Episode 9: She Is Foremost

SC3679 - CopyPowerful Women of the Fourth Dynasty

The Fourth Dynasty is drawing to a close, as Menkaure passes without a universally recognized heir. The powerful Khenty-kaus I steps into the breach, placing her son Shepses-kaf on the throne.

This is an excellent opportunity to review that more ephemeral group – the royal women. The Fourth Dynasty (and the oncoming Fifth) reveal several powerful and prominent women, whose influence helped shape the course of political events.

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2015 Note: Recent discoveries at the Giza plateau reveal the existence of a new powerful woman, also named Khenty-kaus (III). This episode will be updated and a new version will be released early in the year. This will be announced on Facebook and Twitter, so stay tuned.


The only known representation of Khenty-kaus I, from her tomb at Giza. (Source: Miroslav Verner, Forgotten Pharaohs, Lost Pyramids: Abusir, 1994).



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


Menkaure and an unknown queen, discovered in a robber’s pit at Giza (Source: the Boston Museum of Fine Arts).

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.

Ian Shaw (editor), The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, 2004.

Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, 2010.