While there has been considerable intrigue surrounding the male pharaohs of ancient Egypt, very little has been revealed about its queens. A new exhibition at the National Geographic Museum endeavors to change this by highlighting the most powerful women in ancient Egypt, spanning from the first queen of the New Kingdom (1539–1514 B.C.) through the final pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty (51-30 B.C.).
Walk among more than 300 ancient Egyptian artifacts including monumental statues and impressive sarcophagi, embark on a 3-D fly-through of one of the most lavishly decorated tombs in the Valley of the Queens, and get immersed in the daily life and afterlife of ancient Egyptians. “Queens of Egypt” makes its United States debut, and its only East Coast appearance, at the National Geographic Museum.
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors will be introduced to the queens from the New Kingdom, including Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s most successful pharaohs; Nefertiti, known for her incomparable beauty; and Nefertari, the beloved queen of Ramses II. They will have the opportunity to dive deeper into Queen Nefertari’s story, as told through a 3-D visualization of her tomb, the largest and most elaborate tomb found in the Valley of the Queens. The National Geographic Society has invested in technological advances such as virtual reality so it can transport audiences to the world’s remote and hard-to-reach places and wonders—just like this incredible tomb.
Once they emerge from the tomb, visitors will be greeted by four enormous statues of the goddess Sekhmet with the largest statue standing an impressive seven feet tall and weighing around 6,000 pounds. Sekhmet, depicted as a lion-headed woman, was the goddess of battle and the fiercest hunter in all of Egypt. Next, they’ll explore everyday life in two places—the harem, home to the pharaoh’s wives, and the craftsmen’s village of Deir el-Medina.
After exploring daily life, visitors will learn about the quest for eternal afterlife including rituals practiced to honor the gods. They’ll be able to marvel at a series of mummified remains as well as 11 beautifully painted sarcophagi. Finally, no exhibition on Egypt’s queens would be complete without the inclusion of Cleopatra VII, the last queen of ancient Egypt. Her story will be told among rare artifacts including a sculpture of the queen dating back to 44-30 B.C., one of more than 200 artifacts from the collection of the MuseoEgizio in Turin, Italy.
This exhibition was organised by Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex and Museo Egizio, Turin, in partnership with the National Geographic Society. Other lenders include the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden in Leiden, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels and the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Additionally, the National Geographic Museum is grateful for the support of the Italian Embassy and the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
A companion book by Egyptologist and National Geographic Explorer Kara Cooney was published by National Geographic Books last fall. When Women Ruled the World takes readers on a riveting journey through the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs. The book is available for purchase in the National Geographic Store.