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Archive for the 'Ancient Egypt' Category

Coins or Scarabs?

25th September 2009

As noted in a comment in my last post, Daniel O. McClellan over at his his blog Maklelan, has some possible pictures of the so-called “coins” that were discovered. If he is correct in his opinion and if his pictures are accurate, then these are certainly not coins, but scarabs.

Perhaps if further pictures are produced, there might be something to this story. As it stands right now, it looks very unlikely, especially considering the tendentiousness of the source (illustrated by the apologetic aim to show that the Quran’s references to coins at the time of Joseph are historically accurate).


Posted in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Near East, Discoveries, Genesis | 2 Comments »

Coins from the Joseph Era found In Egypt!?

25th September 2009

News reports are buzing this morning about a cache of coins discovered among some unsorted artifacts in the recesses of the Museum of Egypt. Not only are coins not thought to have been used in ancient Egypt, more surprisingly, the report claims that coins with the  name and image of the biblical Joseph have been found among the coins. If this turns out to be a bona fide discovery, this will be the first extra-biblical evidence for any of the biblical patriarchs.

Here is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post:

Archeologists have discovered ancient Egyptian coins bearing the name and image of the biblical Joseph, Cairo’s Al Ahram newspaper recently reported. Excerpts provided by MEMRI show that the coins were discovered among a multitude of unsorted artifacts stored at the Museum of Egypt.

According to the report, the significance of the find is that archeologists have found scientific evidence countering the claim held by some historians that coins were not used for trade in ancient Egypt, and that this was done through barter instead.

The period in which Joseph was regarded to have lived in Egypt matches the minting of the coins in the cache, researchers said.

“A thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait,” said the report.

The discovery of the cache prompted research team head Dr. Sa’id Muhammad Thabet to seek Koranic verses that speak of coins used in ancient Egypt.

“Studies by Dr. Thabet’s team have revealed that what most archeologists took for a kind of charm, and others took for an ornament or adornment, is actually a coin. Several [facts led them to this conclusion]: first, [the fact that] many such coins have been found at various [archeological sites], and also [the fact that] they are round or oval in shape, and have two faces: one with an inscription, called the inscribed face, and one with an image, called the engraved face – just like the coins we use today,” the report added.

Some more details from the original article that appeared in the September 22, 2009, edition of Al-Ahram (Egypt), are provided on the MEMRI website. Here is a translation of the section pertaining to the supposed Joseph coins:

“The researcher identified coins from many different periods, including coins that bore special markings identifying them as being from the era of Joseph. Among these, there was one coin that had an inscription on it, and an image of a cow symbolizing Pharaoh’s dream about the seven fat cows and seven lean cows, and the seven green stalks of grain and seven dry stalks of grain. It was found that the inscriptions of this early period were usually simple, since writing was still in its early stages, and consequently there was difficulty in deciphering the writing on these coins. But the research team [managed to] translate [the writing on the coin] by comparing it to the earliest known hieroglyphic texts…

“Joseph’s name appears twice on this coin, written in hieroglyphs: once the original name, Joseph, and once his Egyptian name, Saba Sabani, which was given to him by Pharaoh when he became treasurer. There is also an image of Joseph, who was part of the Egyptian administration at the time.

“Dr. Sa’id Thabet called on Egypt’s Antiquities Council and on the Minister of Culture to intensify efforts in the fields of Ancient Egyptian history and archeology, and to [promote] the research of these coins that bear the name of Egyptian pharaohs and gods. This, he said, would enable the correction of prevalent misconceptions regarding the history of Ancient Egypt.”

Here is an image from the MEMRI which I assume is of some of the coins:

Joseph_Coins

I would like to affirm the findings and announce that there is now iron clad evidence for the biblical Joseph, but alas, the skeptical side of me says wait and see what comes of this. Wait and see…


Posted in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Near East, Archaeology, Discoveries, Genesis, Joseph, News | 7 Comments »

Ancient Egyptian Semitic Snake Spells (or “Snakes in a Pyramid”)

26th April 2007

“Ancient Egyptian Semitic Snake Spells” — say that five times fast! As I am getting caught up on some blogging, Shawn Flynn had brought to my attention an interesting article about some semitic spells found on the walls of the pyramid of King Unas at Saqqara (BTW: Shawn has a relatively new blog called Palimpsest that is definitely worthy of our blogrolls).

Here’s an excerpt of the article from the National Geographic News:

The Canaanite spells were invoked to help protect mummified kings against poisonous snakes, one of ancient Egypt’s most dreaded nemeses.

According to the incantations, female snakes—acting as mediators for Canaanite magicians—used their multiple mouths and sexual organs to prevent other snakes from entering the mummified rulers’ remains.

The passages date from between 2400 to 3000 B.C. and appear to be written in Proto-Canaanite, a direct ancestor of biblical Hebrew.

….

Experts had attempted without success to decipher the serpent spells as if they were ordinary Egyptian texts composed in hieroglyphic characters.

But in 2002 a colleague asked Richard Steiner, a professor of Semitic languages and literature at New York’s Yeshiva University, if the texts might be Semitic.

“I immediately recognized the Semitic words for ‘mother snake,’” Steiner said at a recent lecture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he presenting the findings.

“Later it became clear that the surrounding spells, composed in Egyptian rather than Semitic, also speak of the divine mother snake and that the Egyptian and Semitic texts elucidate each other,” he added.

“It was hiding there in plain sight,” Steiner told National Geographic News. “It’s unintelligible to Egyptologists, but it makes perfect sense to Semitists.”

This discovery perhaps has some interesting implications for history of the Hebrew language and relationships between Egypt and the Canaanites.

Yeshiva University also has a press release about the report, while Shawn blogs about the report here.


Posted in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Near East, Archaeology, Discoveries, Hebrew | 1 Comment »

Ancient Egyptian Drinking Party

1st November 2006

MSNBC has an article about an ancient Egyptian drinking party which they liken to the debaucheries of the “Girls gone wild” video genre (Gee, do you think that tie-in was made to be provocative?). The article, “Sex and booze figured in Egyptian rites,” by Alan Boyle reports on some finds from the ruins of a temple in Luxor by Johns Hopkins University professor Betsy Bryan.

Here are some excerpts:

Johns Hopkins University’s Betsy Bryan, who has been leading an excavation effort at the Temple of Mut since 2001, laid out her team’s findings on the drinking festival here on Saturday during the annual New Horizons in Science briefing, presented by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

“We are talking about a festival in which people come together in a community to get drunk,” she said. “Not high, not socially fun, but drunk — knee-walking, absolutely passed-out drunk.”

The temple excavations turned up what appears to have been a “porch of drunkenness,” associated with Hatshepsut, the wife and half-sister of Thutmose II. After the death of Thutmose II in 1479 B.C., Hatshepsut ruled New Kingdom Egypt for about 20 years as a female pharaoh, and the porch was erected at the height of her reign.

Some of the inscriptions that were uncovered at the temple link the drunkenness festival with “traveling through the marshes,” which Bryan said was an ancient Egyptian euphemism for having sex. The sexual connection is reinforced by graffiti depicting men and women in positions that might draw some tut-tutting today.

The rules for the ritual even called for a select few to stay sober — serving as “designated drivers” for the drunkards, she said. On the morning after, musicians walked around, beating their drums to wake up the revelers.

Prayerful party
The point of all this wasn’t simply to have a good time, Bryan said. Instead, the festival — which was held during the first month of the year, just after the first flooding of the Nile — re-enacted the myth of Sekhmet, a lion-headed war goddess.

According to the myth, the bloodthirsty Sekhmet nearly destroyed all humans, but the sun god Re tricked her into drinking mass quantities of ochre-colored beer, thinking it was blood. Once Sekhmet passed out, she was transformed into a kinder, gentler goddess named Hathor, and humanity was saved.

….

New twists in an old tale
The discoveries at the Temple of Mut parallel historical references to drunken rituals during Egypt’s Greco-Roman period. The writer Herodotus reported in 440 B.C. that such festivals drew as many as 700,000 people — with drunken women exposing themselves to onlookers. “More grape wine is consumed at this festival than in all the rest of the year besides,” Herodotus wrote. The festival also turns up in chronicles from around A.D. 200.

The new twist in Bryan’s work is that such rituals were found to have taken place during a much earlier time in Egyptian history, said Aidan Dodson, an Egyptologist at the University of Bristol. “She’s actually found the first definite evidence,” he told MSNBC.com.

I especially like the accompanying sketch of a wall painting which shows one of partiers throwing up (top left):

egyptdrink.jpg

This festival seems to be akin to the מרזח marzeach, a drinking festival widely attested to in the ancient Near East.

Some things never change.


Posted in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Near East, Archaeology | 1 Comment »