Sandstone relief from south wall of the funerary chapel of Queen Shanadakhete depicting the queen enthroned. Image Credit: British Museum.

By Holly Marsden

One of the earliest regnant queens of Ancient Nubia is Queen Shanakdakhete of the Kingdom of Kush.  Shanakdakhete lived in the second century BC, her predecessor unknown. With Meroë as its capital city, Kush existed in present-day Sudan and used the language of Meroitic.

Kush’s monarchical system was influenced by customary tribal monarchy and Pharaonic and Graeco-Roman rulers of Egypt, due to Nubia and Egypt’s close relationship. Queen Shanakdakhete called herself ‘sa Re, neb tawy,’ which translates to ‘Son of Re, Lord of the Two Lands.’

Shanakdakhete ruled without a king. She built many temples which displayed her name in the hieroglyphic form of the Meroitic alphabet. Her temple (temple F) in Naqa has the first known inscription in Meroitic on a cartouche, a hieroglyphic symbol indicating royalty.

Queen Shanakdakhete is said to have been buried in in the pyramid Beg. N.11 of Meroë. Roman visitors to Nubia noted that after her rule a succession of Candaces, or queen mothers, ruled Kush and held more power than their sons. She was succeeded by Tanyidamani.

Recommended Reading

B.G. Haycock, “The Kingship of Cush in the Sudan.,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 7.4 (1965): 461-480

Claude Rilly, “Meroitic Writing,” UCLA Encyclopaedia of Egyptology 1.1 (2022): 1-11.

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