Episode 9: She Is Foremost

Powerful Women of the Fourth Dynasty

Around 2500 BCE, the Fourth Dynasty is ending. Menakaure (ep. 8) passes without heir, and the throne is unstable. So, a royal woman steps into the breach; her name is Khenty-Kaus, and she is a boss.

Khenty-Kaus (“She is Foremost”) places her son Shepses-kaf on the throne, and this gives us a golden opportunity to focus on the oft-neglected royal women of the Old Kingdom.

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The only known representation of Khenty-kaus, from her tomb at Giza. (Source: Verner, 1994).



Queen Hetep-heres II and Mery-sankh III of the Fourth Dynasty, from a tomb at Giza (Source: Boston MFA).


Menkaure and an unknown queen, discovered in a robber’s pit at Giza (Source: Boston MFA).


The rock-cut mastaba/pyramid of Khenty-kaus I, built at Giza (Source: the author, 2013).



Vivienne Gae Callender, In Hathor’s Image: the Wives and Mothers of Egyptian Kings from Dynasties I-VI, 2012 (Amazon).

Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, 2010 (Amazon).

Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, 1994 (Amazon).

Erik Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: the One and the Many, 1996 (Amazon).

Barry Kemp, Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization, 2005 (Amazon).

Mark Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, 2008 (Amazon).

Gay Robins, The Art of Ancient Egypt, 2008 (Amazon).

John Romer, A History of Egypt: from the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid, 2013 (Amazon).

Robert Wenke, The Ancient Egyptian State, 2009 (Amazon).

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