The Egyptian Antiquities sector announced this week that ancient stone blocks found on Egypt's Elephantine Island by a team of Egyptian and German archaeologists feature a rare depiction of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut as a woman. This discovery might provide new insight into the early years of the ruler’s 22-year reign, LiveScience reports.
The stones are likely part of a previously unknown building constructed by Hatshepsut, discovered earlier this year by the German Archaeological Institute. Located near Aswan, in southern Egypt, it was likely built during the earlier part of her rule, which stretched from 1473 BCE to about 1458 BCE.
Worshippers likely used the building as a resting place for a barque, a ceremonial boat used in religious processions. Later, the temple was dismantled, and about 30 of the stones were reused to make the god Khnum's temple.
As one of ancient Egypt’s few female rulers, Hatshepsut—who came to power during the 18th Dynasty after her husband, Thutmose II, died—asserted authority by donning the traditional clothing, crown, and false beard typically worn by male pharaohs. She also commissioned many statues, paintings, and monuments, which depicted her as a man.
Hatshepsut’s monuments were destroyed after her death—perhaps by her stepson, Thutmose III, who was a child when Hatshepsut claimed the throne. When Thutmose III took power, Hatshepsut's royal cartouches were scratched out, and images of her face and body were replaced by images of her late husband. Archaeologists pieced together many of these relics thousands of years later, in the 19th century, restoring the female pharoah’s legacy as one of Egypt’s most notable rulers.
"This is one of very few buildings discovered from the early period of Queen Hatshepsut," Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department, told Ahram Online. The structure, along with the stones depicting the female pharaoh as a woman, could provide scholars more information about her life, her activities in Aswan, and religious rituals on Elephantine Island during her rule.