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Hatshepsut: Egypt's Famous Female Pharaoh

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• Part 2: Writing and Math
Part 3: A Government of One
Part 4: Pyramids of Power
Part 5: Mummies and Legacy

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Part 1: The Importance of the Nile

The history of Egypt is filled with exciting and unusual stories, perhaps none so much as that of Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh.

The granddaughter of the famous Amenhotep I, Hatshepsut wasn't really in line to be the king of Egypt, especially since she was a she. Males were the rulers in those days, and females were shut out of the line of succession.

But when her father, Tuthmose I, died, his son, Tuthmose II, became king. This Tuthmose was married to Hatshepsut. (Tuthmose I had two wives, Mountnofrit (the mother of Tuthmose II) and Aahmes (the mother of Hatshepsut).

Tuthmose II, archaeologists tell us, ruled only three or four years, dying of a skin disease. He had a son, who was Hatshepsut's nephew. This son, Tuthmose III, was very young when his father died. So Hatshepsut took over.

Amazingly, she ruled for 15 years, while her nephew came of age. She wore the traditional clothing of the male pharaohs, and she had support of the Egyptian elders and the Egyptian people. No major wars were fought at this time, but the Egyptians did make expeditions to neighboring civilizations, spreading the word that their ruler was a woman.

After Hatshepsut's death, Tuthmose III was so jealous of her that he ordered her temple destroyed, her monuments obscured, and all mention of her erased from the walls of temples and other important buildings. Since the ancient Egyptians believed that a person's spirit lived on as long as his or her name was carved into a wall, Tuthmose's decision to erase his hated aunt's name was probably because he thought that he would destroy her spirit as well.

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