The female Pharaoh Ancient Egyptians tried to erase from history: Carved blocks reveal how Queen Hatshepsut's looked before her image was changed to that of a man
- Blocks showing Queen Hatshepsut as a woman have been discovered
- Found on Island of Elephantine, Aswan, they are rare, with most destroyed
- Hatshepsut dressed like a male pharaoh and ruled with Thutmosis III
- Stepson resented her power and got revenge by removing her from history
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.
Archaeologists have discovered a number of carved blocks that probably belonged to an unknown building of Queen Hatshepsut that show her female form. A re-purposed pillar from the building is shown
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.
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. This image shows a female representation of Hatshepsut (highlighted by red lines) that was later replaced by the image of a male king
All mentions of Hatshepsut's (illustrated left) name were erased by Thutmosis on taking power (an erased cartouche that would have held her name is shown left) and all representations of her female figure were replaced by images of a male king
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 mysterious blocks were discovered by the German Archaeological Institute on the Island of Elephantine (marked on the map above) in Aswan, Egypt
THE RESTING PLACE OF HATSHEPSUT
The modest resting place of Hatshepsut was discovered by Howard Carter, who famously revealed Tutankhamun's grave.
Her mummy was one of a pair found inside – although that wasn't obvious when they were first found.
Experts analysed a tooth known to belong to the queen to find it matched with the larger of the two mummies, suggesting the queen was obese with rotten teeth and pendulous breasts.
The modest resting place of Hatshepsut was discovered by Howard Carter, who famously revealed Tutankhamun's grave. This mummy is thought to be that of her husband, Pharaoh Tuthomis II
Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist, said in 2007 when the match was made: 'This is the most important discovery in the Valley of the Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamun and one of the greatest adventures of my life.
'Queens, especially the great ones like Nefertiti and Cleopatra, capture our imaginations.
'But it is perhaps Hatshepsut, who was both a king and a queen who was most fascinating.
'Her reign during the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt was a prosperous one, yet mysteriously she was erased from Egyptian history.'
Born into the most advanced civilisation in the ancient world, Hatshepsut (shown) commandeered the throne of Egypt from her young stepson, Thutmosis III, and, in an unprecedented move, declared herself pharaoh
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.
A QUEEN IN A MAN'S WORLD AND A TALE OF REVENGE
As a woman living in Egypt's golden age, Hatshepsut was not destined for kingship.
She was prohibited by her gender from ascending the throne even though she was of royal lineage.
Egypt's gods had supposedly decreed that the king's role could never be fulfilled by a woman and although a pharaoh needed a queen to reign with him, she could never rule alone – although later there were notable exceptions.
Hatshepsut refused to submit to this and, to get round the rule, claimed she was married to the king of the gods and therefore had as much right to sit on the throne as any previous pharaoh.
Hatshepsut had herself crowned (illustrated) in around 1,473BC, changing her name from the female version Hatshepsut - which means Foremost of the Noble Ladies - to the male version, Hatshepsu
Her brazen approach worked and she 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.
She reinforced her power by decorating the temples of the gods with portraits of herself in the pharaoh's traditional kilt, wearing all his symbols of office including the black pointed royal beard.
While conducting affairs of state surrounded by male courtiers, she may even have worn men's clothes.
However, previously-found statues show that early in her reign she liked tight-fitting gowns which showed off her figure and is said to have had a habit of bedding her cabinet ministers.
Hatshepsut was the first but not the only woman ruler of male dominated ancient Egypt.
Nefertiti followed her and then Cleopatra took power 1,500 years later, but neither took the title pharaoh like Hatshepsut.
She showed ruthless ambition and exceptional tenacity for the times in which she lived.
Hatshepsut was the first but not the only woman ruler of male dominated ancient Egypt. Nefertiti (bust pictured left) followed her and then Cleopatra (relief shown right) took power 1,500 years later, but neither took the title pharaoh like Hatshepsut
As a result this mysterious and courageous female ruler rewrote the early story of her country and has been called the first great woman in history.
Hatshepsut insisted she had been made official heir to the throne by her father, the pharaoh Thutmosis I.
The pharaoh had several sons who predeceased him and turned to his daughter to safeguard the throne.
What immediately followed was not unusual. Hatshepsut married a much younger half-brother, also called Thutmosis, whereupon she became queen.
Marriages between siblings were the custom in those days and at first the couple reigned together.
But then her brother/husband died, with the markings on his mummy suggesting he suffered from a hideous skin disease.
Hatshepsut became regent for another Thutmosis, her husband's son by a harem girl. By now she was not content simply to be regent.
Within two years she had taken all the power for herself and was running the country from its capital Thebes, donned in her false beard and all the traditional regalia of kingship.
For many years she and her stepson seemed to have lived happily with this arrangement.
She ruled while Thutmosis concentrated on his military career. So successful was he that historians know him as the Napoleon of Egypt.
Historians suspect these campaigns were an excuse to escape from the influence of his merciless step-mother.
She ruled while Thutmosis (shown in a relief wearing an Atef crown) concentrated on his military career. So successful was he that historians know him as the Napoleon of Egypt
She was becoming so powercrazed in her last years that Thutmosis even feared for his life.
In his absence, Hatshepsut built breathtaking temples in her own honour. They were decorated with reliefs telling how she came to the throne of Egypt and with farfetched stories about her divine connections.
Hatshepsut ruled as a master politician and stateswoman for 20 years.
She died around the age of 50 of cancer, according to recent research and expected to be buried in her finest and best-known temple near the Valley of the Kings.
But it appears Thutmosis III got his own back on the woman who usurped his throne, burying her in a lesser location.
He outlived Hatshepsut by 40 years and seems to have set out on a campaign to erase her name from history.
He threw her statues into the quarries in front of the grand temples she built and even defaced the images of her courtiers.
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