History

Building for Egypt's First Female Pharaoh Discovered

Ancient stone blocks depicting Queen Hatshepsut have been discovered on Egypt's Elephantine Island.

Ancient stone blocks depicting Queen Hatshepsut have been discovered on Egypt's Elephantine Island, providing insights into the early years of her reign, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced this week. The blocks may have been part of a building that served as a way station for an ancient Egyptian deity.

On several of the blocks, Queen Hatshepsut was represented as a woman, according to the Ministry, suggesting that the blocks and building it came from were erected during the early part of the first female pharaoh's reign, which lasted from 1473 B.C. to 1458 B.C. Later in her reign, the queen was depicted as a male.

Mentions of Queen Hatshepsut were erased and monuments bearing her image were defaced after her death, and her female figure was replaced with images of a male king: her deceased husband Thutmose II. It is believed that her co-ruler and stepson/nephew Thutmose III ordered the change. [Photos: The Beautiful Sarcophagus of an Egypt Pharaoh]

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It was unusual for a woman to become pharaoh of Egypt. As Egyptologist Ian Shaw noted in his book "Exploring Ancient Egypt" (Oxford University Press, 2003), "In the history of Egypt during the dynastic period (3000 to 332 B.C.) there were only two or three women who managed to rule as pharaohs, rather than wielding power as the ‘great wife' of a male king."

And she was a builder: In his National Geographic feature on Hatshepsut "The King Herself," Chip Brown wrote about her legacy, and said she was "one of the greatest builders in one of the greatest Egyptian dynasties." During her reign, Hatshepsut erected and renovated many temples and shrines to the gods.

In fact, the newfound blocks likely were part of a previously unknown building of Queen Hatshepsut that was discovered this year by the German Archaeological Institute, said Mahmoud Afify, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, in the Ministry of Antiquities' statement on Facebook. In previous excavation seasons at the same site, members of the Swiss Institute also discovered some blocks that may have come from the same building.

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The building would have served as a way station for the festival barque of the god Khnum, said Felix Arnold, field director of the Elephantine Island mission. In ancient Egypt, "barques," or sacred boats, were used to help carry the dead to the afterlife.

Based on the discoveries thus far, in the same statement, the Ministry of Antiquities described the building's construction as a chamber for the barque of the god Khnum, which is surrounded by pillars on all four sides.

"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," according to the Ministry statement on Facebook. "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."

Original article on Live Science.

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A stone block found on Egypt's Elephantine Island shows Queen Hatshepsut as a female (highlighted by red lines). Later images of the pharaoh portrayed her as a male king.

Nefertiti, 1330-1370 BC

April 12, 2012 -

When the face of a movie star appearing "puffy" can spark a media frenzy, the focus on female beauty seems to have reached an all-time high. A recent piece by actress Ashley Judd in the Daily Beast calls out the media for their concentration on women's bodies and looks. After widespread speculation that the actress had plastic surgery she calls the conversation about beauty "nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women...endure every day." Here, we look at what that conversation has looked like through the years -- from Nefertiti to Michelle Obama. This representation of the pharaoh's wife, Nefertiti, is thought to be the most beautiful by both modern and ancient Egyptian standards, says Joann Fletcher, an honorary research fellow at the University of York, who has studied Nefertiti extensively. Nefertiti lived from about 1330-1370 BC. "While its specific facial proportions are almost completely symmetrical, again conforming to this notion of beauty, the sculpted face is further enhanced by the artist's very skilful use of color to suggest the application of a black eye paint and red lip color, creating the idealized form of beauty we see in other representations of ancient Egyptian women," she said. "In other representations of women at this time, the hair can sometimes tend to obscure their facial features, since it frames the face in a curtain-like mass of braids and plaits, the hair being another attribute of beauty associated with Hathor, goddess of beauty, who was also hailed as 'She of the Beautiful Hair' and 'Lady of the Lock'."

Venus and Adonis by Peter Paul Rubens, 1635 Today, "Rubenesque" is a polite way to say "big" or "plus-sized." Peter Paul Rubens painted portraits of full-figured women in the early 1600s, inspired by his second wife, 16-year-old Hélène Fourment.

Gibson Girl, 1897 "In the late 19th century, the emphasis was really on women’s facial features," said Joan Jacobs Brumberg, a historian who wrote "The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls." "The bosom was noticed in the 19th century but not with too much cleavage." Women wore corsets, and the Gibson Girls showed off slender waists. Ankles, also, were highly sexualized. Photo: Von Charles Dana Gibson: Aus dem Jahre

Flapper Girls, 1929 Around World War I, with the advent of movies, the body begins to be emphasized as much, or more, than the face. "Fashion has changed so that a slim silhouette in a chemise is ideal, and matronly seems old fashioned. Women are dancing and doing sports, and they are no longer infatuated with the Victorian ideal of being frail and sickly,” Brumberg said.

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Marilyn Monroe, 1955 After WWII, technology started changing the way beauty was perceived: bathrooms with electric lights and mirrors highlighted concerns about acne and formerly overlooked details, Brumberg said. Corsets replace girdles, and bra cups became extremely pointed. Actress Marilyn Monroe was perceived as the epitome of beauty in the 50s. There's been much speculation about her size and weight. Was she really a plus-sized beauty, asks this piece in Jezebel which dug up the actress's actual dress size numbers. Photo: Actress Marilyn Monroe on the set of "The Seven Year Itch," directed by Billy Wilder in 1955.

Betty Page, 1955 In 1955, Betty Page won the title "Miss Pinup Girl of the World." She was known as "The Queen of Curves" and "The Dark Angel."

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Twiggy, 1966 “It wasn’t just feminists who burned bras,” Brumberg said. “Bras and underwear changed. The body becomes something for you to control from the inside, through diet and exercise, instead of exterior control through the corset. Different body parts get attention in different ways.” Model and actress Twiggy personified the swinging 60s mod culture in London. Twiggy was known for her androgynous looks, large eyes and short hair. In 1966, she was named "The Face of 1966" by the Daily Express and voted British Woman of the Year.

Christie Brinkley, 1987 When Allure magazine conducted a poll on beauty in 1990, Christie Brinkley embodied the all-American look, landing her on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition three times. When Allure did a similar survey in 2010, attitudes had changed: 69 percent of respondents no longer believed in a single "all-American" look. Women and men picked a Latina model as most attractive among pictures of different races and ethnicities. Photo: Christie Brinkley Sighting in London - July 12, 1987

Michelle Obama, 2012 "Michelle Obama is very much about health and mobility and activity and strength,” Brumberg said. “People may say she looks hot, but really they’re saying she’s an icon for the women’s health movement.” Obama’s body suggests healthy eating, she notes, whereas today's fashion magazines still portray more emaciated bodies.

Ashley Judd, 2012 Ashley Judd's piece in the Daily Beast asks everyone to try to change the conversation about beauty. "If this conversation about me is going to be had, I will do my part to insist that it is a feminist one, because it has been misogynistic from the start. " "Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged 'all knowing' stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment?”

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