Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HATCHEPSUT by Joyce Tyldesley


The Female Pharaoh

by Joyce Tyldesley

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-670-85976-1
Publisher: Viking

 An absorbing scholarly biography, based on a meticulous review of the archaeological record, of a remarkable woman who ruled as pharaoh for 20 years in Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1490 b.c.). Although an important pharaoh whose rule was notable for internal order and other significant achievements, Hatchepsut has suffered, Tyldesley (Archaeology/Liverpool Univ.) argues, from an unjust obscurity, born mostly from her enemies' determined efforts to obliterate her memory and from a consequent paucity of archaeological evidence about her. The daughter of Tuthmosis I and widowed by her half-brother and husband, Tuthmosis II, Hatchepsut became queen regent for the infant Tuthmosis III, whose mother was a member of the royal harem. As Tyldesley relates, Hatchepsut was a model regent at first, but in the seventh year of the reign she became pharaoh, assuming the title King of Egypt (there was no term for queen) and taking on the symbolic masculine aspects of her role, including the traditional false beard. Tyldesley contends that, contrary to a common interpretation, Hatchepsut's behavior was not that of an obsessed power-grabber, but of a typical pharaoh; she allowed Tuthmosis III to obtain the traditional pharaonic military education, she ruled with him as co-regent, and her long rule was characterized by economic prosperity and extensive monument-building, the traditional preoccupations of New Kingdom monarchs. Tyldesley argues that evidence of military conquest during Hatchepsut's reign is slender and questionable, but asserts that there were solid achievements in the realms of trade and exploration. The author speculates on the relationship between the queen and Senenmut, one of several brilliant administrators who made her reign possible. Finally, Tyldesley concludes that Hatchepsut died a natural death (in contrast to arguments that Tuthmosis III orchestrated her death). Tyldesley works closely from surviving texts and fragmentary monuments to recreate vividly an outstanding woman of the ancient past.