Queen Shanakdakhete of Meroe (Nubia): earliest known ruling queen of Nubia




Ruling Queen of Kush

Shanakdakheto (Cairo Museum)
Reign (ca. 177 BCE-155 BCE)
Full name Shanakdakheto
Born BCE
Died First century BCE
Buried Pyramid at Meroë (Beg. N11), ca. 155 BCE
Predecessor Unknown Qore
Successor Tanyidamani
Dynasty Meroitic

Shanakdakheto or Shanakdakhete was a Black African ruling queen of Kush, when the Kingdom was centered at Meroë. She is the earliest known ruling queen of Nubia, andreigned from about 177 to 155 BC (these dates are very uncertain and disputed). She styled herself as Son of Re, Lord of the Two Lands, Shanakdakheto (Sa Re nebtawy, Shanakdakheto).

The only inscription mentioning her comes from Temple F in Naga where her name appears “in Meroitic hieroglyphics in the middle of an Egyptian text.” The name appears in Meroitic script, the earliest known example of Meroitic writing. Her pyramid was identified at Meroë, but does not preserve her name.


Queen Shanakdakhete of Meroe (Nubia)

Sudan——Statue of Queen Shanakdakhete (170-150 BCE) ruling queen of Kush, and a male member of her family giving her royal power.

Her name is carved in a ruined temple where the earliest inscriptions in Meroitic hieroglyphic writing are found. Her pyramid at Meroe is one of the largest ever built for a Kushite ruler. It has a unique chapel with two rooms and two pylons. The chapel is among the most elaborately carved of any known. The scenes in the chapel show military campaigns to the south and the capture of numerous cattle and prisoners.




Part of decoration of the wall in a pyramid chapel of Meroe, now in the British Museum, perhaps belonging to Queen Shanakdakheto


File:Sudan Meroe Pyramids 2001 N11.jpg

The pyramid of Shanakdakheto at Meroe (N11)





Front view

Red sandstone relief from the pyramid chapel of Queen Shanakdakhete

From Meroe, Central Sudan
Meroitic Period, 2nd century BC

First female ruler of the Meroitic Period

The royal cemetery at Meroe has given the name ‘Meroitic’ to the later stages of rule by the Kushite kings. The Meroitic script has been deciphered, but the language is still not fully understood. This wall comes from one of the small steep-sided pyramids with chapels in which the rulers were buried. It was probably that of Queen Shanakdakhete, the first female ruler. She appears here enthroned with a prince, and protected by a winged Isis. In front of her are rows of offering bearers and also scenes of rituals including the judgement of the queen before Osiris. Although the reliefs are in a style that looks Egyptian, they have their own, independently developed, characteristics.

The term ‘Kush’ or ‘Kushite’ was used long before the eighth century BC to refer to Nubian ruling powers. But it is particularly used to describe the cultures whose first major contact with Egypt began with the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and whose Nubian kings put an end to the fragmented state of Egypt by 715 BC. However, Kushite rule did not last long in Egypt. In the face of Assyrian attack, the last Kushite kings, Taharqa and Tanutamun, fled to Nubia. There they and their descendants were dominant until the fourth century AD, and were buried at el-Kurru, Nuri, Gebel Barkal, and Meroe.

J.H. Taylor, Egypt and Nubia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)




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