During the New Kingdom, Egypt truly became an empire. After conquering neighbors to the south, Egypt expanded to other parts of Africa. Egypt gained great wealth during the New Kingdom, and wealthy Egyptians showed off their riches with lavish temples and they wore more highly decorated clothes.
Egyptian society began to weaken as the Kushites from the south gained prominence and then Egypt started to break down further after about 1000 BCE Eventually Egypt was conquered by Macedonian leader Alexander the Great, whom you will read more about in the next chapter, in 332 BCE The culture of Ancient Egypt slowly disappeared after Alexander’s influence.
The New Kingdom saw the emergence of something somewhat unusual in Ancient Egypt or anywhere in the ancient world: female rulers. 1504-1482 BCE were the reigning years of Queen Hatshepsut, sometimes considered the world’s first female leader. Pharaoh was a male term (like the word king) but Hatshepsut was referred to as pharaoh. She ruled as a regent for her young husband who was also her half-brother. A regent is appointed to rule because the monarch is a minor, or too young. Marriages were often political arrangements when they involved members of a ruling family and were often more about consolidating power by being associated with the right people than they were about marriage or love. The politics were complicated, but Hatshepsut, by all accounts, was an effective leader whom we know about in part, because of the record of her accomplishments preserved with her tomb; the same way we know about the accomplishments of other pharaohs.