Queens of Ancient Egypt
Historians and archaeologists have studied ancient Egyptian civilisation for more than 200 years. Although many fascinating discoveries have been made, not all is known about Ancient Egypt and therefore some aspects of its history are based on surmised interpretations and occasionally incomplete factual evidence. When discussing the role, contribution and significance of the ruling queens of Ancient Egypt, it is important to note the bias that authors/scribes placed on most historical documents of this ancient period. Women, especially those of the Royal court and family, do appear in many Egyptian documents and inscriptions. However, only men in Egyptian society could become scribes and therefore male bias can make it difficult to investigate precise details of the lives of women. Through the study of documents, inscriptions and tombs, combined with the latest scientific techniques a picture of the life of the Egyptian women can take shape.
Royal Women were generally regarded as the equals of their male counterparts, with many queens enjoying great influence and prestige over the men and their kingdom. One such queen was Tetisheri, who maintained political influence over the ruling men of the 17th Dynasty of Thebes.
Tetisheri was the commoner wife of the pharaoh Sequnenre Tao I who reigned during Hyksos occupation in the north, during 1594-1592. Her role in life was to raise the warriors of the Royal family who would eventually oust the Asiatics from the Delta. She was named “mother of the New Kingdom” because of her influence over its founders, her son Sequenenre Tao II and grandsons; Kamose and Ahmose, with the latter uniting who Egypt under one ruler and completing the liberation of Egypt through the expulsion of the Hyksos. Not a lot is known about Tetisheri. However, we can assume she had great influence over her male relatives, especially Ahmose I, who, according a stela at Karnak, granted her a great estate and tomb with priests and servants to conduct mortuary rituals in her honour. Along with this, a cenotaph was made for her at Abydos. Although her contribution seems to be small, it appears obvious that this Queen held great emotional and spiritual ties within her family, allowing for a strong support network within the royal community- a necessary union for success against the Hyksos.
The next queen after Tetisheri was her daughter, Ahhotep. Her role, as the King’s Great wife”, was to produce heirs for her husband and King, Sequenre Tao II. She had two sons: Kamose (the son who took the first successful stand against the Hyksos) and Ahmose (whom dealt the final blow to Hyksos occupation in Egypt and united Upper and Lower Egypt)
However, after the death of both her husband and eldest son, who had both fallen in battle against the Hyksos, Ahhotep ruled as regent for her son Ahmose, who at the time was obviously too young to be Pharaoh. During this turbulent period, when the nation’s kings were engaged and eventually died in a protracted war of liberation, Ahhotep rallied the Egyptian Troops. Some evidence supports the idea that she may have personally directed the army. According to a stele at Amun-re Temple at Karnak, erected in her honour by her surviving son King Ahmose, “she is the one who has accomplished the rites and cared for Egypt; she has looked after Egypt’s troops and she has guarded them; she has brought back the fugitives and collected the deserters. She has pacified Upper Egypt and expelled her rebels.” Ahhotep was obviously a talented ruler/regent who played a significant political role in the pacification of rebellions of Upper Egypt and therefore safeguarded the south against further difficulties. Her significance to the 18th Dynasty and the success of her husband and son’s campaign against the Hyksos is evident in her gilded coffin and mummy, which were found in the 19th century. Amongst her jewellery, which is one of the greatest treasures in the Cairo...
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