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Home  >  The Explorers  >  In The Beginning  >  Ancient Egypt

Queen, and later Pharaoh,
Ma'at-ka-Ra Hatshepsut

Ancient Egypt

The first plant hunting expedition recorded in history was on the orders of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, when she dispatched five ships to gather valuable plants, animals and precious goods from the Land of Punt. It was in the tenth year of Ma'at-ka-Ra Hatshepsut's reign, during the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt. This would date the expedition to some time around 1500 BCE

The ships returned some months later,

"Laden with the costly products of the Land of Punt and with its many valuable woods, with very much sweet-smelling resin and frankincense, with quantities of ebony and ivory . . ."

Boswellia serrata - the source of FrankincenseNot content to simply import the resin from Boswellia (Frankincense) and Commiphora (Myrrh), Queen Hatshepsut realised the importance of acquiring sustainable supplies, so she ordered that living specimens of these desert trees be brought back and planted in the suitably holy ground at the Temple of Karnack. Inscriptions on the wall of the temple celebrate the fact that at least thirty-one of the transplants survived and were established in the temple grounds.

There is no general agreement as to how to interpret the ancient dates. Current thinking places the reign of Hatshepsut at either 1473-1458 BC, a reign of some 15 years; or 1503 to 1480 BC, a reign of 23 years. Her stepson and successor, Thutmose III, sought to obliterate her memory by having her monuments defaced or destroyed. This appears to have taken place some time around the twentieth year of his reign. Why he would do this, and so long after his ascension to the throne, is one of the great mysteries of the 18th Dynasty, and it makes dating some events in Hatshepsut's life even more difficult.

.Detail from a papyrus dating to the New Kingdom (1567-1085BCE), clearly depicting proud homeowners in their well stocked garden.


Selected by the SciLinks program, a service of
the National Science Teachers Association.
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