Everyone has heard of Ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut and she is often, erroneously, referred to as Ancient Egypt’s only female pharaoh. However there a lots of other ladies who can claim to have ruled Egypt. Some of these are shadowy figures and little is known about them but others have more concrete evidence.
Meryt Neith 3000BC
Around 3000BC there are some inscription fragments referring to a need to unite Upper and Lower Egypt by this shadowy figure. Believed to be the third ruler of the 1st dynasty, there is a carved monument carrying the name Meryt-Neith, a feminine name. She seems to have ruled with the power of Pharaoh and was buried with full panoply of a royal ruler. Apart from that we know nothing about her, did she really exist, and was she just the regent of Den. The Palermo stone appears to have part of her name so I think we can count her in.
Khentkawes I 2498 BC
There is controversy about the translation of her titles but at least one Egyptologist believes that they say King of Upper and Lower Egypt as well as mother of the king. She was also shown with the royal uraeus, a false beard and carry kingly sceptres.
Neithikret aka Nitocris
Another possible female king was the shadowy Neithikret (c.2148-44 BC), end of VI dynasty. The wife of Djedkare Izezi of Vth dynasty, Nitiqret or Neith Iqerti aka Nitocris at the well remembered in later times.
Sobekneferu or Neferusobek
The evidence for this female ruler is a lot stronger, the successor to Amenemhat IV; she was probably the daughter of Amenemhat III. The last ruler of the XII dynasty Sobeknefru (c.1787-1783 BC) was portrayed wearing the royal head cloth and kilt over her otherwise female dress. The so called Princesses of Dashur jewellery was contemporary with her life. Dashur is near Cairo. It would seem that Maat is not upset by females taking on masculine roles. Indeed there is even a title for female Horus. “…Hrt, the female Horus (D2/18). This title commonly used by the women occupying the throne of Egypt, with its origin in the role of Sobekneferu.
Hatshepsut the most famous female pharaoh was the daughter of Tutmosis I and came to the throne after the death of her husband Tutmosis II. Initially the regent for Tutmosis III after 2-3 years she assumed the co-regency, I believe with the agreement of Tuthmosis III. She is shown wearing traditional kingly regalia as there was no female equivalent. During her fifteen year reign (c.1473-1458 BC) she mounted at least one military campaign and initiated a number of impressive building projects, including her superb funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri in Luxor.
The origins of another female pharaoh remain highly controversial. Yet there is far more to the famous Nefertiti than her dewy-eyed portrait bust. Actively involved in her husband Akhenaton’s restructuring policies, she is shown wearing kingly regalia, executing foreign prisoners and, as some Egyptologists believe, ruling independently as king following the death of her husband c.1336 BC. The smiting poses are particularly interesting as these seem to indicate and degree of kingly powerful that is astounding. Go to El Minya, Middle Egypt to see evidence of her.
Tawosret or Tausret
Following the death of her husband Seti II in 1194 BC end XIX dynasty, Tawosret took the throne for herself and, over a thousand years later, the last of Egypt’s female pharaohs. She had a highly suspicious relationship with Chancellor Bay. She has a mortuary temple in Luxor, Ancient Thebes and a tomb in the Valley of Kings.
Cleopatra VII the last Ptolemy restored Egypt’s fortunes until her eventual suicide in 30 BC; she marks the notional end of ancient Egypt. Most of her monuments are around Alexandria.