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Thutmose II: re-evaluating the evidence for an elusive king of the early Eighteenth Dynasty
Thutmose II is an elusive figure in the modern reception of early Eighteenth Dynasty history. Originating in late-nineteenth-century historiography with Kurt Sethe’s ‘Thronwirren’ theory, that postulated an ancient ‘game of thrones’, and Gaston Maspero’s instigation of the ‘sickly king’ paradigm, the historical depiction of Thutmose II painted him as an ineffectual ruler in a secondary role, outshone by his half-sister/consort Hatshepsut during his life and reign. The aim of this study is to re-examine the complex image of Thutmose II, and thereby reach a fresh understanding of his life, reign, and posthumous memorialisation. An inductive data-driven diachronic approach was adopted to establish an integrated chronology of the archaeological, monumental, textual, and iconographic data relating to Thutmose II. Chronological sequencing has enabled a series of patterns to be deduced regarding the changing means of commemorative activity after his death. In concert with the deductive, theory-driven approach of cultural memory, the discussion analyses the concepts of remembering and forgetting in both their active and passive form. Crucially, the interplay of politics and memory in these processes, particularly the function of ‘legitimisation’, is discussed. The main focus of this study has been to differentiate and re-contextualise the posthumously-created evidence for Thutmose II within the dynamic political developments of the Hatshepsut/Thutmose III co-rule and beyond. Through the lens of cultural memory studies, new insights are gained into the political sphere of ancient Egypt after Thutmose II’s death. The conclusion reached is while the posthumous use of Thutmose II’s iconography does not add further to the understanding of his own life and reign, it sheds new light on the time of its installation. This insight allows for a more substantiated and critical position to be taken against the traditional historiography of the king and his lifetime.