A brief history of Egyptian Pharaohs

Pharaohs were ancient Egyptian rulers who were both religious leaders and heads of state. Their importance in Ancient Egypt is undeniably paramount. Early Egyptian rulers were called kings but over time the name 'Pharaoh' became commonly used. The Pharaoh represents a middle intermediary between the Egyptians and the Gods. They are considered divine supreme beings. 

Many of these images show either statues or death masks of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. Statues commemorated the Pharaoh that had passed. Death masks were created for souls to be able to recognize their bodies and return to them safely in the afterlife.

The Bridgeman archive is rich with Egyptian imagery, explore these exceptional images of some of the most famous Pharaohs in Ancient Egyptian History. 



Hatshepsut was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Hatshepsut was the second historically confirmed female pharaoh. She came to the throne in 1478 BC. This masks presents the idealized forms of Hatshepsut's face, perfect features with equal symmetry!

Image of the , Head of Hatshepsut © Werner Forman Archive / Bridgeman Images


King Tutankhamun

King Tutankhamun was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who ruled between 1334 - 1325 BC. Tutankhamun was the last of his royal family to rule during the end of the 18th Dynasty. 

Image of The funerary mask of Tutankhamun (c.1370-1352 BC) c.1336-1327 BC, New Kingdom (gold inlaid with semi-precious stones), Egyptian 18th Dynasty (c.1567-1320 BC) / Egyptian, Egyptian National Museum, Cairo, Egypt, 54x39.3 cms, © Bridgeman Images


Cleopatra VII

Cleopatra VII was the queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. The Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt was an ancient Hellenistic state. Cleopatra’s leadership saw her forestall the fall of Egypt to the Roman Empire. 

Image of a Statue of a Ptolemaic Queen, perhaps Cleopatra VII, 200-30 BC (dolomitic limestone), Egyptian Ptolemaic Period (332-30 BC) / Egyptian, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA, © Bridgeman Images


Amenhotep III 

Amenhotep III was the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. He ruled Egypt from June 1386 to 1349 BC. He reigned during the peak of Egypt's artistic and international power. 

Image of the Head of Amenhotep III Wearing the Round Wig, c.1391-1353 BC (brown quartzite), Egyptian 18th Dynasty (c.1567-1320 BC) /, Egyptian Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, USA © Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund / Bridgeman Images


King Narmer 

King Narmer was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period. Scholars have considered Narmer the unifier of Egypt and founder of the First Dynasty. 

Image of The Narmer Palette: ceremonial palette depicting King Narmer, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, striking a prisoner, found at Hieraconpolis, Early Dynastic Period, c.3000 BC, Egyptian 1st Dynasty (c.3100-2890 BC) / Egyptian, Egyptian National Museum, Cairo, Egypt, 64x42 cms, © Bridgeman Images


Ramesses III

Ramesses III was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty in Ancient Egypt. Ramesses III reigned from 1186 to 1155 BC and is believed to have been the last great monarch of the New Kingdom to wield power over Egypt. 

Image - Portrait of Ramesses III (c.1184-1153 BC) from the Tomb of Amen-Her-Khepshef, New Kingdom (wall painting), Egyptian 19th Dynasty (c.1292-1187 BC) / Egyptian, Valley of the Queens, Thebes, Egypt © Bridgeman Images


Thutmose I 

Thutmose I was the third pharaoh of the eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Thutmose I campaigned deep into the Levant and Nubia, pushing the borders of Egypt farther than before. 

Image of Egyptian antiquite: Diorite sculpture representing a ruler of the Thutmosis dynasty (Tuthmosis or Thutmus), Egyptian pharaohs - The cartridge of Pharaoh Touthmosis I, Beginning of the 17th dynasty - Turin, Egyptian museum - Egyptian Civilization: a pharaoh of the dynasty of Thutmose - Diorite sculpture, beginning of the 17th Dynasty (1648-1549 BC) - Egyptian Museum, Turin (Italy), © Luisa Ricciarini / Bridgeman Images


Pepi I Meryre

Pepi I Meryre was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh and the third king of the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled for over forty years during the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, towards the end of the Old Kingdom Period. 

Image of Statue of Pepi I (2289-2255 BC) detail of the head, found at Hierakonpolis, c.2281-2241 BC (copper), Egyptian 6th Dynasty (c.2350-2200 BC) / Egyptian, Egyptian National Museum, Cairo, Egypt, © Bridgeman Images


King Userkaf 

Userkaf was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the founder of the Fifth Dynasty. Userkaf reigned during the Old Kingdom Period for seven to eight years in early 25th century BC. It is believed that Userkaf may have been a high priest of Ra before ascending to the throne. 

Image - Head of King Userkaf, c.2454-2447 BC (painted limestone), Egyptian 5th Dynasty (c.2494-2345 BC) / Egyptian, Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, USA, © Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund / Bridgeman Images



Djedefre was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh king of the 4th Dynasty during the Old Kingdom. Djedefre was the son and immediate throne successor of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza. 

Image of the Head of King Djedefre, from Abu Roash, Old Kingdom, c.2565-2558 BC (quartzite) (see also 107943), Egyptian 4th Dynasty (c.2613-2498 BC) / Egyptian, Louvre, Paris, France, height: 26.5 cms, © Bridgeman Images


Queen Nefertiti

Nefertiti was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt and the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known to lead a religious revolution as the couple only believed in one god, Aten, the disc of the sun.

Image of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt-portrait of bust by Thutmis 1360 BC, Thutmose (1360 BC) / Egyptian, © Lebrecht Authors / Bridgeman Images

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