An image bearing the head of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's first female pharaoh, has been discovered in an ancient artifact excavated from an unknown location.
The ancient artifact has been stored in the Swansea University Egypt Centre before it was requested for a handling session led by lecturer Ken Griffin.
Apparently, what was first thought to be just another relic turned out to be a rare discovery. Upon close examination, Griffin and his students determined that the two limestone fragments contained hieroglyphs, a figure with a cobra on the forehead, and an iconic fan behind the head.
Although the figure's face is missing, the Egyptologist immediately recognized that it belonged to none other than Queen Hatshepsut. First off, the writings make use of a female pronoun, suggesting that the head belonged to one of the few female rulers of ancient Egypt.
In addition, Griffin identified the fan's details, as well as the hair and headdress features of the figure, to resemble reliefs in the queen's temple at Deir-el Bahri, which was constructed during the rise of the New Kingdom.
Even though the lecturer managed to identify the Pharaoh depicted in the Egyptian artifact, it presents two archeological mysteries that, unfortunately, remain unsolved.
Hatshepsut Head Recovered From Unknown Location
According to an official report, Griffin tried searching the Egypt Centre's records for information regarding the artifact's excavation site. However, he found nothing.
He only knew that it came into the university's possession by 1971 as part of a collection that belonged to Sir Henry Wellcome, an entrepreneur who lived from 1853 to 1936 and dabbled in London's pharmaceutical industry.
Judging from the cuts at the back of the ancient fragments that are less than 5 centimeters thick, the Egyptologist believes it had been removed from the wall of either a tomb or temple.
It is likely that it was dug up from Deir el-Bahri around the late 19th century prior the temple's excavation by the Egypt Exploration Society between 1902 and 1909. Back then, the group was known as the Egypt Exploration Fund.
Artifacts within the temple had only been recorded in 1961. It was not until this year that the Polish Archaeological Mission started exploring, restoring, and archiving their finds in Hatshepsut's sacred ground.
Upper Head Fragment Shows Bearded Male
Another strange quality of the Egyptian relic is how the upper fragment shows the image of a bearded man. Such evidence does not match depictions of the female pharaoh.
Griffin initially had no explanation for this puzzle. He later revealed that the upper fragment had been previously removed and replaced to augment the attractiveness and value of the piece. Such was probably done by an auctioneer, antique seller, or whoever owned it before.
Nonetheless, the artifact with Hatshepsut's head has helped Swansea students gain a deeper understanding of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
"While most of the students have never visited Egypt before, the handling sessions help to bring Egypt to them," says Griffin in a news release.
Hatshepsut served as Egypt's fifth pharaoh during the 18th dynasty that spanned from 1478 to 1458 BC. Her reign was marked by peace and economic prosperity, allowing her to establish numerous monuments across the nation.