Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics Reveal Rare Portrait of Powerful Female Pharaoh

Scientists recently reanalyzed two limestone slabs tucked away in storage at the Swansea University, in Wales, and stumbled upon a fascinating discovery. The artifacts appeared to depict Hatshepsut, one of the few female pharaohs to have ruled ancient Egypt.

The two artifacts have been housed at Swansea University since 1971, but the new revelation regarding the actual depictions was only made this month by Swansea University Egyptology lecturer Ken Griffin. During an inspection of the artifacts, Griffin noted that the limestone slabs not only showed an Egyptian pharaoh, but Hatshepsut, one of the most well-known female pharaohs to have ever ruled Egypt, according to a statement about the discovery.

Realigned picture in colour
Scientists recently reanalyzed two limestone slabs tucked away in storage at the Swansea University, in Wales. The realigned tablets appear to depict Hatshepsut, the ancient Egyptian queen. Courtesy of the University of Swansea

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"I was selecting objects for the handling session and saw an old black-and-white photo of a carving which looked more interesting than the rest.... When we realized what it truly was our jaws hit the floor—mine as well as the students," Griffin told BBC News.

The lower part of the partially destroyed artifacts depict part of a person's nose, mouth, chin and neck. The upper part shows a head with a leaf fan, Atlas Obscura reported. The person's face is missing, but hieroglyphics of a cobra on the forehead show that the individual was a pharaoh.

Dr Ken Griffin
Professor Ken Griffin at Swansea University, in Wales, was the first to notice the slabs’ true meaning. Courtesy of the University of Swansea

In addition, the hieroglyphics above the figure's head use female pronouns, making it clear that this was not only a pharaoh but a female one. There were only five female pharaohs in all of Egyptian history, and the style and materials used in the artifacts match others found in the temple of Hatshepsut, Smithsonian reported.

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Hatshepsut ruled as pharaoh from 1478 to 1458 B.C., and her reign is revered as one of peace and prosperity.

Researchers, however, haven't confirmed where the artifacts came from prior to their arrival in Wales nearly 50 years ago. Little information was available regarding the origins of the slabs before they came to Swansea in 1971, a press release noted. Now, Griffin and fellow Egyptologists are working to trace back exactly where the artifacts were uncovered. The relics will be placed on display in the House of Life at the Egypt Centre in Swansea.