800 tombes égyptiennes de la période de l’Exode du peuple d’Israel, découvertes en Egypte.


Parmi les facteurs qui correspondent à la politique de Joseph en matière de famine, mentionnons la création d’un nouveau ministère chargé de la réception et de la distribution du grain, la fin soudaine du pouvoir politique exceptionnel des gouverneurs régionaux et la concentration de tout le pouvoir sur le pharaon, et la représentation de ces deux pharaons montrant un réalisme inhabituel, les visages et oreilles agités se penchant pour entendre les préoccupations du peuple. Pourtant, à cette époque, les pharaons faisaient l’expérience du sommet de la puissance de l’Empire du Milieu. Cela correspond au compte de Joseph stockant du grain pendant sept bonnes années et chacun vendant tout ce qu’il avait à acheter le gain pendant les 7 années maigres. Toutes les richesses de la région (y compris celles des gouverneurs) vinrent à Pharaon.

Si c’est vraiment une preuve pour les premiers Israélites en Egypte, la fin de la 12ème dynastie, quelques décennies plus tard seulement, est trop proche pour se qualifier comme candidat pour le point de l’Exode.

Pour la première fois, les visiteurs en Egypte pourront faire la descente raide de 150 pieds sous terre dans la tombe cachée de Senusret III à Abydos. (Crédit : Josef Wegner et le Musée Penn)

Comme indiqué sur le site des Anciennes Origines, la tombe du pharaon Senusret III est en cours de rénovation pour permettre au public de la visiter dans les deux prochaines années. C’est sur le célèbre site d’Abydos, qui était actif dans les trois royaumes d’Egypte. Ce site permettra à plusieurs de faire l’expérience de la magnificence de ce pharaon de la 12e dynastie.

La fin de la 12e dynastie coïncide également avec tous les témoignages dans la ville d’Avaris qui correspondent à Joseph et aux premiers Israélites. Ce peuplement de Sémites de la région de Canaan/Syrie a commencé sous le règne de Sésostris III et s’est rapidement étendu à une population énorme. Elle fut prospère au début, avant de connaître des temps difficiles à la 13e dynastie et de connaître un abandon à la fin de la 13e dynastie.

Le motif correspond à un exode qui se produit vers la fin de la 13e dynastie de l’Empire du Milieu. A moins que de nouvelles preuves ne soient découvertes qui bouleversent l’image globale de la richesse et de la puissance soutenues de l’Egypte dans le Nouvel Empire, il n’y a pas de meilleur candidat pour le contexte historique des événements de l’Exode. Au fur et à mesure de l’expansion des nouvelles découvertes, nous chercherons d’autres preuves pour renforcer ou ajuster ce que nous savons déjà. – Continuez à penser !

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The large collection of underground burials in Lisht, Egypt will give new insights into the Middle Kingdom. (Credit: Sarah Parcak)

…and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day, – Deuteronomy 11:4 (ESV)

More than 800 ancient tombs from a previously unknown cemetery were uncovered earlier this year near Lisht, Egypt. This spectacular new find will help researchers learn about life in the Middle Kingdom and may give clues to what led to its eventual demise. This in turn may provide new information fitting the biblical account of the early Israelites in Egypt leading up to their exodus out of that land.

The discovery of this new tomb complex was announced at the end of August by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. They were joined in the expedition by a group from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. In just one season of digging, the team was able to survey and map out a remarkable 802 tombs, almost all of them identified for the first time.

Lisht, located about 40 miles south of Cairo, has long been known as the site of royal and elite burials for the 12th and 13th dynasties of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom. This included the pyramids for the first two rulers of the 12th Dynasty located at the north and south end of the necropolis. They moved Egypt’s capital from Thebes to a place called Itjtawy, where it remained for about 400 years.

While excavations of royal tombs at List have been going on since the early 1900s, the walled capital city of Itjtawy has been lost for thousands of years. It’s location has never been verified despite more than a century of searching by Egyptologists, and even though it is known to have been located near the Lisht necropolis. This is emblematic of how little of Egyptian history has been uncovered.

Now, because of new technology, a new era of discovery is dawning in the field of archaeology. The promising future of satellite technology to detect ancient structures invisible to the naked eye was highlighted in a previous Thinker Update featuring Sarah Parcak, a pioneer in the field from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. According to a story from National Geographic, satellites also played a role in this recent discovery, but in a different way.

In 2014, Parcak and her colleagues were examining high-resolution satellite images of the area around Lisht when they noticed evidence of looting pits. Dark pockmarks in the images had multiplied over the course of several years, but it couldn’t be determined where the holes led. It took researchers on the ground to see that the holes led to tombs forming a vast complex, previously hidden under many feet of sand.

A family shaft tomb from the southern part of the Lisht complex. (credit: Sarah Parcak)

Most of the tombs had been emptied by looters, a problem Parcak’s work has shown to have increased in recent years because of Egypt’s political and economic problems. But researchers still hope to gain great insight into the life and times of this key period in history.

“What we have at the site is one of the largest corpuses of Middle Kingdom tombs in the entire country of Egypt,” Parcak told National Geographic Explorer. She co-led the expedition along with Adel Okasha, Director of the Pyramids Region.

The team carefully documented each tomb, collecting images and GPS coordinates to assemble a database for the area. They reported that many shaft tombs had places for up to eight burials, this results in an estimate of at least 4,000 individuals housed in this interlocking mortuary system.

Parcak compared the dense system of graves to the winding tunnels of a rabbit warren. “They used all the space they could get their hands on,” she said. “Many would have been reused by families or grandchildren, or great-grand-children, or third cousins three times removed.”

One of the elite tombs produced this brightly colored face. (credit: Sarah Parcak)

Despite the looting, Egyptologists believe that there’s still an enormous amount of information to glean. The National geographic article notes that pottery shards, fragments of wall murals, human remains, and even the tomb structures themselves can help researchers learn more about the health, economic status, and mortuary practices of the people who once lived in the nearby capital.

“This is really, to me, where the value is of this work,” said Parcak. She adds that these latest finds are limited to the southern part of the site, and the team hopes to continue work in the northern regions next season. “There’s a lot left to map and discover,” she stated.

New Links to the Early Pattern of Exodus Evidence?

The Middle Kingdom was the golden age of Egyptian art and culture, and one of the three great periods of kingdom power (Old, Middle and New Kingdoms). It is also a time of special interest in the search for the early Israelites during their stay in Egypt before the Exodus. The standard dates for the Middle Kingdom are from about 2030 – 1650 BC, which includes the second half of the 11th Dynasty, along with dynasties 12 and 13. However, questions remain over whether these conventional dates assigned to the Middle Kingdom are wrong (too old) by a factor of centuries.

Millions of mud bricks went into the building of the pyramid of Amenemhat III at Hawara, Egypt. It was originally faced with white stone that was pilfered long ago. (Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons)

One clue from the 12th and 13th dynasties that fits the Bible’s Exodus account is the fact that pyramids during this time were made with mud bricks. The Bible does not say anything about the Israelites building pyramids, but it does emphasize the making of mud bricks during their time of enslavement. In the Old Kingdom, pyramids such as the Great Pyramid at Giza were built with stone blocks, not mud bricks. During the Middle Kingdom, pyramids were made with millions of mud bricks and then cased with stone on the outer faces.

Pyramid building ended at the close of the 13th Dynasty when Egypt fell into a dark period. Even after it recovered its power more than a century later, large pyramids were not built during the New Kingdom. The ongoing demand for bricks used in pyramid-construction during the Middle Kingdom matches the Bible’s account best.

The Middle Kingdom is too old to connect to the biblical account of the Israelites for those who hold the majority view of a Ramesses Exodus date around 1250 BC. The lack of evidence for the Exodus around 1250 BC has resulted in great skepticism about the Exodus among most mainstream scholars. However, a pattern of biblical and archaeological data points to a much earlier time for the Israelites in Egypt.

The data from the ongoing excavations at Lisht may help strengthen the evidence for Israelites in Egypt during the Middle Kingdom. It may also point to the timing and reason for the collapse of Egyptian society at the end of the Middle Kingdom. It is just such a collapse that fits the judgment step of the Bible’s Exodus account so well.

This is the most overlooked aspect of the biblical account of Exodus by mainstream theories. By placing the Exodus in the middle of the New Kingdom’s unbroken time of wealth and power, it puts it at a time when the Exodus would have produced relatively minor problems for Egypt. In contrast, the Bible describes truly catastrophic events that would have devastated Egypt and affected it for many years. This is exactly what the Bible indicates (see verse at top of article that Moses wrote 40 years after the Exodus). The sharp decline of Egypt leading to a prolonged intermediate period at the end of the Middle Kingdom matches this scale of troubles.

Pinpointing when this collapse occurred is key. Some have proposed the end of the 12th Dynasty as the point of Exodus. This is because Egypt’s power peaked in the 12th Dynasty, and kings lists from the beginning of the 13th Dynasty show a succession of numerous pharaohs, all with reigns of one or two years. However, archaeological finds show that life in Egypt was fairly normal during the 13th Dynasty, and general wealth and power were still relatively high. The newly discovered tombs at Lisht should reinforce that picture. The sheer number of one to two-year reigns suggests that something other than political instability was going on here. Perhaps this section of the list was not actually kings, but rather viziers. Or perhaps these were pre-determined reign limits for some reason.

The statues of Amenemhat III (on the left) and his father Senusret III were depicted in a more serious and realistic way than typical pharaohs (as seen on the right). (copyright 2014, Patterns of Evidence LLC)

In the film and book Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, the period featured for the arrival of the Israelites was the late 12th Dynasty, at the time of the coregency of pharaohs Senusret III and his son Amenemhat III. This time proposed by Egyptologist David Rohl fits the great 7-year famine of the Bible’s Joseph with several lines of evidence.

Some of the factors matching Joseph’s famine policy include a new government department for the intake and distribution of grain, the exceptional political power of regional governors suddenly ending and all power being concentrated to the pharaoh, and the depiction of these two pharaohs showing uncharacteristic realism, with troubled faces and ears bent forward to hear the concerns of the people. Yet at this time, the pharaohs were experiencing the peak of the Middle Kingdom’s power. This fits the account of Joseph storing grain during seven good years and everyone selling all they had to buy the gain during the 7 lean years. All the wealth of the region (including from the governors) came in to Pharaoh.

If this is truly evidence for the first Israelites in Egypt, the end of the 12th Dynasty, only a few decades later, is too close to qualify as a candidate for the point of Exodus.

For the first time, visitors to Egypt will be able to make the steep descent 150 feet underground into the hidden tomb of Senusret III at Abydos. (Credit: Josef Wegner and the Penn Museum)

As reported at the Ancient Origins site, the tomb of Pharaoh Senusret III is being renovated to allow the public to visit within the next couple years. This is at the famous site of Abydos, which was active throughout Egypt’s three kingdoms. This site will allow many to experience the magnificence of this 12th Dynasty pharaoh.

The late 12th Dynasty also coincides with all the evidence at the city of Avaris matching Joseph and the early Israelites. This settlement of Semites from the Canaan/Syria area was begun in the reign of Senusret III and soon expanding to a huge population. It was prosperous early on, before falling on hard times in the 13th Dynasty and experiencing an abandonment at the end of the 13th Dynasty.

The pattern fits an exodus happening near the end of the Middle Kingdom’s 13th Dynasty. Unless new evidence is discovered that overturns the big picture of Egypt’s sustained wealth and power in the New Kingdom, there is no better candidate for the historical context of the Exodus events. As new finds continue to expand, we will be looking for more evidence to reinforce or adjust what we already know. – Keep Thinking!

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