Hatshepsut was the fourth female pharaoh in Egyptian history, and was considered one of the greatest rulers, male or female, of her time. As Pharaoh, she encouraged trade and sent a voyage to the land of Punt, sponsored a vast building project in Egypt, added to the temple of Amon at Karnak, and commissioned her famous mortuary temple, Deir el-Bahri, decorated with her most impressive achievements. She is renowned for being strong and assertive, whilst also fair and just. The many reliefs and paintings in this temple serve as sources from which we can draw conclusions about her life and her reign.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of King Thutmose I and his wife, Queen Ahmose, and married her half-brother, King Thutmose II. When King Thutmose II died after a short rule, Hatshepsut’s stepson Thutmose III inherited the throne. However, as Thutmose III was considered too young to rule, Hatshepsut served as his regent.
Shortly afterwards, some sources say Hatshepsut claimed the throne for herself, whereas others say that she ruled with Thutmose III as a diarchy. The birth and coronation scenes at Deir el-Bahri show Hatshepsut's divine birth, although they have been greatly damaged, supposedly due to a vengeful Thutmose III. According to the scenes, Amon (a prominent god in Upper Egypt) goes to a sleeping Ahmose in the form of Thutmose I and awakens her with pleasant odours. At this point Amon places the ankh, a symbol of life, to Ahmose's nose, and Hatshepsut is conceived. From this source, historians have been able to decipher that in order to justify her leadership, Hatshepsut claimed that she’d had a divine birth. In these scenes Hatshepsut is shown as a young boy, and through her claim of divinity she won the support of the priests.
To further strengthen her position, the oracle of Amon was published on the walls of her tomb, stating, “Welcome my sweet daughter, my favorite, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Hatshepsut. Thou art the Pharaoh, taking possession of the Two Lands.” She also claimed that she was her father’s intended heir and had the following commissioned on the walls of her temple: ‘Then his majesty said to them: "This daughter of mine, Khnumetamun Hatshepsut, may she live! I have appointed as my successor upon my throne... she shall direct the people in every sphere of the palace; it is she indeed who shall lead you. Obey her words, unite yourselves at her command." The royal nobles, the dignitaries, and the leaders of the people heard this proclamation of the promotion of his daughter, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, may she live eternally.’
Hatshepsut is regarded as one of the most outstanding of Egypt’s female rulers, and was the first to assume the Godship with the Kingship. She was often portrayed wearing the double crown, indicating sovereignty over the lands of both Upper and Lower Egypt. In many representations she has been shown wearing masculine attire and a traditional false beard, although it is unlikely that the false beard was actually worn, as opposed to being strictly an artistic convention. Statues such as those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicting her seated wearing a tight-fitting dress and the nemes crown are a more accurate depiction of how she would have presented herself.
Hatshepsut took great pride in the trading expedition she sent to Punt in around year nine of her reign. We know that she regarded it as one of her major achievements as she had it carved on the middle colonnade walls at Deir el-Bahri. Reliefs show that exotic goods such as myrrh trees, frankincense, oils, ivory, ebony and animal skins were brought back and offered to Amon-ra. Inscriptions state, "the ships were laden with the costly products of the Land of Punt and with its many valuable woods, with very much sweet-smelling resin and frankincense, with quantities of ebony and ivory…" There is another scene in which Hatshepsut is offering these products to...