Models of Female Authority in the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period

Author: Jessica White
Major: History, Art History
Approved: Spring 2019
Status: Completed

This case study seeks to explore how ancient Egyptian royal women legitimized their authority during the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Periods. Specifically, the study is designed to understand how the legitimation strategies compared between time periods, as well as how they compared to the strategies of Kings during similar eras. In order to answer these questions, this study analyzes relationships with the divine through the lens of mortuary scene reliefs. Egyptian kings and royal women were consistently portrayed interacting with gods within their funerary monuments, though most of the time royal women did not build on the same scale, nor did they always showcase the same relationship to the divine. By exploring these differences in divine interaction, this study aims to understand gendered differences in royal power. Mortuary scene reliefs also underwent changes over time and social strata. The analysis of how two royal women of two different time periods represented divine interaction will identify is there is any temporal change in how female power was modeled.

Hatshepsut of the New Kingdom and Amenirdis I of the Third Intermediate Period serve as the female comparatives for this study of royal women. Both women held prominent positions of power during their respective periods. Hatshepsut adopted multiple titles during her life, including God’s Wife of Amun and, more famously, the title of King. Amenirdis I also served as God’s Wife of Amun, but at a time when the position held more power than it ever had before. Hatshepsut’s male counterpart, Thutmose III, as well as Amenirdis I’s contemporary, Taharqa, provide male comparatives for this study in order to identify gendered differences in authority. The analyses from this case study suggest that Hatshepsut and Amenirdis I’s choices in mortuary decoration were based on the political offices they held rather than gendered ideas of power.

White Distinction Project Final