TAUSERT, QUEEN AND LAST PHARAOH OF THE 19TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN -
As one of the few queens who ruled Egypt as Pharaoh (between 1187 and 1185 BC), it is regrettable that we have so little information on
Tausert, traditionally the last ruler of Egypt's 19th Dynasty. Her name appears even in modern works in many different forms, including
Twosre, Twore, Tawosret and Twosret. Her birth name appears to have been Two-sret (setep-en-mut) which means "Might Lady, Chosen of
Mut". Her Throne name was Sit-re Mery-amun which means "Daughter of Re, Beloved of Amun".
Tausert becomes known to us as the wife of Seti II, and apparently a very beloved wife at that, even though she was not his first. That
was an honor given to a lady named Takhat II, though she apparently did not supply him with an heir. Tausert gave birth to his first
born sun, Sethos Merneptah, but unfortunately he died young. It was Seti II who initially ordered her tomb to be built in the Valley of
the Kings, an honor given to few queens.
Upon Seti II's death, a son by what appears to be a Syrian wife, his third, named Tiaa, ascended to the throne of Egypt. His name was
Ramesses-Siptah (Siptah Merenptah), but he was very young, probably in his early teens. He also suffered from a deformed left leg.
It was Tausert who assumed the role of regent as the "Great Royal Wife", though it appears that for the remainder of her life, another
powerful non-royal personage would perhaps be the power behind the throne. In effect, Siptah was under the double supervision of his
stepmother and a certain chancellor Bay. Bay was originally the royal scribe of Seti II, and is thought to have also been of Syrian
decent. If tradition is to be believed, Bay seduced the pharaoh's widow, who then gave him total control of Egypt's treasury.
Siptah held the throne of Egypt for approximately six years before his death, when Tausert formally ascended the throne of Egypt herself.
In fact, in the fifth year of Siptah's rule, Tausert elevated herself considerably, taking full royal titles as Hatshepsut had done
several hundred years in the past. However, it is believed that Bay continued to largely rule in the background. Her reign was short,
lasting perhaps two years.
While little is known of this time, we do believe that campaigns were waged in the Sinai and Palestine, and there is evidence of her
building work at Heliopolis, where a statue of the queen was found as well as at Thebes. At Thebes, she constructed a mortuary temple
discovered by William Petrie to the south of the Ramesseum, and of course, continued work on her tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Her
name also appears at Abydos, Hermopolis and Memphis.
She was probably originally buried in her tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but this tomb was later taken by Ramesses III for his father,
Setnakht. Her mummy has not been positively identified, though it has been suggested that the remains of an "Unknown Woman D" form KV 35
is that of Tausert.
Queen Twosret (Tawosret, Tausret) was the last known ruler and the final Pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty. She is recorded in
Manetho's Epitome as a certain Thuoris, who in Homer is called Polybus, husband of Alcandara, and in whose time Troy was
taken. She was said to have ruled Egypt for seven years, but this figure included the nearly six year reign of Siptah, her
predecessor. Consequently, her sole independent reign would have lasted for slightly more than one full year from 1191 to
1190 BC. Her royal name, Sitre Meryamun, means "Daughter of Re, beloved of Amun."
Nothing is known about the ancestry of Queen Twosret. She was thought to be the second royal wife of Seti II, his other wife
being queen Takhat. There are no known children for Twosret and Seti II, unless KV56 represents the burial of their daughter.
Queen, Regent and Pharaoh
Theodore Davis identified the Queen and her husband in a cache of jewelry found in tomb KV56 in the Valley of the Kings. This
tomb also contained objects bearing the name of Rameses II. There is no consensus about the nature of this tomb. Some (Aldred)
thought this was the tomb of a daughter of Seti II and Tawosret, but others (Maspero) thought this was a cache of objects
originally belonging with the tomb of Tawosret herself.
After her husband's death, she became first regent to Seti's heir Siptah jointly with Chancellor Bay, whom some have identified
as the Irsu mentioned in the Harris Papyrus. Siptah was likely a stepson of Twosret since his mother is now known to be a
certain Sutailja or Shoteraja from Louvre Relief E 26901. When Siptah died, Twosret officially assumed the throne for
herself, as the "Daughter of Re, Lady of Ta-merit, Twosret of Mut", and assumed the role of a Pharaoh.
While it was commonly believed that she ruled Egypt with the aid of Chancellor Bay, a recently published document by Pierre
Grandet in a BIFAO 100(2000) paper shows that Bay was executed on Siptah's orders during Year 5 of this king's reign. The
document is a hieratic ostracon or inscribed potshard and contains an announcement to the workmen of Deir El-Medina of the
king's actions. No immediate reason was given to show what caused Siptah to turn against "the great enemy Bay," as the ostracon
states. The recto of the document reads thus:
Year 5 III Shemu the 27th. On this day, the scribe of the tomb Paser came announcing 'Pharaoh, life, prosperity, and health!,
has killed the great enemy Bay'.
This date accords well with Bay's last known public appearance in Year 4 of Siptah. The ostraca's information was essentially a
royal order for the workmen to stop all further work on Bay's tomb since the latter had now been deemed a traitor to the
Twosret's reign ended in a civil war which is documented in the Elephantine stela of her successor Setnakhte who became the
founder of the Twentieth dynasty. It is not known if she was overthrown by Setnakhte or whether she died peacefully in her
short reign; if the latter is the case, then a struggle must have ensued among various factions at court for the throne in
which Setnakhte emerged victorious.
Monuments and Inscriptions
It is believed that expeditions were conducted during her reign to the turquoise mines in Sinai and in Palestine and statues
have been found of her at Heliopolis and Thebes. Her name is also found at Abydos, Hermopolis, Memphis, and in Nubia.
Inscriptions with Twosret's name appear in several locations:
The Bilgai Stela belonged to Twosret. It records the ersection of a monument in the area of Sebennytos.
A pair statue of Tawosret and Siptah is now in the Munich Glyptotek (no 122). Siptah is shown seated on Twosret's lap.
In the temple at Amada, Twosret is depicted as a Great Royal Wife and God's Wife. 
A statue from Heliopolis depicts Twosret and her names are inscribed with a mixture of male and female epithets. Twosret
herself is depicted as a woman. 
A cartouche of hers believed to come from Qantir in the Delta has been found
Twosret and Siptah's names has been found associated with the turquoise mines at Serabit el Khadim and Timna (in the
A faience vase bearing a cartouche of Twosret was found at Tell Deir Alla in Jordan.
Twosret constructed a Mortuary temple next to the Ramesseum, but it was never finished and was only partially excavated (by
Flinders Petrie in 1897), although recent re-excavation by Richard H. Wilkinson shows it is more complex than first thought.
The temple is being excavated by the Tausert Temple Project (2004 to present) .
Twosret's KV14 tomb in the Valley of the Kings has a complicated history; it was started in the reign of Seti II. Scenes show
Tawosret accompanying Siptah, but Siptah's name had later been replaced by that of Seti II. The tomb was then usurped by
Setnakht, and extended to become the deepest royal tomb in the valley while Tawosret's sarcophagus was reused by
Amenherkhepeshef in KV13. Altenmuller believes that Seti II was buried in one of the rooms in KV14 and later reburied in KV15.
Others question this scenario.
A mummy found in KV35 and known as Unknown Woman D has been identified by some scholars as possibly belonging to Twosret, but
there is no other evidence for this other than the correct Nineteenth Dynasty period of mummification.