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Egypt's Lost Queens

Posted by: orbital

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The lives of four of ancient Egypt’s most powerful women have been brought to life by Professor Joann Fletcher in a recent BBC programme. The story unfolds as four of the fifteen queens  who became pharaohs at some time during Egypt’s history, became powerful rulers and each of these trailblazers left behind a legacy for future generations.

The first of these extraordinary women is Queen Hetepheres who lived more than 4,500 years ago in the period known as the Old Kingdom. The mother of Pharaoh Khufu, whose resting place is in the Great Pyramid at Giza, is buried near her son on the Giza Plateau in a beautiful tomb which was filled with spectacular treasures including furniture and unique bespoke jewellery. Pharaoh Khufu wanted his mother to be buried close to his tomb to ensure his rebirth into the next world.

The second exceptional Egyptian Pharaoh, Queen Hatshepsut, built a stunning mortuary temple at Deir-el-Batari and other magnificent buildings. She was also a royal warrior of some distinction leading two campaigns against Egypt’s enemies and forming alliances which would brought great wealth and stability to the country. Crowned king on the death of her husband, it was deemed that her stepson was too young to rule the country and so it was on his behalf that she became king. She took on the persona of a pharaoh which included a tie-on beard, an attribute to the gods and the crown of Egypt. Queen Hatshepsut was a triumphant ruler who gained a deservingly unique place in Ancient Egypt’s history. On her death, her stepson became pharaoh.  

Third in this quartet is the beautiful Nefertari ,the favourite queen of the Ramses ll, one of the most renowned pharaohs of ancient Egypt. In many temples there are magnificent statues of the king with a smaller, yet no less important statue of Nefertari either at his side or close by. 

BBC Egypt's Lost Queens

At the great temple of Abu Simbel, the prestige of the queen is apparent in that, usually, a female is represented on a much smaller scale than the Pharaoh while, at Abu Simbel, Nefertari is rendered the same size as Rameses.

The fourth in this group, nine hundred years later, saw the first female Pharaoh of the Ptolemies, Arsinoe. She brought together Egyptian and Greek civilisation using the legacy left by the greatest Ptolemy of all, Alexander the Great. She brought great wealth, knowledge and prosperity to Egypt which became the greatest market place in the world trading in silks, fabrics, pottery and spices. Due to her status, Queen Arsinoe became the resident goddess alongside the Goddess Isis on the beautiful temple of Philae.

More information about the programme can be found here. The temples and tombs can be visited on a Nile Cruise and a Cairo & Nile Cruise stay.

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