Ancient Egypt

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Why is Hatshepsut significant? What's unique about her art and architecture?

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Hatshepsut is especially significant as Egypt's first female pharaoh, and during her reign (c. 1479–1458 BC), there was a great flourishing in art and architecture, especially in terms of monuments to herself. Let's look at this in more detail.

Hatshepsut came to power first as a regent for her young stepson. She then became a co-ruler of Egypt and assumed the full power as a pharaoh, ruling over a time of economic growth, prosperity, and relative peace. Prior to her time, the arts in Egypt had slipped a bit, for the country faced many struggles, but under Hatshepsut, the arts and architecture flourished once more.

Hatshepsut focused artist endeavors primarily on monuments and royal art. She had many sculptures and images created of herself, for instance, as she sought to legitimize her rule. Some of these actually showed her in the dress and aspect of a man. Others showed her in her female stance. Still others showed her as the mythical sphinx to emphasize her power, wisdom, and authority. Her own mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri is grand and contains many fine works of art and hieroglyphics. Hatshepsut also sponsored a set of obelisks at Karnak and the strange rectangular Palace of Ma'at, that was filled with paintings of herself and her stepson. Hatshepsut also supported the creation of fine jewelry, ceremonial items, and other treasures that have become famous.

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