Hatchepsut by Joyce Tyldesley is a documented research on the life of Hatchepsut, the female pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. Tyldesley pieces together the available historical and archaeological evidence to detail the life and times of Hatchepsut. Unfortunately, there is much that has been lost to us as a result of tomb robbers, the pillaging of Egypt’s antiquities, and the systematic attempts to erase all evidence of Hatchepsut’s rule shortly after her demise.
Tyldesley’s scholarly approach to the subject is to be commended. She does not attempt to sensationalize the issue of a female pharaoh. She presents the known facts methodically; dispels the theory of mutual animosity existing between Hatchepsut and her step-son, Tuthmosis III; situates Hatchepsut’s rise to power within its historical context; provides alternative scholarly interpretations to events when relevant; and then suggests the path that seems the most logical. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a powerful female who assumed the position of pharaoh after the death of her half brother/husband, Tuthmosis II.
Hatchepsut went to extraordinary lengths to present herself as a viable, legitimate pharaoh. She wore male clothing, including a pharaoh’s false beard, and, among other things, ordered a sequence of images of her own divine conception and birth be carved in a portico in her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. Since all kings of Egypt had wives, Hatchepsut selected her daughter, Neferure, to assume the role of the king’s wife, assigning her its duties.
Tyldesley highlights Hatchepsut’s military exploits, her expeditions to foreign lands, including Punt, and her instigation of an impressive construction program of monuments and mortuary temples. Egypt experienced a time of prosperity and peace under her rule. She relied heavily on her advisor, Senenmut, for a number of years. But for reasons we can only speculate, Senenmut eventually fell out of favor with her.
Shortly after her death and the ascension of Tuthmosis III as Pharaoh, systematic attempts were made to erase all evidence of Hatchepsut’s reign, including effacing her monuments and wall carvings on mortuary temples. This was tantamount to an attempt to erase her from history and to subject her spirit to a “Second Death” from which there could be no return. Although some scholars speculate that Tuthmosis III was avenging himself on his stepmother for usurping his right to throne, Tyldesley argues the evidence for this is inconclusive.
We may never know all there is to know about Hatchepsut. But Joyce Tyldesley has produced an engaging, readable, scholarly work based on the available evidence about this female pharaoh. In the process, she has given us a glimpse of a fascinating woman living in fascinating times.