatshepsut’s crime need not be anything more than the fact that she was a woman.” Tyldesley conjectured that Thutmose III may have considered the possibility that the example of a victorious female king in Egyptian history could demonstrate that a woman was as capable of governing Egypt as a traditional male king, which could persuade “future generations of potentially strong female kings” to not “remain content with their traditional lot as a wife, sister and eventual mother of a king” and assume the crown. Dismissing relatively recent history known to Thutmose III of another woman who was king, Sobekneferu of Egypt’s the Middle Kingdom. She conjectured further that he might have thought that while she had enjoyed a short, approximately four-year reign, she ruled “at the very end of a fading 12th Dynasty, and from the very start of her reign, the odds had been stacked against her. She was, therefore, acceptable to conservative Egyptians as a patriotic ‘Warrior Queen’ who had failed” to rejuvenate Egypt’s fortunes. In contrast, Hatshepsut’s glorious reign was a different case: she demonstrated that women were as capable as men of ruling the two lands since she successfully presided over a prosperous Egypt for more than two decades. If Thutmose III intended to forestall the possibility of a woman assuming the throne, as proposed by Tyldesley, it was a failure since Twosret and Neferneferuaten (possibly), a female co-regent or successor of Akhenaten, took the throne for short reigns as Pharaoh later in the New Kingdom.
The “Hatshepsut Problem” is directly linked to gender norms regarding ancient Egyptian social structures. Her power could be considered more successful than some pharaohs’ reign, for example, with expanding borders, which can be seen as a threat to traditional gender roles. Although she did hold Queen status, her reign, especially after, was disregarded and even erased. This raises questions about the conflict between power and traditional gender roles and to what extent modernism and conservatism overlap.
The erasure of Hatshepsut’s name—by the men who succeeded her for whatever reason (besides misogyny)—almost caused her to disappear from Egypt’s archaeological and written records. When nineteenth-century Egyptologists started interpreting the texts on the Deir el-Bahri temple walls (illustrated with two seemingly male kings), their translations made no sense. Jean-François Champollion, the French decoder of hieroglyphs, was not alone in feeling confused by the apparent conflict between words and pictures:
If I felt somewhat surprised at seeing here, as elsewhere throughout the temple, the renowned Moeris [Thutmose III], adorned with all the insignia of royalty, giving place to this Amenenthe [Hatshepsut], for whose name we may search the royal lists in vain, still more astonished was I to find upon reading the inscriptions that wherever they referred to this bearded king in the usual dress of the Pharaohs, nouns and verbs were in the feminine, as though a queen were in question. I found the same peculiarity everywhere…
The “Hatshepsut Problem” was a significant issue in late 19th century and early 20th century Egyptology, centring on confusion and disagreement on the order of succession of early 18th Dynasty pharaohs. The dilemma takes its name from disorder over the chronology of the rule of Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmose I, II, and III. In its day, the problem was controversial enough to cause academic feuds between leading Egyptologists and created perceptions about the early Thutmosid family that persisted well into the 20th century, the influence of which still can be found in more recent works. Chronology-wise, the Hatshepsut problem was primarily cleared up in the late 20th century, as more information about her and her reign was uncovered.