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The Death of Hatshepsut

Marianne Luban

The big question is not so much whether the text of the El Arish shrine,
carved in the Ptolemaic Era,1 can possibly be a mythological version of
something that transpired in the Egyptian court of the 18th Dynasty. Although
some parallels can be seen, it remains an unprovable theory. 2 For the most part,
the El Arish artifact has been connected to the Biblical exodus, notably by
Immanuel Velikovsky, but that is beyond the scope of this paper. The naos,
fashioned from black granite, stands about four feet tall and was discovered in
the 1860s. Several persons have rendered their translations of the lines of text
that remain, including F. Ll. Griffith in 1890 and Georges Goyon in 1936. 3
The main question must bewhy was this shrine ever carved at all and
what did it once contain? And why was the story it told related in such a way
that it seemed to involve gods instead of actual figures of Egyptian history?
Obviously, it was because whoever wrote the text that decorates the object
meant to combine a bit of legend with some mythology, both Egyptian and
Greek. Also, if I am correct about the mnemohistorical element, not all the
names of the protagonists were rememberedparticularly that of the queen
whose [step]son took her by force and whose name was subsequently
subjected to damnatio memoriae.
Even Manetho,4 for all the pains he took to compile a history of his land
from various sources, could not recall the name of Maatkare Hatshepsut. And
yet he somehow knew of her and that she had ruled Egypt within his 18th
Dynasty. Manetho assigned her the only name by which she had been known in

Or perhaps even earlier. Cf. Antonio Loprieno.

Hans Goedicke possibly was the first to make the connection.
F. Ll. Griffith, The Antiquities of Tell El Yehudiyeh, EEF (London, 1890) 71-73. G. Goyon, Kmi, VI (1936) 1-42.
Egyptian author who flourished circa 300 BCE. He wrote a history of his land in the Greek language.

recent memorythe royal woman or Hmt nsw, pronounced Amensis by a

Hellenized Egyptian. That someone like Hatshepsut can have completely fallen
out of the Egyptian collective memory before the Common Era does not seem
likely. Nor were any of the other rare female pharaohs forgotten by the antique
historian, despite having been omitted from earlier but still existing kinglists. In
the estimation of Manetho, Ame[n]ssis/Hatshepsut did not usurp the throne
from anyone but followed a male king, who was her brother. She reigned for 21
whole years and was succeeded by someone with the prenomen of Menkheperra
in the 9th month into Year 22. Because Manetho knew that Thutmose III had
become pharaoh in the 9th month or I Smw [day 4], this was his conclusion.
What the Egyptian failed to realize is that Thutmose had actually succeeded his
father many years before on that day and had temporarily become
overshadowed by Hatshepsut, the sister-wife of Thutmose II, in the interim.
Manetho did know the names of the male relatives of Hatshepsut, but it
was not he who was responsible for the El Arish shrine. Still, one has to wonder
if he had anything to say in his Aegyptiaca about an old lady whom the wind
blew away.

The shrine somehow made its way to El Arish, about five days leisurely
ride by camel from the eastern border of Egypt along the coastal road to Gaza. 5
It had been overturned and was being used as a watering trough when
5 According to the traveler, Meshullam ben Menachem of Volterra. He made the journey in 1481 CE.

discovered. But its text implies that it originally stood at Saft el Henna, [ancient
Per Sopdu] a location in the eastern Delta. Even though the shrine had seen
rough use, 74 lines of readable hieroglyphs remained.

The hieroglyphic text of the right side, above, sets out to narrate the
situation of king Shu who, in Egyptian mythology, was the god of air and light
and a twin to Tefnut, goddess of moisture. These siblings formed a kind of holy
trinity with the sun, Ra, having sprung from him. By styling himself and his
wife, Nefertiti, as the personifications of Shu and Tefnut, did Akhenaten manage
to be a god and yet preserve his brand of monotheism. Shu and Tefnut were
one with Ra and could not be separated from him and, of course, Ra and the
Aten were also one and the same.
Had Nefertiti not been a sister of
Neferkheperura Akhenaten, these identifications would have fallen rather flat.
But, as it happened, until Year 9, Nefertiti was the only goddess at the royal city
of Akhetaten.6
Therefore, the king Shu of the El Arish naos also had a sister-wife, Tefnut,
and a son and heir named Geb, considered to be an earth-god. The text of the
shrine says: Now it came to pass that the majesty of Shu obtained the whole
land, none could stand before him, no other god was in the mouth of his

In Year 9 Akhenaten appears to have reinforced the monotheism by rejecting the identification with Shu and Tefnut
and also removing Ra-Horakhti from the cartouche of the Aten.

soldiers. But, evidently, something had occurred to weaken the position of Shu,
perhaps illness, and evil fell upon this land. There was a great disturbance in
the Residence.
However, prior to this, it is made clear that Shu was a beneficent ruler and
held sway over the eastern Delta, restoring temples there that had been defiled
and erecting new ones. He was an avenger of his father, Atum, upon whose
throne he was seated. He smote all those who injured his father, Atum. He
slew the children of Apep. He made all the enemies of his father, Ra, to
A king of Egypt who identified with this manifestation of the sun was
Thutmose I. Among his titulary is "image of Atum" and "adorer of Atum".
At one point the text reads: Now behold the majesty of Shu was in his
palace at Memphis; his majesty said to the great ennead of nine gods which
followed him, Come, let us proceed to the East to my palace at Yat Nebes and
see our father, Ra-Harmakhis, in the Eastern horizon. Let us pass by way of the
Waters; let us employ ourselves by ordering [restoring?] our palace at Yat
Nebes. Yat Nebes means The Mound of the Ziziphus Tree 8 and was apparently
in the sacred precinct of Saft el Henna.
A long description of Yat Nebes follows, including a mysterious location
near it called the Per Iart, where a king of Egypt obtained something, a certain
kind of wig with diadem,9 that enabled him to rule. But, meanwhile...Then the
children of the dragon, Apep, the evil-doers [of Usheru?] and of the desert
came upon the read of Yat Nebes, invading Egypt at these evildoers came from the Eastern hills [upon] all the roads of Yat Nebes.
Of course, Apep was the mythological enemy of the sun during the course
of the night as he made his way through the perilous Duat. Apparently Shu
fought with these invaders and repelled them for a time, because he undertook
to fortify all the places around Yat Nebes, erecting some great walls to repel the
evil-doers and perhaps some ditches or pools. 10 It was in this fashion, using
such measures, that Shu obtained the whole land or, in other words, was king
of all Egypt, including the eastern Delta, which had once belonged to the
Hyksos, managing to exclude new invaders.
Following the lengthy hegemony of the Hyksos in the northland, the
Egyptian rulers would have been anxious that such a division of the country
should not occur again. However, in the mythology, the great reptilian foe of Ra,
Apep, returned every night to be vanquished anew so that the sun might rise in
his incarnation of Khepri. That cycle was endless, so this part of the inscription
seems to refer to humans, instead, foreigners who were the enemies of the son

Atum was a manifestation of Ra.

Spina Christi, the shrub being known for its long, sharp thorns. It is hardy but normally grows near a water supply,
such as pools, wadis, and rivers. In ancient Egyptian, the word for sharp is spd.
9 The determinatives of the word on the naos are both those for hair and jewel.
10 Or perhaps the Ziziphus shrubs, which can grow up to forty feet tall and can form an impenetrable thicket, were the
barrier. A nectar or honey is made from the Ziziphus that is highly regarded in Egypt and the Arab world for its
medicinal uses.

of the sun, a title carried by every king of Egypt and not only Shu.
But then came the revolution in his palace at Memphis [the northern
capital] accompanied by some very bad weather. The introduction of Geb, the
son of Shu, is a rather abrupt one on the El Arish shrine. It follows directly after
the mention of the insurrection in the palace and Goyon renders it: Then Geb
saw his mother who loved him greatly But then comes the revelation by Goyon
His heart was negligent toward her. Griffith maintained that it was Geb who
desired his mother greatly and, instead of negligence, roamed about in search of
This translation is uncertain, but even more difficult to understand is the
broken phrase that follows: The land...for her in great affliction or perhaps on
account of her in great affliction. It is not clear if it was Geb who was in a state
of affliction or the land, itself. Regardless, that Geb may have encountered
an obstacle in succeeding as king is indicated by the passage regarding the
death of Shu: The majesty of Shu departed to heaven with his companions.
Tefnut was in the place of her coronation in Memphis. 11 Now she proceeded to
the royal house of Shu in the time of mid-day: the great cycle of nine gods
were upon the path of eternity, the road of his father Ra-Harmakhis.
The El Arish naos does not specify any lapse of time before the son of Shu,
Geb, dealt with his mother. It simply says, according to Goyon: Then the
majesty....he found her in the place which is called Pi-Kharoti. He seized her by was a great revolution in the household. Shu had departed to heaven.
There was no exit from the palace for the space of nine days. Now these nine
days were in violence and tempest; none whether god or man could see the face
of his fellow.
Therefore, according to the shrine, all of these things, the death of Shu,
the enthronement of his wife, Tefnut, and the revolt of their son, Geb, all took
place during the nine days of violence and tempest. It is not so clear who began
the coup that resulted in the demise of Shu. Was it Tefnut, Geb, both in
tandem, or someone else? But, ultimately, it appears that Tefnut found some
kind of fate at the hands of Geb.
In Arabic there is a saying Amshir abul-za'abib al-kathir, ya'khud alagouza we yatir or Amshir the father of many winds, takes the old woman and
flies off. Some think this means that, in the month of Amshir by the Coptic
calendar, an elderly person was more likely to die. Others have opined that old
people are scrawny and so light that a strong wind could blow them away. But,
since the meaning of the saying is unclear, it could be rooted in something that
occurred in remote antiquity in Egypt, now obscure. After all, any month of the
year is suitable for dying for each season has its disadvantages. In Egypt, it can
be extremely hot in summer but also cold in winter, especially in the northland.
It was said that, in days gone by, the months of the annual flooding of the Nile
11 Tefnout resta dans le lieu de son couronnement Memphis. and Voici qu'il la trouve en ce lieu appel Pi-Kharoti
et voici qu'il l'enleva de vive force.

usually brought pestilences. Also, Egypt has as many overweight old women as
any other land. Yet Amshir [Mekhir in the dialect of the south] is most
definitely known as the month of howling winds and violent sand or dust storms
that surely turned ancient Memphis into a place of yellowish haze with very poor
visibilityjust as has happened in modern Cairo.12 Amshir is an extension of the
Civil Calendar of ancient Egypt and lies between February 8 and March 9 of the
Gregorian Calendar. It corresponds to the second month of the season of Proye
[prt or growing] of the Civil Calendar, which ideally occurred in the true winter.
Normally, a dust storm lasts only a few hours. But on Wednesday,
February 29, 2012, there was a dust storm in Cairo such as had not been
recalled in recent years. On March 10 of the same year it was reported that a
storm had been raging for three days in a row without ceasing. It may be
possible that a dust storm could cause visibility problems for nine consecutive
days [although it would be very remarkable] and the duration seems to fit
within one of the ten-day cycles traditionally assigned to Amshir. It is said
Amshir comes in tens, that is 10 hot days followed by 10 cold days or vice
versa. Or 10 windy days preceded by 10 pleasant days with clear skies. 13
The text of the shrine continues: The majesty of Geb came forth as
crowned on the throne of his father, Shu, and everyone did him homage. Geb
proceeds to the North country after 75 days.he didnt go to Heliopolis;
moreover, certain Asiatics carried his scepter, called Degai, who live on what the
gods abominate.
The fact that the new pharaoh did not go to Heliopolis may have some
significance. According to Hatshepsut, in her legitimizing texts, she and her
father, Thutmose I, traveled to that city so that she might be crowned by the
gods as the co-regent of the older king. There she supposedly also received the
throne name of Maatkare. After that, father and daughter returned to either
Thebes or Memphis, where Hatshepsut was introduced to the court in her new
capacity. None of it ever happened, of course, as the successor of Thutmose I
was his son, Thutmose II. In Egypt, a female was not supposed to become the
ruler if a male heir existed. But, if Geb bypassed Heliopolis and went directly
north to Per Sopdu/Saft el Henna, that might imply he was already the king in
his own estimation and did not require any rituals there such as Hatshepsut
found necessary to claim she had undergone.
Nevertheless, Geb runs into difficulty. His father, Shu, had placed the
crown of Egypt on his own head and Geb is resolved to do the same. Just as he
enters the Per Iart near Yat Nebes, where the royal headdress that he wanted
was stored, the snake, son of the earth, came forth and breathed its vapor
upon his majesty of Geb in a great rage. Those who followed him fell down
dead [or were burned] by the fire of the Hert Tep, the uraeus.
If Geb was the rightful king, why was he punished by the very cobra that

12 On March 22, 2013, Cairo and the north of Egypt saw very high winds and dense dust clouds disrupted traffic due to
poor visibility.
13 In the Hebrew Bible, the days of darkness prior to the exodus are only three.

was supposed to breathe fire on his enemies? His majesty burned with this
venom [?] and proceeded to the north at Yat Nebes with this burning of the
uraeus Hert Tep.
Can it be that he wronged his father by insurrection or his mother by
violating her? Or can it be because Asiatics, the traditional enemies of Egypt,
were the ones instrumental in Geb obtaining or regaining the throne? After all,
while Geb was only afflicted with a burning, his followers fared worse. They fell
down dead, either for meddling in the institution of Egyptian kingship or for their
impure habits. The word dgAy in Egyptian denotes something of an ill nature
as it is followed by a determinative of the bad swallow. Rainer Hannig, in his
dictionary, defines it as something hidden or concealed, perhaps in a
deceptive fashion. Can this possibly refer, in the inscription of the naos, to
Egyptians who were not wholly assimilated but continued to secretly practice
some of the ways of their foreign origins?
It is interesting that the snake did not actually bite the heir in either of the
translations of Griffith and Goyon. A deadly vapor is reminiscent of the
miasmas that other peoples of history, ignorant of microbes, believed caused
disease. Vitruvius of the First Century CE wrote: For when the morning breezes
blow toward the town at sunrise, if they bring with them mist from marshes
and, mingled with the mist, the poisonous breath of creatures of the marshes to
be wafted into the bodies of the inhabitants, they will make the site unhealthy.
Malaria fit very well to this picture and even the Egyptian royals were not
immune from this plague, as we now know young king Tutankhamun was a
Geb searches for a remedy for whatever troubles him, this heat in his
limbs at Saft el Henna or Per-Sopdu [Sopdu being another name of Shu] in
hopes of receiving a cure from the henna plants thereto no avail. Only when
Geb makes a box of some hard substance [stone or metal] for the wig with its
diadem, does he get relief. Then, apparently, his accession was approved by the
local gods. After years passed, King Geb decides to bring the Iart and its box
or shrine back to the great lake at Yat Nebes to have it washed. At that point it
becomes a crocodile, the god Sobek. Also at this time Geb battles the evildoers at a place called The Mound of the Knives, himself manifesting the
attributes of several kinds of beasts associated with mighty kingship, the hawk,
the bull, and the crocodile. After that, he has all the great deeds of his
immediate predecessors recounted to him, including the localities in which these
took place, the implication being that Geb had now, himself, followed in their
illustrious footsteps.
It cannot be imagined that, in the eyes of the ancient Egyptians, there was
ever a greater heir or subsequent conqueror than Thutmose III. But, what is
most significant when it comes to the author of the text of the El Arish naos
possibly equating him with Geb is the fact that Thutmose began his great career
14 It would be very interesting to learn from what maladies Thutmose III suffered.

in the windy month of Amshir. So says his own Armant Stela, giving the very
date after which this pharaoh performed all his great deeds too numerous to
A heat in the limbs can be a description of a fever that need have
nothing to do with vapor-breathing diadems. Indeed, that Thutmose III may not
have been well in his youth could be construed as a reason for Hatshepsut
taking over the kingship. The name of a Chief Prophet of Amun during the reign
of Thutmose, Menkheperraseneb, hints that perhaps there was a problem. In
order to have been in his exalted office by at least Year 33 of the reign, this
meant that the high priest must have been nearly as old as the king, himself. 15
Since there were four prophets, it makes sense that the senior one would not
have been a mere youth. The fact that he was given a name that meant
Menkheperra is healthy16 would have been more unusual if that was really the
situation at the time than if the opposite were true. Because such a name could
be seen as a kind of wish, even a magical spell, in favor of health being restored
to the young king every time someone spoke the name of Menkheperraseneb. If
the pharaoh had really been sound of body, then the name would have been the
opposite of a charm but construed as something to tempt the evil forces and
actually place the king in danger. A parallel is found in Jewish life of centuries
past. A boy could be named Alter [meaning the old one in Yiddish] in the
hope that he would not succumb to any illness in his childhood or youth. On the
other hand, if someone said the baby looked healthy [though few would do so!]
or even handsome, his mother would spit three times and exclaim, No evil
eye! in order to ward off any malice from jealous demons or persons. The ideas
of eastern peoples about certain things are essentially the same.
Obviously, in a purely mythological tale, the weather needs have no
bearing on the events as the gods, themselves, are presumably mightier than
any tempests. They can even control them. Ramesses II prayed to Baal/Sutekh
in order that the Egyptians he sent to meet his new Hittite bride would not be
ambushed by the blizzards that can arrive without warning in winter in the
Levant. Gods may contend among themselves but, when they do, it seems odd
to say that they could not see each others faces on account of a storm. Yet men
and even pharaohs can be at the mercy of the weather, diseases, and animals,
as well. A living serpent does not care whether it is commoner or king that it
Is it a coincidence, as regards the El Arish tale, that two important events
in the lives of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III are recorded as having occurred in
the month of Amshir? The first is the day chosen by the woman-king when the
oracle of Amun proclaimed her as the intended successor of her father,
Thutmose I. It is Year 2, II Peret, day 29. That this legitimizing but entirely
fictional occurrence must be Year 2 of Thutmose I is demanded by the
15 In fact, Menkheperraseneb outlived the sovereign and seems to have seen the reign of Amenhotep II.
16 The verb to be was usually omitted from names.

participation of the father of Hatshepsut in her subsequent coronations at

Heliopolis [by Atum in the presence of the gods] and elsewhere before the
nobles of the court. As Thutmose I still had some years to go in his own reign,
Hatshepsut presumably assumed the role of co-regent with the throne name of
Maatkare already assigned. These lies are contradicted by several factors, one
of them being that Hatshepsut was referred to as merely Hmt nsw [king's
wife] or Hmt nTr [god's wife] for the years she was the consort of the true heir
of her father, Thutmose II, her half brotherand even for a few years into the
reign of the child-king, Thutmose III.
While Hatshepsut claimed her coronation took place on New Year's Day, a
very convenient date as it does not imply taking over from anyone else in the
middle of the year, other indications point to no actual coronation for the female
ruler at all. Her rise to power seems to have been a gradual one in reality, first
taking the helm of Egypt during the earliest years of Thutmose III and before
long simply appropriating the full regalia of kingshipbecause there was no one
willing or able to stop her. In fact, it might have been Thutmose II who was the
one crowned on New Year's Day, as his earliest attestation as king comes shortly
after that in his Year 1. He may have been the one named co-regent as,
according to Manetho, Thutmose I died in the 4 th month of the year, not long
after.17 Also, the name of Thutmose II was inserted into the text of Hatshepsut
which tells of her fake coronation, probably by order of Thutmose III once he
regained his sole kingship.
Therefore, at least temporarily, Thutmose II was wiped out of the record
by an oracle that purportedly happened in the month of Amshir during the
festival of Amun at Thebes. By my chronological calculations, that date amounts
to Julian March 4, 1519 in the reign of Thutmose I. That is to say, the next
pharaoh and actual heir was gone with the wind via propaganda until his son
placed him back in the true order of the succession of their dynasty. However, it
is probable that Thutmose II did not die in the turbulent month of Amshir but in
the spring, as the accession date of Thutmose III is Day 4, I Smw. 18
Regardless, just as the El Arish shrine seems to indicate it was the sisterwife of Shu who met her fate in the month of Amshir, so does a much earlier
monument hint the same about the end of Hatshepsut. The text of the El Arish
naos states that Geb, after an unspecified confrontation with his mother,
Tefnut, at a place called Pi-Kharoti,19 headed north after 75 days. Since Geb
waited for 75 days to undertake his journey with his men, that surely meant
someone died and had to be embalmed and entombed before he could go about
the business of his new status. Herodotus wrote, concerning mummification,
17 Nobody would have been named co-regent as early as Year 2 of Aakheperkara Thutmose I. The reason Hatshepsut
chose this year was as an excuse to celebrate an early heb-sed by a backward count. The math is explained in my
book, Manetho Demystified [2012].
18 That is why Manetho assigns no final month to Chebron/Aakheperenre Thutmose II. It is due to his confusion about
which king Thutmose III actually succeeded.
19 The Leiden Magical Papyrus indicates that Geb [or Kronos] committed rape. In ancient Egypt, rape was viewed as an
act of vengeance.

that the body is placed in natron for seventy days, and then covered entirely
The Armant Stela of Thutmose III gives the enigmatic datum of Year 22,
II Peret, day 10, a time shortly before he left to embark on his premier Asiatic
campaign and which some see as his independence day or the death of
Hatshepsut. This was on Julian February 4, 1482 BCE by my count. Was it her
demise on the 10th day that gave rise to a legend of 9 days of storms having
come before during one of the 10-day periods of Amshir?
Thutmose III and his army reached Djaru on the 4th month of the second
season, day 25. That would have been April 20th in 1482 BCE, according to the
Julian calendar, later to be known as the month of Pharmouti. And it was 75
days after the date on the Armant Stela.20 It is likely Thutmose III was held up
for the same reason as Geb and that would have been the demise of
Hatshepsut, the step-mother. Nor would Thutmose have needed to make any
detours to Heliopolis. He was already king of Egypt and had been recognized as
such years before. But he still had to fulfill his traditional role as the iwnmwt=f, the one who performs the rituals upon the mummy of the dead ruler,
the first act of the successor. He was the only man in Egypt qualified to act the
part in a royal burial and, had a picture been made of the ceremony, Ay would
have not been the first successor to be shown already wearing the pharaonic
crown, as he was in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The confrontation of Geb and Tefnut in the Egyptian language moved
Georges Goyon to translate it in French as "voici qu'il l'enleva de vive force.
The verb enlever has several different meanings. They are to carry off, take
off [as a coat], abduct, lift, or raise to heaven. For example, l'enlvement des
Sabines is "the abduction of the Sabine women." De vive force means "by main
force" or with strength or violence. It is striking that, in Arabic, the old woman
is carried off, as well, but the word ya'khud basically means upward or
carry up, raise or pull up. Whatever Egyptian term was used, perhaps it,
too, cleverly indicated that, not only was Tefnut carried off by Geb, but also
raised to heaven by the winds of Amshir in a metaphorical sense.
If the El Arish naos is truly dated to the Ptolemaic Era, then Greek
mythology could be involved and the damaged text might have originally been
more clear in stating that Geb raped Tefnut or her daughter. Taking a woman by
force was not something alien among the Greek gods and Titans. The lateDemotic magical papyrus, divided between London and Leiden, is dated to
around 300 CE. It is an overwhelmingly Egyptian document but somewhat
influenced by Greek culture. The part that mentions Geb and Tefnut is also
interrupted by a lacuna but definitely mentions intercourse. It says Geb
assumed his form of a bull and violated [the daughter?] of his mother Tefnut,
again...because [?] the heart of his father cursed [?] his face; the fury of him
20 Due to the itinerary of Meshullam ben Menachem, who took the same route as Thutmose III, I have calculated that the
king and his army required a minimum of four days to reach Djaru from the northern capital.


whose soul is as flame, while his body is as a pillar...

The footnote to the text explains: Geb is Kronos, the planet Kronos being
named 'Horus the Bull', and Nut, daughter of Tefnut, is the heavenly cow in the
[Destruction of Mankind], etc. The restoration before 'his mother' is, however,
very uncertain. Cf. The Greek myth of Kronos, and Plutarch, De Iside et Or.,
cap.12, where 'Rea is Nut.21
In ancient Egypt, however, a king did not need to rape his sister because
he would probably have to marry her, anyway, at an early age. He might even
marry all of his sisters. But his mother was taboo. The same could apply to a
step-mother, the chief queen, as she would have been seen as the exclusive
property of the dead father. However, it is unclear if all of the lesser wives of the
defunct pharaoh were off-limits to the new one. Regardless, rape was seen as
an act of vengeance and an assertion of supremacy by the ancient Egyptians.

21 Kronos raped his sister, Rhea, and they engendered the first six of the gods to live on Mount Olympus. The Leyden
Papyrus, An Egyptian Magical Book, edited by F. Ll. Griffith and Herbert Thompson [London, 1904].