It took the researchers some time to understand what they had found. As early as the late 1820s, the French linguist Jean-François Champollion, Decipherer of the hieroglyphs, found the name of a previously unknown king in the dilapidated temples in the western part of Thebes, carved in stone. To his astonishment, however, female endings and pronouns appeared in the associated inscriptions. The only obvious explanation for this came from the German Egyptologist Richard Lepsius in the mid-1830s: the king was – a woman. A sensation!
Royal rule was a man’s business in ancient Egypt. The king of the country was “lord of the two countries”, his power extended over Upper and Lower Egypt. After the death of a monarch, a ruler’s wife occasionally took over the state affairs. Or she determined as provisional regent when the male heir to the throne was too young to rule himself. But such reigns did not last long. Raising himself as ruler for years, in the status of a pharaoh commanding the divine order, was only achieved by Hatshepsut, translated “The first of the ladies”.