Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt. Edited by Richard H. Wilkinson . (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. x, 168. $35.00.)
Version of Record online: 4 MAR 2014
© 2014 Phi Alpha Theta
Volume 76, Issue 1, pages 192–193, Spring 2014
How to Cite
Okamura, L. (2014), Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt. Edited by Richard H. Wilkinson . (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. x, 168. $35.00.). Historian, 76: 192–193. doi: 10.1111/hisn.12030_71
- Issue online: 4 MAR 2014
- Version of Record online: 4 MAR 2014
In Percy Bysshe Shelley's sonnet “Ozymandias,” titled after the pharaoh's throne name User-maat-ra, the inscription on a colossal statue of Rameses II (the Great) declares the transience of even mighty rulers and their works. Oblivion did follow Rameses's grandchild Ta-Usret, “The Powerful One,” whose death ended the New Kingdom's Nineteenth Dynasty. A trace of the grandchild appears in a historical synopsis compiled by the Byzantine chronographer George Syncellus [ca. 802]. Drawing upon royal lists recorded in an epitome by the Hellenized Egyptian priest Manetho (third century BCE), Syncellus arranged rulers of the Nineteenth Dynasty, ending with a pharaoh whom Homer (Odyssey, IV, 126) called Polybus but according to Manetho's epitomator, Julius Africanus, was named “Thuoris.” Who was “Thuoris”?
The volume under review comprises chapters by leading Egyptologists. The authors identify Ta-Usret, currently transliterated Tausret, as the granddaughter of Rameses II; disclose her behind the name “Thuoris”; and reconstruct her roles as Queen [of Sety II, 1200-1194 BCE], as regent [to Siptah, 1194-1188 BCE], and as a female pharaoh ruling on her own authority [1188-1186 BCE]. Archaeology has cast some light on Tausret as sole ruler. Her preeminence as the pharaoh entitled her to be buried (tomb KV 14) not in the Valley of the Queens but in the Valley of the Kings, west of the Nile, across from the dynasty's capital, Thebes (modern Luxor). Her empty sarcophagus, reworked and reused, has turned up in the nearby tomb (KV 13) of a powerful chancellor named Bay. Like male pharaohs of the New Kingdom, Tausret began to construct a separate, distant temple (a “Temple of Millions of Years”) to complement her tomb. Until recently, prospects for studying the temple were bleak because later pharaohs demolished and removed its stone blocks for their own buildings; further, partial excavations in 1896 by archaeologist William Flinders Petrie led to the misapprehension that the temple had not been completed and that more excavations would be fruitless. From 2004 to 2011, however, the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition (UAEE) Tausret Temple Project successfully deployed ground-penetrating radar to identify subterranean features of the destroyed temple. Investigators conclude that Tausret's temple was nearly completed, and they can now discern the phases of its construction. Research of the past few decades has placed Tausret's name and her works alongside women of ancient Egypt who are more familiar: Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra VII. Her deeds as regent and pharaoh and her undisclosed death, however, remain uncertain.
Although Egyptologists will most benefit from this book's extensive references and conclusions, the contributors to Tausret offer much to all readers interested in New Kingdom Egypt [ca. 1550–1050 BCE], coeval with events like Akhenaten's solar monotheism, the Exodus, and the fall of Troy. All the essays are clearly written, enhanced by line drawings, black-and-white photographs, inset boxes on topics like “The Sarcophagus of Queen Tausret,” and eight pages of color plates (86).