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.
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.