the girl who used to dance on fire and brimstone (whiskyinmind) wrote,
the girl who used to dance on fire and brimstone

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Egyptology *headdesk*

This has nothing to do with fandom and will probably not interest anyone not already interested in Egyptology but I just felt like I had to rant a little.

There's a programme on Discovery Civilisation right now called "Women Pharoahs" which is focusing on women who used the position of God's Wife to become powerful. God's Wife was a priestess who ritually re-enacted the creation myth with the God's earthly avatar. The creation myth in Egyptology is all about sex (as are most creation myths when it comes down to it but that's getting off track).

This programme is being narrated by a woman, the majority of 'experts' are women as well, and there are lots of glamorous shots of very beautiful women dressed as Nefertari, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and it wouldn't surprise me if Cleopatra makes an appearance somewhere. The obvious implication here is that these women used sex to gain power.


It may be part of their stories, but it's just part.

Hatshepsut was the first recognised female pharoah. She was the oldest child of Thutmose I, wife of Thutmose II and step-mother of Thutmose III. She was also God's Wife - not really surprising because members of the royal families were often priests and priestesses - the fact that the eldest royal child held the highest role possible in Amun's temples is not really a surprise.

When Thutmose I died, she was a very young teenager - 13 or 14 (her DOB is a little unclear) - and her step-brother took the title of king. Since he wasn't pure-blood royal, he married Hatshepsut to solidify his position. When he died, his son (by another wife) was still too young to take the throne so Hatshepsut took it. She reigned for around 30 years and there doesn't seem to have been any real rivalry between her and her step-son (Thutmose III). Years after her death but still in Thutmose III's reign, Hatshepsutp's name and effigies were largely destroyed - there's a difference of opinion as to why that is but the vast majority of egyptologists agree that it was because the Pharoah is the earthly embodiement of the god on Earth. He would be resurrected as Osiris in the after-life, therefore established religion dictated that the pharoah could not have been a woman. The erasure of Hatshepsut's role was most likely a whitewash by the religious institutions rather than a vendetta by her hard-done-by stepson.

The same may be true of Nefertiti - she was also God's Wife for a while. The main point about her though, is that she was the wife of Akhenaten. The Heretic. Akhenaten turned away from established religion and set up his own system of belief revolving around the sun disk god - Aten. Since the role of God's Wife was by definition part of the established religion, it's unlikely that she used that position to gain power.

One thing intrigues me about this programme, since it seems so determined to show that God's Wives used their position to gain power, it's completely ignored the ever-growing theory that Nefertiti herself became Pharoah after the death of Akhenaten. Sometime during her husband's reign, she disappears from history. And then suddenly Akhenaten gains a co-regent - Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten - and after his death that co-regent becomes Pharoah under the name Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare and there are a couple of depictions of the co-regnets in intimate poses which some readers have taken to symbolise a homosexual relationship between the two. However, the similarity between the names Nefertiti and Neferneferuaten and other evidence from the time indicate that it may indeed be the same person. (Incidentally, it was Nefertiti's step-son Tutankhaten who became Pharoah after Smenkhkare, moved the country back towards the old worship and changed his name to Tutankhamun - ao the name change thing? Not so unusual in Ancient Egypt - plus, Hatshepsut dressed as a man when she was Pharoah, including the false beard)

This programme has completely skipped that argument, probably because to do so would further highlight Nefertiti's role in the Armana heresy which meant she could not have continued the position of God's Wife at the time she gained power.

What seems to have happened with this programme is that some producer somewhere stumbled on the term 'God's Wife'; found out a little about the story; decided to make a show; gathered a group of feminist theorists; ran out of story...

Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Nefertari, Cleopatra. They were very powerful women, there's no question about that, but their position as God's Wife was only a small part of that and it certainly wasn't the path they used to gain power.

Don't you just hate it when TV sets out trying to make a point but lacks the real evidence to do it?

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