989: Hetepheres I
Ancient Egyptian Queen
Born: Before c. 2613 BC, Ancient Egypt
Died: Most Likely After 2589 BC, Ancient Egypt
One of her titles was “Daughter of God.”
Hetepheres was the wife of Pharaoh Snefru and was a member of the royal family during Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty (c.2575-c.2465 BC). The fourth dynasty is best known for containing the kings who built the Great Pyramids at Giza.
Snefru was not a direct member of the royal family, and so he married Hetepheres, who did carry royal blood, in order to legitimize his reign (many historians believe the couple were stepsiblings). Snefru was the first king of the fourth dynasty; while it is believed Hetepheres’s father was Huni, the last pharaoh of the third dynasty (though this is not known definitively. Hetepheres never claimed the title “Daughter of the King” as most Egyptian princesses did).
Hetepheres outlived her husband and was buried by her son Khufu (again with the Great Pyramids).
Hetepheres was the grandmother of Djedefre and Khafre (who also built great pyramids), as well as her namesake Hetepheres II.
She has two known gravesites, the second of which was uncovered nearly intact with a cache of grave goods that have given insight into the fourth dynasty. The second site, which was uncovered in 1925, is known today as Tomb G7000X on the Giza Plateau. According to Ancient Origins: “researchers discovered that the grave was looted in ancient times, but many spectacular treasures were still inside. The burial chamber included many beautiful objects made of gilded wood, including a portable pavilion, a carrying chair, a bed, several wooden boxes and two armchairs. The wooden artifacts were very well preserved.”
Also uncovered in the tomb were twenty silver bracelets (many inlaid with lapis lazuli, turquoise, and carnelian). There were also several copper tools, a case for walking sticks, a box of razors, and other small items. Within the tomb was a sealed sarcophagus, but when researchers opened it two years later, they found no mummy inside. The sarcophagus was empty.
Despite the fact no body has ever been found, inside the tomb were four Canopic Jars, some of the oldest ever uncovered. Canopic Jars were used to separately preserve four organs the Ancient Egyptians viewed as important: the liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach. As Egyptian mythology evolved, the four organs and the jars meaning evolved, until each organ and jar were protected by a specific deity.
But as I mentioned earlier, there are believed to be two gravesites for Hetepheres, so where is the other one?
Some archaeologists believe that after her death, Hetepheres was initially buried near her husband at Dahshur, however, soon after her death her tomb was looted (and the robbers may have stolen her mummy in order to take the gold amulets within her wrappings). Once the tomb was broken into, priests moved her grave goods to another location, the one uncovered in 1925 at the Giza Plateau.
If this theory is to be believed, then it is also believed the priests were afraid of Khufu’s wrath and so they told the Pharaoh his mother’s mummy was still intact and inside the sarcophagus, explaining why the empty coffin was placed, sealed, inside the new tomb.
Other theories state the Giza tomb was actually her first and that after it was looted her body was moved to another tomb at a smaller pyramid known as G1-a (however, her body has never been uncovered there either).
A third theory, backed by Zahi Hawass, states that the Giza Plateau burial was the first and that after it was robbed a new burial shaft was dug nearby, but it has never been located either.
Though little of Hetepheres as a person is known for certain, what is easily identifiable is how influential she must have been. Hetepheres helped craft the fourth dynasty and watched as the Pharaohs shifted their burial practices from the step-pyramids to the smooth sided beauties still surviving today. The Great Pyramids at Giza are the only Wonder of the Ancient World still standing today, and who knows; they very well may not have existed had it not been for Hetepheres.
Find a Grave Marked
Located In My Personal Library:
The Curse of the Pharaohs by Philipp Vandenberg
Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley