Trent Hugler

Homage to Hatshepsut – a remarkable female pharaoh

Describing the golden age of ancient Egypt, John Romer pays tribute to the chief wife of Thutmose II who proclaimed herself king and ruled successfully for almost 20 years

Statue of Hatshepsut in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. [Alamy]

Following on from the volume in which he discussed the Middle Kingdom, John Romer’s new book considers the ancient Egyptian New Kingdom from 1550 BCE to 1070 BCE. This is generally romanticised as one of the great ‘golden ages’ of ancient Egyptian history in which the state reached its pinnacle of power. In this period of increasing prosperity, Egypt established an empire through a series of campaigns under kings such as Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Seti I and Ramesses II.

At the beginning of the book, Romer takes us to the site of Tell el-Dab’a in the Nile delta, where excavators upended a whole series of assumptions about the early years of the New Kingdom. According to Romer, they ‘performed a rare service for the history of ancient Egypt’, as their work contradicted the hitherto accepted narratives of the ancient Egyptian writer Manetho regarding the invasion and exodus of the Hyksos. They were the people of supposedly Levantine origin who ruled Egypt’s north for some centuries during the Second Intermediate Period, from 1700 BCE to 1550 BCE, in which Egypt was no longer under a single ruler. There appears, rather, to have been a more gradual infiltration of foreigners from the Middle Kingdom, coalescing in the Hyksos rule. But this rattled the native Egyptians, leading to the Hyksos’ final expulsion by the Theban King Ahmose, who is credited with establishing the New Kingdom by reuniting Upper and Lower Egypt under his rule.

How could Hatshepsut justify her rule when Egypt already had a king on the throne?

As we learn about the excavation of Tell el-Dab’a and the topography of Egypt, the legacy of the Hyksos and their impact on nationhood and the warrior pharaoh ethos becomes clear. The New Kingdom was to be ever more connected to the outside world, with increased cultural diffusion.

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