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May 14, 2024 33 mins

From wife and sister of a Pharaoh, to regent to eventually Pharaoh in her own right, Hatshepsut is one of the most compelling figures of the ancient world, a woman who sought to preserve her legacy in real time by carving her accomplishments in stone.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to Noble Blood, a production of iHeartRadio and Grimm
and Mild from Aaron Manky listener discretion advised. In nineteen
twenty two, Howard Carter had achieved what most archaeologists can
only dream of. After over two decades of methodically exploring

and excavating Egypt's Valley of the Kings, a region in
Thebes where pharaohs of ancient Egypt built their tombs, he
made a discovery that would change the field of archaeology forever.
Carter happened upon a pharaoh's tomb virtually untouched for millennia.

Pharaoh tutin common was relatively inconsequential as a ruler, but
thousands of years later, as King Tut, he became the
most famous ancient Egyptian pharaoh of modern times thanks to
the fact that, unlike the tombs of many other pharaohs,
it hadn't already been ransacked by robbers, which meant it

was filled with dazzling artifacts. King Tut and Howard Carter
both shot to stardom, but twenty years before Carter's career
defining discovery. Back in his very first season in the
Valley of the Kings, Carter had actually com tantalizingly close

to making another spectacular find. Only three days into his expedition,
while exploring the southeast wall of the basin, he discovered
steps the stone staircase led to the tomb of Tutmos
the Fourth, a pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty. The tomb

itself was almost entirely empty, having been ransacked by ancient
tomb raiders, but didn't walk away completely empty handed. He
found two artifacts, an alabaster cup and a blue scarab
beetle carving, both bearing the name Hot Chipsoot. Later that

same season, Carter found another tomb, one that was relatively
simple compared to the ornate burial chambers of the valley.
After climbing down the rough steps and creeping down a passageway,
he came to a chamber which looked to be ransacked.
All that remained were two mummified women and some mummified geese.

Carter was unimpressed. He took the geese, resealed the tomb,
and moved on to his next find. Another archaeologist came
upon that tomb just three years later, Edward Arton. He
removed one of the two mummies, the one in an
actual coffin, and he resealed the tomb again. Neither Carter

nor Arton thought that the tomb was important enough to
warrant even cataloging. Until the tomb's rediscovery in nineteen eighty nine,
the remaining female mummy had lain alone on the cold
floor of the dark tomb for over three thousand years.
If only Howard Carter had known that this unimportant looking

female mummy, which he came upon decades before King Tut
and left behind in favor of mummified geese, was likely
one of ancient Egypt's greatest pharaohs. I'm Dana Schwartz, and
this is noble blood from the beginning of Hotschips That's reign.

She was exceptional, both in the sense of her rulership
and in the sense that she was in almost every
way an anomaly. Before we get into hutch Its life,
I think it'll be a little helpful first to understand
ancient Egyptian royal families and their systems of inheritance. Like

many monarchies throughout history, the Egyptian monarchy was organized around
male preferen primogeniture. In other words, firstborn sons and their
offspring took privilege over their siblings in matters of succession.
Speaking of siblings, ancient Egyptian royal families also practiced incest

that might count as this episode's Lord Byron cameo. In
ancient Egypt, brothers and sisters regularly married each other and
had children, who would then often go on to marry
their siblings. Ancient Egyptians believed that pharaohs were the physical
embodiment of gods, and since incest was integral to the

ancient Egyptian creation myth, this practice within the royal family
seen as divinely inspired. Another marital tradition that ancient Egyptian
royals practiced was polygamy. While polygamy was not the norm
in everyday life in ancient Egypt, pharaohs were able to
have multiple wives. Their primary wife was ideally a sibling,

but they were not necessarily related to their lesser wives.
If a pharaoh didn't have any male offspring by their
primary wife, the sons of lesser wives could ascend to
the throne. Importantly, Egyptian succession almost never included women, and
few women were pharaohs in their own right. That being said,

royal women were not shut out of power entirely Within
their system of government, there was an institutional structure set
up to bestow power upon select women. Given the many
health problems royalty faced due to their family's incest, as
well as the decadent lifestyles they led, it was common

for pharaohs to die young, with only a young child
to succeed them. When that happened, the new pharaoh's mother,
usually the primary wife of the former pharaoh, acted as
her son's regent. The phenomenon of mother as regent was
so common that king's mother was an official title that

one could hold. In fact, there was no term in
their language that translates to regent, but king's mother appears
to have functioned as the equivalent term. Exercising power as
king's mother was entirely accepted, even celebrated, and if you
think about it, it makes sense why in a strict

system of patriarchal rule, if an adult man was acting
as regent to a younger pharaoh, he might be tempted
to usurp power for himself, But women who had no
way to take the throne would act in their son's
best interests and gladly step aside once their sons came
of age. A monument erected by Amos the First, the

first pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty, offers just one example
of the celebration of king mothers. Almost the First had
a stella, or stone similar to a tombstone engraved at Karnak,
which honored his mother, his former regent, Ajotep the First.
The engravings describe her as quote one who pulled Egypt together,

having cared for its army, having guarded it, having brought
back those who fled it, gathering up its deserters, having
quieted the south, subduing those who defy her end quote.
I don't know about you, but just reading that, it
definitely doesn't sound like she was a toothless regent. For
a woman's power to be celebrated in such a way

so early is kind of remarkable. Notable, too, is just
how many king's mothers there were in the few generations
before Hotchipsut during the Otset of the eighteenth dynasty, And importantly,
these women were not exclusively the mothers of the pharaohs

for whom they were acting as regent. Excuse all of
the names that I am about to throw your way,
no need to remember them, and I will do my
best not to mispronounce them, but just to get the
point across. For example, Hotchepsut's grandmother, amis Nefertari, had been
the king's mother and ruled as regent for her daughter's husband.

Because amis Nefertari's husband, Pharaoh Almost the First, hadn't had
any male heirs, the throne passed to their daughter's husband,
a distant relative, But that husband was young when he
ascended the throne, so amus Nefertari, despite not being her
son in law's biological mother, shepherded the country while he

learned the ropes. This tradition of female regency later helped
hot Chipsut legitimize her reign, but more on that later.
Like his predecessor, that son in law, I'menhotep the I
didn't have any male heirs, so the throne passed to
his sister's husband, Tutmost the First. And finally we get

to hot Chipsut. She was the daughter of Futmost the
First and his primary wife, Ahms. Thutmos and Alms did
not have any sons, but that Moost had a son
by his secondary wife, so Thutmost the second That son
was his father's successor. Following tradition, half siblings, that Most

the Second and hot Chipsut wed, thus making hot Chipsut
the daughter of the pharaoh, the sister of the pharaoh,
and the wife life of the pharaoh. Quite the collection
of titles. At this point, Hotschipsut's life and trajectory was
pretty standard for someone of her background. What her everyday

life looked like we can't exactly know, but her general
responsibilities were to perform religious rituals and, like many queens
before and after her, to provide the pharaoh with a
male heir. But everything changed when her husband, slash half
brother that Most the Second died in fourteen seventy nine

b C. Okay, this is the last of the very
very confusing family tree, I promise. Hotschipsut and Thutmost the
Second hadn't had any sons, and so when Thutmost the
Second died, the throne passed to his son by his
secondary wife, Isis a son named Thutmost the Third, but

like many of the pharaohs before him, the Third was
a young boy when he ascended to the throne. Instead
of his mother, Isis, who had been a secondary wife,
acting as his regent, Hot Chipsut, as the closest person
of royal blood, assumed the role of king mother. This
transition was the stepping stone for Hotschipsut between life as

a royal wife and life as a pharaoh. As king's mother,
Hotschipsut basically ruled Egypt with little to no input from
Futmost the Third. However, instead of stepping aside ont Thatutmost
the Third came of age, Hotschipsut took another quite unusual path.

Seven years into young Thutmos's reign, Hotschipsut crowned herself along
with her step son, co Pharaoh of Egypt. She was
no longer ruler on behalf of someone else, but now
acted in her own name. And even though she was
technically of equal power to Most the Third, and even

though both of their courts got along, hot Chipsut became
the primary leader of Egypt. In becoming pharaoh, hot Chipsut
went from king's mother to daughter of Ray, Lady of
the Two Lands, king of Upper and Lower Egypt. Hot
Chipsut united with Ammun as pharaoh. She was successful in

maintaining peace and order within the state. Even better, she
helped Egypt prosper financially and artistically. It's clear that Hotchepsut's
rise to the throne was a positive force in ancient Egypt.
Will never know why exactly Hotchepsut chose to elevate herself
to becoming pharaoh. Unfortunately, the kinds of records or stories

needed to know that information have been lost to history.
Perhaps she felt she needed to become co pharaoh in
order to secure the sun for Thutmost, her stepson, or
perhaps she believed this promotion would be the best way
for her to maintain her own legitimacy as a ruler.

Maybe Thutmost was unqualified as a pharaoh and she thought
she was doing what was best for Egypt. We can't know. Luckily, However,
there is quite a lot that we can know about
how hotships That legitimized herself as a pharaoh to the public,
and we can thank hot ships At herself for that.
During her reign, she sponsored an impressive number of artistic

and architectural projects. Many of these commissions featured engravings, paintings,
and sculptures that tell her story, or at least the
story she wanted told. The type and volume of art
created during hot ships AT's reign was markedly different from
that of her predecessors. First, facilitated by the trade routes

that Hotschipsut had helped to open up, artists began to
draw inspiration from neighboring kingdoms, and Egyptian art began to
feature new motifs and techniques. Not only were artists creating
new visions of Egyptian art, but now hot Chipsut was
paying them to do so. The pharaoh commissioned an impressive

number of buildings and monuments during her reign, and in
the interest of keeping this episode relatively short, i'll name
just a few. Following in the footsteps of previous pharaohs,
hot Chipsut sponsored various projects at the Karnak Temple complex
in Luxor, like what is now known as the Chapel

Rouge Temple. The most outstanding of these projects at Karnak
are twin obelisks that once flanked the entrance to a temple.
Measuring just under thirty meters almost one hundred feet tall,
the obelisks were the tallest buildings in the world when
they were constructed. Unfortunately, only one of these obelisks remains upright,

but it has stayed upright for over thirty five hundred years,
which is amazing, and that remaining obelisk is the tallest
obelisk in Egypt to this day. The gem in all
of ancient Egyptian architecture really is her mortuary Temple at
Deir el Barrie. The temple, which was meant to serve

as a place to worship the pharaoh after her death,
sits on top of a series of colonnaded terraces. Sloping
walkways allow visitors to scale the many stories with ease.
The monument was built into a steep cliff face, which
makes for a striking backdrop. Despite how awe inspiring it is,

today the temple is less impressive than it once was.
Many sculptures, including ones of the gods of Cyris and Sphinxes,
were looted over the years by other pharaohs for their
own projects, and although a bit hard to imagine based
on today's arid landscape, the entire complex was once surrounded

by lush gardens. I urge you to look up photos
of the temple, as it certainly deserves its title as
a masterpiece of the ancient world, and I'll put up
photos on the Patreon. Within the episode script it's on
these buildings that Hotschipsut solidified justification for her reign. At

all of these different sites there remain engravings and paintings
which tell stories of Hotchipsut's origins and her accolades and
many accomplishments. For example, on the walls of her mortuary temple,
we can still find engravings telling about her successful expedition
to the kingdom of punt or the region south of

the Nile around the mouth of the Red Sea. These
inscriptions and images also tell us how the pharaoh used
religion and gender to justify her reign. As I previously mentioned,
ancient Egyptians saw pharaohs as physical embodiments of their gods.
Not only were pharaohs ordained by the gods to rule,

but they were the beings that connected the physical and
spiritual worlds and held the two in balance. If the
king wasn't appeasing the gods properly, the world as the
ancient Egyptians knew, would cease to exist. The Nile would
dry up, disease would descend upon the population, or their

neighbors would invade. As such, being a pharaoh involved a
panoply of religious responsibilities Accomplishing all of those religious tasks
were not difficult for Hotshipsut. She had already trained to
be God's wife or the highest priestess in the state religion.

The pharaoh's religious rituals were no more difficult or demanding
than those of the pharaoh's wife. The task Hotschipsut did
face was to communicate the divine justification for her rule,
and to do that, hot Chipsut made herself divine at
both her temple in Karnak and her mortuary temple. Inscriptions

tell the supposed story of Hotschipsut's divine birth. According to
the inscriptions, Amun, the principal god during the eighteenth dynasty,
visited and impregnated Hotchipsut's mother in the form of Hotchipsut's father,
the pharaoh that most the first. This way, Hotchipsut is

simultaneously the daughter of a previous pharaoh but also sired
by a god. Hotchepsut's birth itself was also sacred, as
her mother was tended to in labor by Hecket, the
goddess of life, and Khnum, the god in charge of
shaping humans. On top of all that, according to her story,

hot Chipsut was also endorsed by the oracle of a moon,
who proclaimed that it was his will that Hotchepsut be pharaoh.
With those stories and proclamations, hotschipsu It covered all of
her bases. Whether or not she truly believed that narrative
is something else, we'll never know. But like many later

monarchs who bought into their own divine mandate to rule,
Hotchepsut very well could have believed that the gods predetermined
her birth and fate as a pharaoh. But more importantly,
the general public and future generations needed to believe it,
and by inscribing that tale on her temples, Hotschepsut woild,

cementing her claim to the throne in perpetuity. Another key
way that Hotchipsut legitimized her rule was by deliberately masculinizing
her image. In ancient Egyptian art, there were customary and
distinct representations of men and women. The main difference between

genders was that men were drawn wearing short kilts and
with their feet spread apart, and women had ankle length
dresses and a shorter stride. Given that Egyptian pharaohs were
almost always men, the standard depiction of a pharaoh included
standard male dress and stance. Pharaohs were also depicted wearing

a variety of crowns and a fake beard. During the
early years of her regency, Hotchipsut was depicted femininely. She
had a smaller stride and wore a long dress. I mean,
she was the wife of the former pharaoh and not
yet claiming the throne beside her stepson, there was no

need for her to portray herself as anything but the norm. However,
once she crowned herself pharaoh in the seventh year of
that Most the Third's reign, her depictions started to feature
both masculine and feminine traits. For example, the engraving of
Hotchepsuit at Chappelle Rouge shows her with a long dress,

but also with a crown adorned by ramshorns, an accessory
worn by pharaohs. Over time, her depictions became more and
more masculine. For example, some of the statues that we
still have of her today feature the fake beard that
all pharaohs donned. Other engravings that depict both hot Chepsu

and her co ruler that Most the Third appear to
show two male pharaohs. We only know that it's this
particular pair. Because of the inscription that accompany the engravings,
it's clear that Hotschipsut was meticulous in crafting her image.
She even went so far as to have altered depictions

of herself from her years as queen and king mother
to eliminate the queenly attributes and add in more masculine traits. Now,
this topic has been controversial over the years. For a while,
many scholars believed that Hotchipsut's masculine appearance in art reflected

a queer identity or perhaps an androgynous wardrobe. However, that
view has largely fallen out of fashion, particularly because of
the feminine grammar that was used in writing Hotschipsut's names
and epithets. Accompanying many of those masculine depictions of hotship
Sut are inscriptions using feminine versions of titles and feminine

endings for words. While the image appears to depict a man,
the inscriptions communicate that we are looking at a female pharaoh.
Scholars now mostly believe that Hotshepsut did not try to
hide her sex, but rather assumed these masculine traits in
portraiture in order to associate herself with kingship, and considering

that we still consider her not just a pharaoh, but
one of Egypt's most impactful pharaohs. She seems to have
achieved her goal about twenty two years after Thutmost the
Third was crowned pharaoh and about fifteen years after hotships
crowned herself. Co pharaoh. Hotchepsut died sometime around fourteen fifty

eight BC. She was likely around fifty when she passed.
Based on the mummy that is believed to be hotship Sut,
she likely died of bone cancer. Her co ruler and stepson,
Thutmost the Third, when to rule for about thirty three
more years that I'm telling. The story of Hotschipset itself

is pretty remarkable, given the measures taken after her death
to erase her from history. Across the many monuments that
Hotschipsut commissioned, archaeologists have found evidence that most the Third
and perhaps his son the next pharaoh, tried to destroy
statues and engravings featuring hot chip Sut. One of the

biggest examples of that erasure was found at d'ar l Baris,
not far from Hotshipsut's mortuary temple. In the twentieth century,
archaeologists found two pits filled with destroyed statues just yards
away from Hotschipsut's temple. After reassembling the fractured stone, it

became clear that the broken statues were all of hotship Set.
Some featured her as a sphinx, others depicted her sitting,
and some were enormous statues of the pharaoh standing upright.
These works of art had previously adorned her mortuary temple,
but at some point they were removed, destroyed, and thrown

into pits. It seems that Most the third wanted to
erase Hotchipsut's image so completely that he hid some of
the rubble underneath a ramp leading to his own mortuary temple.
But that wasn't the only form of erasure that that
Most the third demanded. Artisans on the orders of the

pharaoh chipped away at images of the previous pharaoh, as
well as inscriptions bearing her name. Buttmost the Third literally
tried to remove Hotschipsut from ancient Egyptian historical records. Although
this act might feel pretty personal, the destructive mission was

likely not an act of retro on the part of
Moost the Third against his stepmom. Evidence suggests that This
work didn't begin immediately after Hotshipsut died, but close to
twenty years after. Why wait so long to take revenge
If it's personal? Historians hypothesize that actually that Moost the Third,

removing his former co ruler from the records, was trying
to gradually subsume his stepmom's achievements as his own in
order to appear all powerful. He wouldn't want to share
credit for various achievements during their co rulership. He wanted
to claim those achievements for himself. Additionally, the idea of

female leadership complicated the male led form of government that
the ancient Egyptians subscribed to. Since it was the pharaoh's
job to maintain order and ward off chaos, it's possible
erasing Hotships from their history was an attempt to erase
the reality of female leadership and any of the chaos

that it might cause. So, even though it might be
easy to assume that that most Third attempted to erase
Hotship Suit from history because of personal contempt for his
stepmom slash Aunt, the motivation was much more likely political.
Despite this campaign of erasure, evidence of Hotshipsut's reign remains.

I mean how else would we know about her. But
between her death and the archaeological excavations of the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries, hot Chipsut largely disappeared from history. It
was only after archaeologists deciphered the inscriptions at Dar l
Bari that Hotschipsut, the female pharaoh, reappeared. And that is

part of why I'm telling her story today. This woman
was one of the most successful and prolific pharaohs of
ancient Egypt. Despite centuries of silence, were now able to
share her story and her achievements. Her reign complicated the
patriarchal system of governance of her time and complicates our

current understanding of gender and power in the ancient world.
But still she existed and her story is worth telling.
That's the story of hot chipst But keep listening after
a brief sponsor break for a little bit on her

beauty secrets. Nowadays, skincare and beauty are all the rage.

Influencers are touting the newest creams and ointment mascara's and lipsticks,
obviously the solution to any and all of your problems.
Despite the distinctly postmodern capitalists spin on beauty that we're
currently experiencing. Emphasis on one's appearance is as ancient as
the pharaoh's. One of Hotschipsut's notable accomplishments is her successful

expedition to the Kingdom of punt, which I spoke briefly
about earlier. That kingdom was known for its luxury goods
like aromatic resins, ivory gold. Hotschipsut's royally sponsored expedition came
back to Egypt with live mrh trees, with frankencen and

with gold. This trio of items pre dating the Three
Wise Men of the Bible. Hot Chipsut brought them first.
Hotchipsut took the frankincense from this expedition, charred it, and
ground it to a paste. She then took the paste
and added it to a galina based eye cosmetic now

known as coal. While she was almost certainly not the
first person to ever do it, Hotchipsut is the first
person to have been recorded using frankincense's resin as eyeliner.
Archaeologists also think they found the skin cream Hotschipsut used.
The Egyptian Museum at the University of Bonn in Germany

has in its permanent collection a vessel shaped like a
falcon that, based on an inscription on the vessel, likely
belonged to Hotschipsut. Originally, scholars believed that the falcon might
have once held her perfume, but after breaking through the
seal into the body of the falcon, they were able

to test what was once inside. Based on the chemical
components of the remaining ancient residue, the vessel likely contained
skin lotion, and not just any lotion, but body or
even medication for irritated skin. The sample contained lots of

fatty acids that are known to provide relief to people
with skin conditions. Further, scientists found a number of hydrocarbons,
which are used today to treat chronic conditions like egzema.
Scholars know that skin diseases ran in Hotchipsut's family, so
it is very likely that Hotchipsut herself suffered from something

like psoriasis and used that cream in that falcon to
help calm her skin. While this cream might have been
a temporary salve for Hotschipsut, it also might have killed her.
One of the hydrocarbons that the scientists found in the
falcon was a benzopyrene, one of the most carcinogenic compounds known.

This is the compound in cigarettes that causes lung cancer.
So essentially, hot Chipsut probably exposed herself to cancerous lotion regularly.
Scholars knew for years that Hotschipsud had cancer. Now we
have a potential cause. People have always said beauty is pain.

Noble Blood is a production of iHeartRadio and Grimm and
Mild from Aaron Mankey. Noble Blood is hosted by me
Danish Forts, with additional writing and researching by Hannah Johnston,
Hannah Zwick, Courtney Sender, Julia Milani, and Armand Cassam. The
show is edited and produced by Noemi Griffin and rima

il Kaali, with supervising producer Josh Thain and executive producers
Aaron Mankey, Alex Williams, and Matt Frederick. For more podcasts
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