Short, Fat, Female and In Power

I have started getting the NAAFA Newsletter via email and the most recent update has an brief snippet about a woman from Ancient Egypt who has long fascinated me:  Hatshepsut. As I have of late been rather burnt out trying to maintain a constant level of rage against the many atrocities against fatness in daily life, not to mention those being even more forcibly and dangerously foisted upon the rights of women of all sizes, I found this brief mention of an amazing woman from the past to be a breath of fresh air. Not least of which because researching it lead me to the discovering of ANOTHER amazing woman…

Hatshepsut: Woman Ruler of Egypt (First of the few female rules to actually take the title of Pharaoh) for 20+ years (around the 1500s BC), established trade networks to rebuild the wealth of the 18th dynasty, commissioned the first recorded attempt to procure and transplant foreign trees (Myrrh), one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt with hundreds of works commissioned who was not shy about self-promotion of her amazing feats.

In short, she was powerful, intelligent, rich, important and knew her own value.  She was unafraid to not only use her connections and monies to the benefit of herself and her nation’s glory but she was out there for all to see: proud and fierce and female. Now, while researching the claims that she was also fat and short I was coming up…short.  Most representations of Hatshepsut in images or text refer to her beauty and blooming youth, etc.  I was happy to read that she ran the Pharaoh’s circuit in her 40s (go older woman!) but failed to find clear references to the woman actually being short and fat.

Queen of Punt

Source: Wikipedia images

However, I *DID* find references to the wife of Parihou/Perehu: Ati/Eti, the Queen of Punt (where Hatshepsut got her Myrrh trees to transplant).  This is where the true awesome rests.  The queen of punt, you see, was described as “short, fat, long-armed, and with a prominent behind”.  Rock on, Fatty Queen!

There is really not much written on the queen (or even her King for that matter) as records are more concerned with the goodies that Hatshepsut brought back from her expedition abroad to the still disputed location of the  Land of Punt than with the fat queen from the land they visited. However, she was certainly NOT the general image of a queen, so much so that artists depicted her vastly differently from other generic people images of the day.  Her non-thin appearance in such images is, to this day, discussed amongst those destined to find out, fromQueen of Punt in her Yellow Dress such depictions alone, what was “wrong” with her body.  Me?  I’m just happily enjoying the idea that a woman was queen of a land abroad and left such an impression that artists felt the need to capture her image.

Perhaps they were doing what amounted to mockery at the time, you suggest?  I feel that would have been a waste of time and talents when crafting a relief for the queen’s huge temple of Deir el-Bahri.  To me, these images are a representation of a woman that people were impressed with, enough so that they refused to carve her as yet another generically similar body-shapes but felt compelled to portray her as she was.

I say: Rock on you fabulous women of ancient days!  You RULED!


9 thoughts on “Short, Fat, Female and In Power

  1. Hatshepsut’s mummy was identified recently. The Egyptologists working to find her were delayed, because they couldn’t possibly imagine that the FAT mummy over there in the corner was her! Let me see if I can find the article about it, which also has some pretty stupid reflections on her breasts by Dr. Hawass, the country’s head Egyptologist…

    OK, two articles. Here’s Hawass, making himself sound like a fatphobic dolt:

    … and one documenting her identification:

    As a fat archaeologist, I LOVE/LOATHE how these doofuses let their fatphobia slow down their research. Hatshepsut has her revenge, from beyond the grave! 🙂

    • O.C thanks for the articles!! 😀 I love that Hatshepsut does indeed appear to have been fat: “She has a very large, fat body with huge pendulous breasts”. That makes today’s finds even better. Also? “Huge Pendulous Breasts” sounds like a fabulous band name…

  2. Hatshepsut is one of my favorite female historical figures. It’s nice to see a post about her here as I had no idea they’d A) found her mummy and B) discovered she was fat! It doesnt’ surprise me though, as we know bodies come in ALL shapes and sizes throughout time, and fatness was, for a very very long time, associated with wealth. Who was more wealthy than the Queen of Egypt? Not many!

    • But… but… but… Fat is all because of McDonald’s! Junk food! Modern living! There were no fat people in the olden days! But… but… but…


      Ancient Egyptians lived on a 100% organic, non-processed diet. And some of them were still fat. HAH!

  3. Amen. And the Willendorf statue is at least 30,000 years old, so I understand. I do have a lot of issues with the idea proposed & apparently believed in by many people, some of whom even have or post comments on fat acceptance blogs, that people are fat now because of fast food, junk foods, too much advertising of food & encouragement in our culture to ‘overeat’, etc. As long as there have been people, there have been fat people. In fact, I will go so far as to say that there are strong indications that, had there been no fat people, we as a species would have been extinct long ago. More & more evidence is found by researchers, even if most of it is conveniently ‘lost’ or buried on page 92 of some journal most people never read, that body size & shape is at least 80% genetic, that even people who are not raised with their biological families are still built like their biological relatives, not their adoptive ones, etc. Fat has been a great survival trait for many thousands of years.

    I grant you that the food industry wants to sell food. We live in a crazed culture, where delicious food & constant dieting/thinness are sold side by side. However, most of those who flock to the diet culture do not get thin & many people who yield to the food advertising & eat whatever they want & sometimes a lot do not get fat.

    Most of us have memories of older relatives or photos of family going back 150-200 years & we remember or see photos of ancestors who were built a like like us. Yet, a lot of us still believe that there are so many fat people because of the proliferation of ‘bad’ foods or large portions. How about genetics & also an aging population (my generation, since I am 62), because weight gain is a normal, natural part of aging, preparation for dealing with the health stresses of getting old & the fact that, if we live to be VERY old, we begin to shrink? How about also understanding that part of the reason there are so many fat people is that there are more PEOPLE than ever, & that another part of the reason is the diet industry, since the diet industry does not succeed in making thin people, but it succeeds magnificently in helping to create fatter people.

    But, yes, I do love the assertions that there were no fat people until the last 40-50 years. I know that my mother, who would now be 98 & lived to 85, & my grandmother, who would be 123 & lived to be 90, would be kind of surprised to hear that they didn’t exist. So would my grandmother’s grandparents & great-grandparents.

    And thanks for more information on this queen. I looked at the Wikipedia link & the picture of the statue of her they showed looked like a thin to average-sized woman.

  4. Oh, I just realized, a fat archaeologist?!! How do you ever manage the physical demands of that profession, since everyone KNOWS that fat people are incapable of doing anything more physically demanding than shuffling from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen, then clicking on the tv or the computer while we stuff our faces with as much food as we can possibly carry or pile on plate! I appreciate you commenting & sharing your expertise, which strangely enough, is no less expert than it would be if you were thin. What a concept!

  5. Well, I trained as an archaeologist, and did go on a few digs, but don’t work in the field anymore. The job market is just too tough, But it’s fun to study. Maybe more fun as an avocation than an occupation.

    There was another mummy studied within the last couple of years where researchers found evidence of heart disease, though if I remember correctly, not enough to have killed him. Again, people like to think of heart disease as a symptom of our unhealthy age, but it too is probably just something that happens to some people, particularly if you live long enough.

    I tried to find pictures of Hatshepsut’s mummy, and may have found a few, but there aren’t many out there, and they don’t seem to show her full body. From what they do show, though, she doesn’t look that fat to me! Maybe the drying process makes her look smaller. I’ll keep an eye out for better pictures, though, because I’m really curious.

    Hey, maybe we can market the mummification diet! Shrink those extra pounds through dessication! 🙂

    My impressions from reading about the Queen of Punt were that she may have had dwarfism. I don’t have time to look it up now, but maybe one of y’all can. It makes sense if you look at the proportion of her limbs, and the way her rear end is drawn.

  6. That does make sense. I thought the proportions looked a bit unusual, & dwarfism would explain it. Disabilities are also NOT a product of our modern age or caused by the ‘bad’ foods we eat, etc. There have always been fat people, disabled people, people who developed heart disease, whatever variations in body types or health problems you might mention. It also looks as if there were always some people who lived to be quite old, but definitely it seems that a lot MORE of us live to an old age now. I suspect that when Hatshepsut lived, she was considered an old woman at 50. Nowadays, you hear people debating what someone who dies at 80 must have done wrong to die so young!

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