Elephantine (or Greek: Ελεφαντίν) is an existing island in the Nile River, located in upper Nubia (the land encompassing present-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt), and it is known for its flurry of archaeological sites. Pertaining to the latter part, researchers have found evidence regarding the portrayal of Queen Hatshepsut – Egypt’s first female Pharaoh, on some stone blocks situated on the river island. The momentous discovery was announced by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, and according to their initial report, these blocks might have belonged to a building that served as a sanctuary for an ancient Egyptian deity.
In historical terms, Hatshepsut (roughly meaning ‘Foremost of Noble Ladies’) ascended the much-coveted throne of Egypt in 1478 BC, though in official capacity, she was possibly the co-ruler of the realm along with her two-year old male stepson Thutmose III. And in spite of the rarity of her scenario (of a woman being nominated as an ancient ruler), she strove for various accomplishments during her 21-year reign. The chief among them was the commissioning of hundreds of construction and renovation projects throughout Upper and Lower Egypt, an ambitious move guided by the employment of one of Egypt’s greatest architect Ineni. Some of the major constructional works included establishments of monuments, obelisks and even entire temples. One grand example would obviously pertain to the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (Djeser-Djeseru or ‘Holy of Holies’), a magnificent project conceived by the royal architect and Hatshepsut’s chancellor Senenmut.
The female Pharaoh is also known to have played an instrumental role in reviving many of the trade routes that were severely afflicted by the preceding period of the Hyksos occupation of Egypt. Unfortunately from the historical perspective, much of her legacy and imagery were erased from monuments and buildings, probably due to the politically-driven directive of her succeeding stepson Thutmose III. But coming back to the stone blocks in questions here, these specimens are possibly extant components of a structure that was discovered earlier this year by the German Archaeological Institute (similar stone blocks were also found by members of the Swiss institute).
To that end, the structure was possibly a ‘symbolic’ way station for the ceremonial barque of Khnum, the god of the source of the Nile River usually depicted with the head of a ram. As for the barque, it denoted the sacred boat that was used for carrying the dead to their afterlife. In essence, the building with known depictions of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, probably represented a chamber for the barque of the god Khnum, and thus boasted four strong pillars. As the Ministry’s statement on Facebook makes it clear –
On the pillars are representations of several versions of the god Khnum, as well as other gods, 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.
Via: DiscoveryNews / Images Credit: German Archaeological Institute