An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.



Women of Ancient Egypt
[Unless indicated, all annotations date from 1998 and are still current]

Egyptian Women, Theban Tomb, 19th Dynasty
 (From the World Art Treasures site:
see my annotation under "Egyptian Art and Artifacts")

For Akhenaton's wife, Nefertiti, see Amarna;
For Cleopatra and Hypatia, see Alexandria;
for brief data on female Christian saints of Egypt, see Religious Beliefs & Practices.
   [Link updated 1/23/03]
"The Egyptian Economy and Non-Royal Women: Their Status in Public Life:"  This is a valuable, balanced, and engrossing 1995 NEH lecture on ancient Egyptian economics and the role of women.  A thought-provoking contrast is made between the relatively stable Nile Valley economy and that of neighboring drought-prone city-states, wherein women played much more restricted roles.  The lecture is by William A. Ward of Brown University's Department of Egyptology.
  [23 January 2003: Link currently goes to a home page with no mention of this paper: I'm trying to track it down elsewhere.]
"The Status of Women in Ancient Egyptian Society" is the title of this 1995 lecture by Egyptologist, Peter A. Piccone (see the AFRICA page for another of his lectures).  This lecture at Northwestern University is a superb overview of a culture in which differences were based more on social class than on gender.  Thus, within the same class, women generally had the same rights as men and could freely do such things as inherit, take cases to the bar, and enter into contracts.  Among other related issues, Piccione also discusses the role of literacy and upward mobility in various social classes.  Overall, despite disturbing inequalities in some areas, Egyptian women were in a much stronger position than women in Greece and Rome.
This site is on a 1997 Kelsey Museum (University of Michigan) exhibit called "Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt."  A series of short essays, with accompanying images and descriptive text, raises important issues about how gender in ancient Egypt has been portrayed and studied -- for example, to write off female nudes as "fertility symbols" risks ignoring a woman's very real and earthy sexual dimension.  Also included are the "third genders" (hermaphrodites) introduced during the Greek period.
[Added 23 January 2003]:  From the Egyptian State Information Service comes this interesting site called "Egyptian Women."  Nicely illustrated essays surveying women from ancient to contemporary times are grouped into the following categories: History, Public Figures, Motherhood, Chronology, Conferences, Umm Koltoum, 1st Photographic Documentation of Egyptian Women's Movements, and Significant Moments in the History of Egyption Women.
[Added 23 January 2003]:  Again from the Egyptian State Information Service comes an essay on Nefertari, the famous queen of Rameses II.  The primary focus of the illustrated page is on her lovely tomb, discovered in 1904.  Verbal descriptions of the tomb's art are clear and useful but one wishes the accompanying photos were of better quality.
"Women in the Ancient New East" is Terry G. Wilfong's compilation of recent (since 1990) bibliographic materials in the Oriental Institute's Research Archives.   It includes work in many languages and is exceptionally rich (also see directly below).
This is the syllabus for a 1995 course at the University of Michigan called "Women and Gender in the Ancient Near East" and taught by Terry G. Wilfong.  The site is of value for its list of books and texts used for course readings (also see directly above).
    [Link updated 1/23/03]
This is one of a series of "Diotima" sites from the University of Kentucky.  It covers a 1995 course at Chicago's Oriental Institute by Janet H. Johnson.  At first glance, it looks like a simple course outline, but as you scroll down, you'll come to a total of six hypertext-links called "extra text on handouts."  Click on these and you'll go to a large number of translations of ancient texts on the subject.  The site is an excellent resource.  [Note: 1/23/03 -- the hypertext links no longer seem to work -- hopefully, this is temporary.]
"Queen Hatsheput's expedition to the Land of Punt: first oceanographic cruise?" is the title of this illustrated paper by biologist, Dr. Sayed Z. El-Sayed.  The author focuses specifically on a Red Sea voyage to bring back treasures (e.g., myrrh trees, frankincense, ebony, ivory, fish and other flora and fauna) from Punt, the "Land of the Gods" (present-day Somalia).  The site is run by the oceanography department at Texas A&M University, which has an interest in looking at the amazingly accurate fish and other species later depicted in  murals at the Queen's palace.   The author provides brief but good data on Hatsheput (see her above in "Art & Artifacts").  That a modern oceanographic department should take an interest in art from this Queen's reign is in itself fascinating.
    [Link found dead 1/23/03 but I'm keeping the annotation in case it turns up elsewhere one day.]
This is a chilling report on the ancient abuse of a 4000 year old woman from Abydos, as revealed from an examination of her corpse.
      [Dead link found 21 January 2003 -- but see below for two replacement links on other sites.]
[Review updated 3/2/00]:This site from Steve Gilbert looks at the little-known practice of tattooing in the ancient world.   A number of Egyptian female mummies have been found with tattoos, especially concubines and dancing girls; no male mummies bear similar markings although ancient art suggests that both genders were tattooed in honor of deities of fertility and abundance.  The site focuses on a Theban priestess of Hathor, Amunet (c.2160-1994 BCE), who may also have served as a royal concubine in her role as the goddess' priestess.  Text is well-written; illustrations are included.
[21 January 2003: for further information on Steve Gilbert's work, see his The Tattoo History Sourcebook at  For two additional sites exploring this topic, see
and -- this one provides an illustration of the priestess' torso.]
This is a thorough and detailed 1996 dissertation proposal, "Egyptian Women in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt," by Alexandra A. O'Brien.  The author argues that most of what we know about the status of women during this period comes from Greek texts, not Demotic (Egyptian).  To correct this imbalance, she proposes a careful investigation of Demotic texts. The comparisons, contrasts, and implications she draws between legal and business documents written in the two languages is impressive.  O'Brien's study will also increase our knowledge of women in ancient Egypt.  As she writes: "Greater knowledge of the lives of Egyptian women in these [Ptolemaic and Roman] periods can also be used to add to knowledge of women in the Pharaonic period, due to the differing nature and greater quantity of the material surviving from later times."  This  proposal has been approved by the University of Chicago -- her work should make a fine dissertation and, hopefully, a soon-to-be-published book.
(from here you can get to the opening AFRICA page)
AlexandriaAmarnaArt & Artifacts/Daily Life in Ancient Egypt/Egypt: General Information, Travel, Etc./
Egypt: through the Eyes of Photographers & ArtistsHieroglyphs, Papyrus & TextsLinks to the Links/
Men of Ancient EgyptMultiple Category SitesMythologyOther Archaeological SitesPyramids/
Religious Beliefs&PracticesWomen of Ancient EgyptThe Sahara

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my email address will be found near the bottom of my home page.

Please note that I cannot help with homework questions -- you will find useful links with tips for doing your own web searches on my Search Engine page.  You will also find excellent resources on my General Reference page.  Good luck with your projects!
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Copyright 1998-2009 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Latest update: 17 July 1999;
23 January 2003: re-designed, un-Webcom-d, Nedstated, links-check; added new links.
17 September 2009: deleted PGI link and updated Nedstat/Motigo.