Noelle is sick in bed today. Bummer! She says she will be okay and just needs to sleep.
Alexei and I are continuing with our plan which is to visit his “girl” Hatshepsut’s temple on the west Nile at Deir el-Bahri.
Hatshepsut was one cool chick depending upon whose point of view you take. I think it’s cool that although someone tried to erase her from history, the laugh is on them. Part of her history is still debated, but, I am going to tell you what I have gleaned from various sources including Wikipedia and a National Geographic article by Chip Brown.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
Hatshepsut is said to be the first great woman in recorded history, paving the way for other great women such as Cleopatra, Catherine the Great and Elizabeth I. She took the position of pharaoh and reigned for 22 years. While being successful in warfare in her early reign she is generally considered to be a pharaoh who began a long peaceful era in Egypt; re-establishing lost trading relationships and bringing great wealth to Egypt. She was one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt. Her building projects raised the bar of ancient Egyptian architecture to such a level it would not have a rival for another 1000 years. She sent out an expedition to the land of Punt (possibly current Ethiopia and Somalia) which brought back, among other things, 31 live myrrh trees. This is the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
While women had a high status in ancient Egypt, a woman pharaoh was a very rare thing. Why she did it, no one really knows. Depending upon whose point of view you read, Hatshepsut was either a wicked, crafty, step-mother or she was a very intelligent, unique woman and a skillful political leader.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose and his Great Royal Wife, Queen Ahmose. While Thutmose had been married into the royal line, his wife Ahmose is considered to be of the blood royal. Unfortunately, they only conceived a girl. Eventually, Thutmose produced a son by another queen and named him Thutmose II. It is he who actually inherited the crown because, yeah, he was male.
Following a common method of fortifying royal lineages, Hatshepsut married her half-brother Thutmose II. They had a daughter. Once again, that was a problem because kingship was not supposed to be passed down to daughters. Religious beliefs said that women were not adequate enough to handle the role. So, Thutmose II had a son by a lesser wife and named him Thutmose III. Unfortunately, “T -2” died shortly later and left a son too young to rule. In this scenario it was normal for the queen to step in as a regent, handling political affairs, while the little guy grew up and learned the ropes.
Hatshepsut did not do that. Why? No one knows for sure. After initially acting like a typical regent, Hatshepsut began taking on kingly functions like making offerings to the Gods and ordering obelisks built. Soon, she just assumed the role of “king” of Egypt and relegated her step-son to second-in-command. Was she the evil step-mom or was she a skilled politician? Remember, Egyptians believed the pharaohs were divine; but, her brother/husband, Thutmose II, was the offspring of an adopted king and therefore his son, Thutmose III was not of royal blood. Only Hatshepsut was a true blue blood and had a biological link to divine royalty. Wisely or shrewdly, when Hatshepsut’s husband had died she did not call herself the King’s Wife, rather, she took the title, God’s Wife of Amun. This way she was not just the daughter of a king, nor just the wife of a king – she was the wife of a God and, dude, she could sure as heck be a pharaoh. The chick was smart!
Oh yeah, this has all the makings of a good soap opera.
In her written texts she made no secret that she was a woman; the suffixes of words referring to her had the female endings. But, as the years went by she seems to have decided it was easier to have her likeness depicted as a male king, using the traditional male pharaoh’s headdress, kilt and false beard.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
She also created a fable that said the god Amun had come to her mother in the form of her father Thutmose and that Hatshepsut was Amun’s daughter. The oracle of Amun proclaimed that it was the will of Amun that Hatshepsut be pharaoh.
It must have been an effective media strategy that helped her to be accepted by the masses and the religious leaders because it seems no one disputed her “pharaoh-ness”. However, after her death, some someone tried to erase her from history. For a long while it was thought her step-son, Thutmose III, was trying to get back at a “step-mommy dearest”; but, why would he? In addition to being Egypt’s most successful general –known as the Napoleon of Egypt- he was also an acclaimed athlete, author, historian, botanist, and architect. What would his beef be? Did he hold onto a twenty year resentment and then rebel after her death?
Was it his son, Amenhotep II, who worried that his lack of “royal blood” would question his right to be pharaoh?
Was it an attempt to erase the fact that a woman had been equal to or better than a man at being a pharaoh?
No one knows the answers at this time. At any rate, the random, sporadic erasures took her name (cartouche) and her image out of the public eye. At her Deir el-Bahri temple numerous of her statues were torn down and smashed or disfigured before being buried in a pit. At Karnak there was an attempt to wall up her obelisks. Amenhotep II actually began usurping many of her accomplishments claiming them as his own.
The statue on the left is supposed to look like the one on the right.
This erasure of Hatshepsut almost caused her to disappear from Egypt’s archaeological and written records. Fortunately, when 19th century Egyptologists started to interpret the texts on the Deir el-Bahri temple walls their translations were making no sense due to the conflicts between the pictures of two seemingly male kings and the feminine endings of the nouns and verbs being used in the texts. It was in the non-public recesses of temples, etc. that her identity as pharaoh was found.
In 1903 archaeologist Howard Carter found Hatshepsut’s sarcophagus in the 20th tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV20), but, it was empty. No one knew if her mummy had survived or where it could be.
Carter made another discovery in a tomb close by. KV60 was a minor structure whose entrance was found inside the corridor of another tomb called KV19. Inside KV60 were two naked mummies, one who was found in a coffin and the other was lying amidst rags on the floor. The one in the coffin was thought to have been Hatshepsut’s nurse and was taken to the Egyptian museum. The other one was left on the floor of the tomb where it had been found.
Over the years, Egyptologists lost track of the entrance to KV60 and the mummy on the floor effectively disappeared.
In 1989 Donald Ryan came to explore several small undecorated tombs, including KV60. He arrived too late his first day to do any real work and so just decided to stroll around the site. He wandered over to the entrance of KV19 and for the heck of it, hoping the entrance to KV60 would be nearby, he began sweeping the corridor.
He found a crack in the rock! A stone hatch revealed a set of stairs and a week later he entered the lost tomb. He found the naked female mummy lying in a mess of rags, but there was still nothing to say she was Hatshepsut.
Two decades later CAT scan tests done on four unidentified female mummies were still inconclusive. But then a wooden box engraved with Hatshepsut’s cartouche (name) was scanned. In it was found to be her liver and a tooth with part of its root missing. The jaw images of the four mummies were re-examined and right there in the mummy from KV60 was a root with no tooth! They were measured and it was a match! It is not 100% proof, but pretty close that this denuded mummy found lying on the floor on top of rags was Hatshepsut. Now she is enshrined in one of the Royal Mummy Rooms at the Cairo Egyptian Museum.
This chick could not be kept down! I like her.
Despite the prevailing beliefs, Hatshepsut proved that a woman was as capable as a man to successfully create and rule over a prosperous Egypt.
No wonder Alexei loves Hatshepsut! He is excited to visit her temple today.
We took a water taxi over to the west bank then rented bicycles to go to Deir el-Bahri. It is near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings which came into existence because of all the pharaohs who later chose to associate their complexes with the grandeur of Hatshepsut’s.
When we got to Deir el-Bahri and I saw the temple in the distance, I have to say I was disappointed. What is so special about this construction? It looks like so many other administrative type buildings. Then it occurred to me, yeah Linda, but this one was built first! This building is a colonnaded structure that was built nearly 1000 years before the Parthenon!
It is called Djeser-Djeseru and it sits atop a series of terraces that used to have wonderful gardens.
As we began our tour of the temple, one of the local “guides” came to talk to us, but, he soon backed away as he listened to Alexei’s obviously knowledgeable lecture. It was the first, but not the last time I would hear the locals call Alexei, “Doctor”. Unfortunately, I can’t remember most of the lecture, but, I will show you some pictures. I have added contrast lighting to the pictures so you can see them easier.
We did take some time out for me to mediate here. I tucked myself into a small shaded recess and said “Hello” in my mind. Once again, I could hear the woman’s voice from last night.
“I appreciate that people come to my temple and that I am remembered for what I have done, but, it isn’t enough. I want to be relevant! I can’t be that by hanging around here. I am moving on now. I am letting go of what I was and will see what I can become. Thank you for helping me take this step.” And then she was gone.
Hmm, I wonder what this means or how it will manifest? I thought the Egyptian belief was that the soul would move on; why would she be stuck here? I don’t know.
I wonder am I resting upon my laurels, my past? Am I relevant in my present? Is it time to take a step into the new me, whatever that is? In my book I ask the question, “What would a Linda created by Love be like?” Is this my new step? Whatever my step is, I am ready. In my mind I see me at a precipice and like Indiana Jones, I step off. Here I am, Love, ready to be my full potential in whatever way serves Love best for the highest good.
We left Hatshepsut’s temple and visited some small private tombs of nobles. One was the tomb of Ramose
When we entered the tomb I felt love. There was picture on a wall of Ramose and his wife and I told Alexei that I thought they must have loved each other a lot because I was feeling so much love in this tomb.
I liked being in this tomb. A lot of the pictures on the walls looked more like real people in everyday life settings. There was more color. The whole feeling of the place was so different.
While writing this post I googled this tomb and found that Ramose had been a governor and vizier to Akhenaten. He was one of the earliest converts from worshipping the traditional polytheistic Egyptian gods, of whom Amun was supreme, to following Akhenaten’s worship of one god, Aten, the light of the sun. His tomb reflects the period between the two faiths and the change of artwork in the Armana period going from the traditional unpainted stylized reliefs to more of a painted realistic/naturalistic style.
I didn’t know this then, it just felt good to me in that tomb.
We went on to visit the tomb of Menna who had been a scribe. Artwork here showed the daily life of the working people.
Next we went to Medinet Habu a complex of various temples including that of Ramses III which is considered to be the best preserved mortuary temple. Alexei says Ramses III is my “boy” because of my reaction to the temple. What can I say; the feeling was just so different, so self – aggrandizing male! These walls did not contain the delicately carved or painted scenes I had already seen that day. No, these walls were carved for permanence. “Nobody is gonna be erasing me!”
Whatever Ramses intention, I am grateful because the artwork was really beautiful in places and I didn’t have to squint my eyes to see it!
Ramses III was the last great pharaoh and although he protected Egypt through wars with the Libyans and then the Sea Peoples, history in the Middle East was changing.
This was the time of the Trojan War, the fall of Mycenae- ancient Greece, and the beginning of its dark ages. It was the end of the Bronze age and the beginning of the Iron Age but Egypt had no sources of ore and fell upon economic hard times. The first known labor strike in recorded history happened during Ramses’ reign. Also, a lot of infighting began, again, between the northern and southern sections of Egypt. The priesthood became very powerful and eventually took control of the government. There was a conspiracy in Ramses’ Harem to poison him due to two of his wives competing over whose son would be the successor. Although the main conspirators were all found and punished, it isn’t really known if Ramses died from the poison or a snake bite.
Dude, you just never know what is gonna bring you down, do you?