At the ancient copper mines in Timna Valley, in southern Israel, archaeologists have found the remains of a pregnant women that challenge ideas about the site’s use. שומבלע/Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5

Archaeologists found the bones of an important pregnant woman while digging at a Bible-era site in Israel that supposedly never had any female visitors.

Haaretz reports that a team dug up the remains of an Egyptian woman who died 3,200 years ago, while early in a pregnancy, at the ancient copper mines in the southern part of the country called Timna. The skeleton was found several hundred feet from an Egyptian temple at the mines and experts say she could have been a musician or a singer because of the state in which she was found and because only people of importance would have been properly buried at Timna.

The dead woman may have been in her 20s when she died, but it is unclear what caused her death.

At the time the pregnant woman was alive, Egypt controlled the land.

“It is very rare to find human remains in Timna, and it is the first time we [found] a woman,” archaeologist Erez Ben-Yosef told Haaretz.

Tel Aviv University’s Central Timna Valley Project has been excavating in the area for several years and brought up the skeleton.

No one has found human remains in decades in Timna, which is an inhospitable area, although people harvested copper from there for hundreds of years, during ancient times.

“There are no water sources in Timna and it is very inhospitable, so no one ever settled there permanently,” Ben-Yosef told the publication. “Home was close to water sources, and people only came for brief expeditions during the winter to mine copper.”

The mines were once thought to be ruled by King Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba who was known for his wisdom, exemplified in a story in which he tells two women fighting over custody of a child to cut the baby in half. The Judgment of Solomon revealed the identity of the true mother, who would rather give up the child than cause it harm.

According to Haaretz, the 3,200-year-old skeleton was dated with the help of Egyptian glass beads found with the bottom half of her body — the upper body is gone, perhaps taken during looting — which also hint at her origin.

They have been connected to the nearby temple, dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Hathor, who was associated with mining and music, as well as women, fertility, love and motherhood, among other elements of life. She was a prominent goddess, with many connections to others, and often took the form of a cow.

Experts had previously thought women were not part of the mining expeditions to Timna, but the skeleton discovery indicates otherwise.

“Unfortunately, she must have died there for some reason and was buried close to the temple, so that Hathor would protect her,” Tel Aviv University egyptologist Deborah Sweeney told Haaretz. “It’s actually quite sad. She was probably quite adventurous to go so far away from home, which was rare for women in Egypt — but she never came back.”