Her successful reign lasted two decades, yet history has largely forgotten Queen Hatshepsut who was a powerful woman in a man’s world.
Many monuments of Hatshepsut, who was considered ‘both king and queen,’ were destroyed, so images of her represented as a woman are extremely rare.
But now archaeologists have discovered a number of carved blocks that probably belonged to an unknown building of Queen Hatshepsut that show how her image was changed.
They were discovered by the German Archaeological Institute on the Island of Elephantine, Aswan.
One block shows how the woman’s form was changed to that of a male and another, how her cartouche – a lozenge bearing her name – was scratched away.
Ancient Egyptian Antiquities expert Dr Mahmoud Afify said the building from which the blocks came must have been erected during the early years of her reign, before she began to be represented as a male king.
Hatshepsut had herself crowned in around 1,473BC, changing her name from the female version Hatshepsut – which means Foremost of the Noble Ladies – to the male version, Hatshepsu.
Born into the most advanced civilisation in the ancient world, Hatshepsut commandeered the throne of Egypt from her young stepson, Thutmosis III, and, in an unprecedented move, declared herself pharaoh.
To cement her position as the first female ruler, she donned the traditional clothes, head-dress and even the false beard traditionally worn by male pharaohs of Egypt.
She is thought to have reigned with little opposition for more than two decades before dying in around 1458 BC.
But all mentions of Hatshepsut’s name were erased by Thutmosis on taking power and all representations of her female figure were replaced by images of a male king – her deceased husband Thutmosis II.
Only very few buildings from this early stage of her career have been discovered so far, with the only other examples having been found at Karnak, making the ‘new’ blocks extremely rare.
The Egyptian Antiquities Authority said the newly discovered building sheds light on the early reign of the queen and that of Thutmosis III who is now known as the ‘Napoleon of Egypt’ so successful was he during his military campaign.
Dr Felix Arnold, the field director of the mission, said the building from which the blocks came probably served as a waystation for the festival barque of the god Khnum – the potter god of creation.
The building was later dismantled and about 30 of its blocks have now been found in the foundations of the Khnum temple of Nectanebo II – a pharaoh who ruled between 360 and 342 BC.
Some of the blocks were discovered in previous excavation seasons by members of the Swiss Institute, but the meaning of the blocks has only now become clear, showing the queen as a woman early in her reign.
Thanks to the discovery of the blocks, the original appearance of the building can be reconstructed and experts believe it comprised a chamber for the barque of the god Khnum, which was surrounded on all four sides by pillars.
The pillars bear representations of several versions of the god, as well as others such as Imi-peref ‘He-who-is-in-his-house’, Nebet-menit ‘Lady-of-the-mooring-post’ and Min-Amun of Nubia.
‘The building thus not only adds to our knowledge of the history of Queen Hatshepsut but also to our understanding of the religious beliefs current on the Island of Elephantine during her reign,’ the authority said.