Which Egyptian pharaoh opened up Egypt's trade with wealthy neighboring countries? Who built some of Egypt's most impressive and lasting monuments? Who took on a top advisor as a lover? Not the typically male pharaoh-type you would suspect. All of these things were accomplished by Hatshepsut, the most epic female pharaoh to ever rule ancient Egypt.
Sure, you've heard of Cleopatra and Nefertiti, but this daughter, wife, step-mom, and aunt to kings was royal through and through. Historians have been able to piece together much about this remarkable female pharaoh. Other females in Egyptian history may have called themselves kings, but nobody demanded power and respect with as much grandeur as Hatshepsut.
Here are Hatshepsut facts that may just spring this kingly lady to the top of your heroine list.
A female pharaoh was very unusual in Egypt. In order to claim the throne a pharaoh had to prove their were divinely appointed. Depictions etched into Hatshepsut's funerary temple show Amun, king of the gods, having sex with Hatshepsut's mother, Queen Ahmose.
By commissioning these representations of herself as a daughter of the gods, she perpetuated the belief that she was a legitimate heir to the throne.
Hatshepsut also justified her reign by building lots of statues of herself as pharaoh. Often likenesses of her included a kilt, headdress, and false pharaoh beard. Depicting herself with male features was one way to remind her people of similarities to her father and thus her right to be pharaoh.
She also adopted royal titles in masculine form, though sometimes used feminine pronouns. In other artistic likenesses, her body is clearly female even though she wears accessories typical of a pharaoh. She's even been shown as a man and woman at the same time, embodying a divine duality, perhaps.
Pharaohs loved to build monuments - obelisks, temples to the gods, statues of themselves - and Hatshepsut was no exception. She put up four giant obelisks at the temple complex of Karnak in honor of Amun. She covered them in electrum (a gold-silver mixture) to reflect the rays of the sun, represented in Amun.
On one of the obelisks reads an inscription that can still be read today. Words that show how much Hatshepsut wanted to spin public perception of herself:
"I acted for him with a straightforward heart, as a king does for any god...Let not anyone who hears this say it is boasting which I have said, but rather say, 'How like her it is, she who is truthful to her father.' The god knows it in me [namely] Amun, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands...I am his daughter in very truth, who glorifies him."
One of Hatshepsut's most famous accomplishments was opening up a trade route to the fabled land of Punt. Historians are unsure where Punt is in modern times but it was written about as a wealthy land located somewhere between Kenya and Saudi Arabia. It was known to be rich in incense and gold.
On her temple walls at Deir el-Bahri, a massive trade expedition Hatshepsut sent to Punt is depicted. Men brought back incredible riches, ranging from ivory to leopard skins and incense. In these images, the queen of Punt is intriguingly shown as an obese woman, possibly to represent the extreme wealth of her country.