Khentkaus II

Khentkaus
facience fragment depicting Khentkaus II copyright kozuch

Queen Kentkhawes II (Khentkawes) lived during the fifth dynasty (Old Kingdom) of Ancient Egypt. She was the wife of Neferirkare and the mother of Neferefre and Niuserre. There is also some evidence that she ruled as a pharaoh in her own right or as a regent for her sons after the death of her husband.

She was buried in a pyramid to the south of the pyramid of her husband Neferirkare at Abusir. Her pyramid was not simply a satellite attached to that of her husband, although it probably started out that way. Instead it was supported by a small pyramid complex including a mortuary temple and had its own satellite pyramid.

She had a large number of fairly orthodox titles including "Great one of the hetes-sceptre", "She who sees Horus and Seth", "King's Wife", "Priestess of Bapef", "Priestess of Tjazepef", "Directress of the butchers in the acacia house", "Attendant of Horus" and "God's Daughter". However, she also used the title "mwt nsw-bi.tj nsw-bi.tj" which has been translated as "Mother of Two Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt" or more controversially "Mother of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt and King of Upper and Lower Egypt".

This title when considered along with the fact that she had a full pyramid complex has prompted some experts to suggest that she actually ruled Ancient Egypt (or at least acted as a regent). A depiction of her holding a sceptre and wearing the royal ureaus would seem to support this conclusion, but other experts have pointed out that her name was not written inside a cartouche as would be normal for a ruler. It is interesting to note that the "mwt nsw-bi.tj nsw-bi.tj" title was also used by Khentkaus I (who is also considered by some to have ruled Egypt) and for some time it was considered that the two women were one and the same.

Whether Khentkaus II was a ruler of Egypt or not, she was certainly a powerful woman with sufficient prestige to be buried in the manner of a pharaoh.

copyright J Hill 2010
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