for National Geographic News
Around 1479 B.C. King Hatshepsut guided Egypt through 20 years of peace, prosperity, and artistic expression.
But there's a twist: Hatshepsut was a woman.
"She's the most significant female ruler in ancient Egypt," said Catharine Roehrig, an Egyptologist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Some of the fruits of Hatshepsut's prosperous reignstatues, jewelry, papyrus, and moremake up a recently opened traveling exhibition at the Met through July 9.
Princess, Queen, Pharaoh
Cathleen Keller, an Egyptologist at the University of California, Berkeley, served as a consultant for the exhibition.
Egypt had several female rulers, including Cleopatra, she says. But all of them, except Hatshepsut, emerged at the end of a dynasty.
These other female leaders "represent a last attempt by the ruling dynasty to remain in power," she said.
Hatshepsut's predecessorsthe first rulers of Egypt's New Kingdom period (1539 to 1075 B.C.)reasserted Egypt's influence and secured borders with military might.
The story of her ascent rivals a modern-day soap opera.
The plot summary: Hatshepsut, daughter of a late king, married Pharaoh Thutmose II, who was also her half-brother. Her husband died, leaving, Thutmose III, a young son by a different wife.
In Egypt queens often ruled as regents until a young pharaoh came of age.
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