On this day in 1479, a young Thutmose III ascended to the throne of Egypt with his aunt and stepmother Hatshepsut as co-regent. Due to her stepson’s young age, Hatshepsut effectively rules ancient Egypt for 22 years as the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty, one of the longest and most successful reigns of any woman in ancient Egypt.
Hatshepsut was the wife and half-sister of Pharaoh Thutmose II, who died only a few years into his reign. As her nephew and stepson Thutmose III, the next in line for the throne, was too young to rule alone, Hatshepsut became his co-regent. As the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty, Hatshepsut inaugurated a long era of peace and stability in ancient Egypt.
Though her reign was mostly peaceful, Egyptologists believe Hatshepsut led several successful military campaigns in Nubia, the Levant, and Syria, early in her career. She also organised an expedition to the Land of Punt, which brought myrrh, myrrh trees, and Puntites back to Egypt. The expedition was commemorated in relief at Deir el-Bahri. She re-established trading relationships lost during previous conflicts, bringing wealth to her kingdom.
That wealth allowed the female pharaoh to embark upon a series of ambitious construction projects that would raise the caliber of ancient Egyptian architecture to a standard unrivaled by any other culture for more than one thousand years. Among her building projects were twin obelisks at the Temple of Karnak, the restoration of the original Precinct of Mut, the Red Chapel shrine at Karnak, and the Temple of Pakhet. Hatshepsut’s masterpiece project, however, was her mortuary temple. Built in a complex at Deir el-Bahri, it was a colonnaded structure of perfect harmony atop a series of terraces once graced by lush gardens. This and other buildings of her Deir el-Bahri complex are considered significant advances in architecture of the time.
After Hatshepsut’s death in 1458 BC, Thutmose III began his solo reign over ancient Egypt. As sixth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty, he oversaw at least 17 military campaigns that conquered land from Niya in North Syria to the fourth cataract of the Nile in Nubia, creating the largest empire Egypt had ever seen. Toward the end of his 54-year reign (including the 22 years he was co-regent with Hatshepsut), Thutmose III attempted to remove Hatshepsut from historical and pharaonic records. Images and cartouches of the Hatshepsut were chiseled off, her statues were smashed or disfigured, and attempts were even made to wall up her obelisks. It is unclear exactly why Thutmose embarked on this incomplete erasure, but the result is that Hatshepsut was erased from Egyptian history until 1903, when British archaeologist Howard Carter found her tomb and rediscovered the famous female pharaoh for the first time in 3,500 years.
Credit: © dbimages / Alamy
Caption: Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple in Deir el-Bahri.