Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt

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Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt. Edited by Richard H. Wilkinson. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. x, 168. $35.00.)

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. …