Hatshepsut was a woman who ruled Egypt between 1479-1457 BCE. Contrary to popular belief, she was not the first woman in Egyptian history to take the role of pharaoh, but she is among the most famous, thanks to her extremely long and relatively prosperous reign. For Egyptologists, Hatshepsut was the cause of much confusion and mystery for an extended period of time, due to attempts to literally obliterate her from history by chiseling her likeness and cartouches from artistic depictions of the period in which she lived and ruled.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and Ahmose, and evidence suggests that she was very close to her parents and may have in fact been favored as a potential ruler of Egypt. When her father died in 1493 BCE, she married her half-brother, Thutmose II, and came to be known as the Great Royal Wife. Upon the death of her husband, Thutmose III, his son by another wife, technically ascended the throne, but due to his youth, Hatshepsut became regent, and over time, she assumed the position of pharaoh, adopting the ceremonial garb of the pharaohs, including the elaborate false beard.
During her reign, Hatshepsut embarked on a number of building projects, including a remarkable tomb complex in the region now known as the Valley of the Kings. Hatshepsut's tomb can still be visited today, along with several other historical sites in the era, and it is believed that she began the tradition of holding burials in this region. After her death, she was initially buried in this tomb and later moved, perhaps as a result of political machinations.
She also sent Egyptians to other regions of the world to trade, and contemporary art depicts the return of these adventurers with foreign plants, goods, and people. She also built an assortment of temples and other structures, and was apparently quite adept at managing her public image. There is some debate over who attempted to erase this image; some people suspect that Thutmose III was responsible, while others attribute the widespread defacement of her monuments, buildings, and statues to Amenhotep II. The reason for this attempt to strike Hatshepsut from history is unknown, though it is possible that Amenhotep II felt insecure on the throne and wished to claim some her of accomplishments for his own.
In 2007, a mummy was positively identified as Hatshepsut, using genetic material from known family members. Using an MRI machine, historians discovered that Hatshepsut had a tooth removed shortly before her death, and evidence suggests that she probably died of an infection which started with the tooth abscess. The mummy had other medical problems, including bone cancer, and she may have been fortunate to die relatively rapidly from an infection, rather than from the prolonged misery of cancer.