Saturday, February 28, 2015

Did this female entity kill ancient Egypt's female pharaoh Hatshepsut?

Maat, Egyptian goddess of universal order

It is ironic to think that it may have been a female who destroyed the memory and monuments of the 'female pharaoh' Hatshepsut.

Maat, as the goddess of universal order, dictated that the natural order of things be preserved - and this did not include the memory of the woman who would be king (as Egyptologist and writer Kara Cooney has memorably dubbed her), regardless of an illustrious reign.

The historical record of order had to be put straight, 'cleansed', especially on king lists, monuments and inscriptions.

Maat was probably the prime mover, or remover.

So we should perhaps blame this female entity as much as Hatshepsut's successor Thutmosis lll for the sledgehammer revisionism that took place after her death.

Friday, February 27, 2015

New Palmyra Explosives Reports - would our 'Christian god' care about saving antiquities? An Egyptology-loving fiction writer ponders

A bedeviling question for me
With reports of explosives being laid in the Palmyra ruins, a bedeviling question for an Egyptology fiction writer grows more persistent: did/does Christ or our Christian God care about the preservation of 'pagan' antiquities?

Some Biblical Scripture reads like a handbook for ISIL: 
You shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars. Exodus 23:24

But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images  Exodus 34:13

You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nora sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God  Leviticus 26:1

But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars  Deut 7:5

And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place  Deut 12: 3-4

Like my independent Egyptologist fiction hero Anson Hunter, I wrestle with a faith.

And I also wrestle increasingly with this question: is faith in a sense hostile to antiquities from a so-called 'pagan' age?

Of course, the history of Christianity (let alone Islam) and antiquities in places like Egypt is not a happy one.

As my novel "The God Dig" relates in this scene...

A rag-tag mob surges through the streets of Alexandria like a flood overwhelming a city.

As they run, they shout in anger, their faces burning like the torch flames in their hands. A bearded, white-robed figure, carrying a Gospel, runs at the head of the mob like an ancient warrior of light.

Now a twenty-first century man in a khaki suit steps into the edge of the screen as if stepping into history and he speaks to the camera in a murmur like a presenter in a wildlife documentary, a sardonic gleam in his eye.

“This is an Alexandrian mob in Egypt. But it’s not revolutionary Egypt in the twenty-first century. No, this is Roman Egypt in the year 291 of the Common Era and the Roman Emperor Theodosius has just passed decrees overturning pagan worship in the Empire. The instigator of this mass frenzy?” He points. “That figure over there at the head of a mob of Christian zealots and mad monks. He is the Roman-appointed Bishop Theophilus, today known as the patron saint of arsonists.”

The speaker is Stephen Croxley, a celebrated English atheist and iconoclast, delivering his on-the-spot-narration to the camera.

“The mob rushes through the south-west quarter of the city on its way to the Egyptian quarter and the temple of Serapis, a deity combined with Osiris, god of the afterlife, and Apis the bull. The temple was built by Ptolemy III and is one of the largest and most beautiful in the ancient world. Swept along by religious zeal, the mob lays violent siege to the temple, smashing walls, idols, statues and treasures, and they burn the structure to its foundations. More importantly, as far as the bishop is concerned, they burn down the library that adjoins it, a daughter library of the Great Library of Alexandria. It contains fifty thousand rolls of papyrus and parchment – heretical knowledge of the ancient world that in the bishop’s mind stands in the way of acceptance of the Bible…” The narrator pauses for effect. “Tragically, knowledge and enlightenment in this city of Alexandria, the so-called birthplace of the modern mind, is going up in flames…

"Soon after,” the narrator continues, “another Alexandrian mob like this one will rise and lay hands on a different repository of knowledge, this time in the form of the beautiful Greek luminary Hyaptia, the female mathematician and astronomer. Led by the Christian bishop Cyril, they will kill Hypatia, using oyster shells to scrape off her skin and flesh, after which they will burn her along with her books. Cyril will be made a saint for that.” The narrator raises an eyebrow. “The Dark Ages are under way…”
Does 'our god' care about antiquities?
I'm not sure I'd like the answer.

Adventure thriller on Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shabaka Stone - the nourishing power of ancient Egypt's written words...

Inscribed with religious texts, the Shabaka Stone found a second life in later times as a grinding stone for wheat (British Museum)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"This is it." The investigative Egypt adventure thriller that started the 7-novel series

Hidden dangers from the ancient past - modern day conspiracies

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Was ancient Egypt’s first female pharaoh the one you think?

With the publicity around Queen Hatshepsut as a result of the popular new book 'The Woman Who Would be King’ by US Egyptologist Kara Cooney, many may think that this resourceful queen was the first to rule as a pharaoh, but was she?

If few have heard of Hatshepsut, who has ever heard of Nitocris?

Quite a few, actually.

Playwright Tennesse Williams of “A Streetcar Named Desire’  fame wrote his first published short fiction about her, titled: ‘The Vengeance of Nitocris.’

A little florid, full of youthful exuberance and colour, it opens with the words ‘Hushed were the streets of many people Thebes…’

Williams was a beginner.

Nitocris also attracted the attention of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft who dubbed her the ‘subtle Queen Nitocris.’

Then Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz wrote a novel about her.

But was the queen a real person?

Ancient historians Herodotus, Eratosthenes, and the Greek-Egyptian Manetho all attest to the queen’s existence.

Some authors ascribed the building of the third pyramid of Giza to Nitocris, unlikely since Menkaura was known to be its builder, but there were signs of later additions to it, which may have involved the queen.

Greek historian Herodotus described her beauty and bravery. He also noted her cunning in these words:

To avenge her brother (he was king of Egypt and was slain by his subjects who then gave Nitocris the sovereignty) she put many Egyptians to death by guile. She built a spacious underground chamber; then, with the pretense of inaugurating it, but with far other intent in her mind, she gave a great feast, inviting those Egyptians whom she knew to have been most concerned in her brother's murder; and, while they feasted, she let the river in upon them by a great secret channel. This was all that the priests told of her, save that when she had done this, she cast herself into a chamber full of hot ashes, thereby to escape vengeance.

Modern day scholars range in their opinions. Some say that Nitocris was in fact a male king, others that she was possibly the eldest daughter of King Pepi II, and married King Merenre, while others dismiss her as an entirely mythical personage.

Founder of modern Egyptology, William Petrie, in his ‘History’ claimed that Nitocris was another version of a courtesan called Rhodopis who bizarrely, gave birth to the Cinderella story…

The poet Sapho wrote of her:

The Rhodope that built the pyramid was Nitocris, the beautiful Egyptian queen who was the heroine of so many legends; Mycerinus (Menkaura) began the third pyramid, and Nitocris finished it. One day, they say, when Rhodopis was bathing at Naucratis, an eagle snatched up one of her sandals from the hands of her female attendants, and carried it to Memphis; the eagle, soaring over the head of the king who was administering justice in an open-air court at the time, let the sandal fall into his lap. The king, struck with the beauty of the sandal and the singularity of the incident, sent over all Egypt to discover the woman to whom it belonged. The owner was found in the city of Naucratis and brought to the king; he made her his queen, and at her death erected, so the story goes, this third pyramid in her honour…

So was Nitocris, the first woman to be a king, fact – or fairy story? 

(NOTE: The enigmatic Nitocris is at the centre of a new modern day crime mystery thriller with an ancient Egyptian theme: 'The Girl With Painted Eyes'.)