In this part of the exhibition we will cover the position, power and influence of women in the social strata close to the pharaoh and royalty. Among them, relevant figures in the history of Ancient Egypt including the queens Tiyi (1390–1340 BC), Nefertiti (1353–1332 BC), Nefertari (1279–1255 BC), and the last queen of Egypt, Cleopatra VII (51–30 BC).

Piedra caliza / Reino Nuevo (1570-1070 a. C.) / Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Direzione Regionale. Musei della Toscana, Florencia (nº inv. ME7610)

Limestone / New Kingdom (1570-1070 BC)Museo Archeologico Nazionale.
Direzione Regionale Musei della Toscana, Florence (inv. no. ME7610)

Ancient Egypt was a theocracy and therefore the right to the throne was divine. The throne was handed down through women. It was women who conferred legitimacy and to become a pharaoh, it was paramount to be the son of a royal wife. Although in the language of Ancient Egypt the term queen did not exist—only the Great Royal Wife is mentioned, in the case of the queen mother or the king’s wife—all women connected to the ruler benefited from an extraordinary influence and relevance in the court.

Although power rested with men, many queens held power in periods of transition, in different changes of dynasty, guiding the new pharaoh or acting as regents until the male heir came of age to be crowned. This indicates that they were knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the court. The pharaoh’s mothers, mothers-in-law and sisters also played a relevant role.

BUSTO DE UNA REINA Piedra caliza / Periodo Ptolemaico (332-30 a. C.) / Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim (nº inv. 5921)

Limestone / Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC)
Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim (inv. no. 5921)

ATAÚD DE SHEPENUN Madera estucada y policromada / Tercer Periodo Intermedio (1069-525 a. C.) / Museo Arqueológico, Zagreb (nº inv. 667)

Polychrome plastered wood / Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 BC)
Archaeological Museum, Zagreb (inv. no. 667)

We will find reliefs, funerary objects, busts and jewelry of these royal women that remind us of their importance in Ancient Egypt; women deserving of rich decorations on their personal objects, tombs and sarcophagi.

Of particular note is the role of ruling queens, such as Hatshepsut, in the 18th dynasty. None of the high dignitaries who served under her tried to hide or camouflage their connection with queen, quite the opposite: they all proudly displayed their close relationship with her on the walls of their respective funerary monuments, on statues and on commemorative stelae.

In the same line, early historians popularized figures such as Cleopatra VII, the last queen of Egypt who took on the mighty Rome. Her continued presence in classical sources has contributed to the study of this mythical woman of universal fame.

USHEBTI DE LA REINA HENUT-TAUI I Fayenza con policromía / Tercer Periodo Intermedio, dinastía xxi (ca. 1050 a. C.) / Musée Royal, Mariemont (nº inv. B.399)

Polychrome faience / Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty (c.1050 BC)
Musée Royal, Mariemont (inv. no. B.399)