Joseph’s Coins?

First, an update to the previous message.  Do football games ever get rained out? I guess I’ll find out today. It rained all night (with lightning), it’s raining now, and there’s an 80% chance of rain for the rest of the day, so I don’t think it will dry out in time for the game between the University of Kentucky and the Florida Gators.  The good news is that not a drop came in through the leaky back door, the one that gave us problems last winter.  I guess the wind wasn’t blowing the right way.

Yesterday I read a strange story from Israel National News, about some coins discovered in Egypt, which are supposedly from the time of Joseph.  They were quoting an article from Egypt’s Al-Ahram and MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, translated it.  Normally INN (also called Arutz Sheva) is my favorite Israeli news source, but somebody, either INN or Al-Ahram, didn’t do enough research, because I am full of questions and skepticism.  Here is part of the article:

“…discovered many charms from various eras before and after the period of Joseph, including one that bore his effigy as the minister of the treasury in the Egyptian pharaoh’s court…”
An Egyptian paper claims that archaeologists have discovered ancient Egyptian coins bearing the name and image of the Biblical Joseph.
The report in Al-Ahram boasts that the find backs up the Koran’s claim that coins were used in Egypt during Joseph’s period. Joseph, son of the Patriarch Jacob, died around 1450 B.C.E., according to Jewish sources.
Excerpts from the Al-Ahram report, as translated by Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI):
“In an unprecedented find, a group of Egyptian researchers and archeologists has discovered a cache of coins from the time of the Pharaohs. Its importance lies in the fact that it provides decisive scientific evidence disproving the claim by some historians that the ancient Egyptians were unfamiliar with coins and conducted their trade through barter.
“The researchers discovered the coins when they sifted through thousands of small archeological artifacts stored in [the vaults of] the Museum of Egypt. [Initially] they took them for charms, but 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.
“There used to be a misconception that trade [in Ancient Egypt] was conducted through barter, and that Egyptian wheat, for example, was traded for other goods. But surprisingly, Koranic verses indicate clearly that coins were used in Egypt in the time of Joseph…
“Research team head Dr. Sa’id Muhammad Thabet said that during his archeological research on the Prophet Joseph, he had discovered in the vaults of the [Egyptian] Antiquities Authority and of the National Museum many charms from various eras before and after the period of Joseph, including one that bore his effigy as the minister of the treasury in the Egyptian pharaoh’s court…
“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 archeological finding is also based on the fact that the inscribed face bore the name of Egypt, a date, and a value, while the engraved face bore the name and image of one of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs or gods, or else a symbol connected with these. Another telling fact is that the coins come in different sizes and are made of different materials, including ivory, precious stones, copper, silver, gold, etc.”

An Egyptian paper claims that archaeologists have discovered ancient Egyptian coins bearing the name and image of the Biblical Joseph.

The report in Al-Ahram boasts that the find backs up the Koran’s claim that coins were used in Egypt during Joseph’s period. Joseph, son of the Patriarch Jacob, died around 1450 B.C.E., according to Jewish sources.

Excerpts from the Al-Ahram report, as translated by Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI):

“In an unprecedented find, a group of Egyptian researchers and archeologists has discovered a cache of coins from the time of the Pharaohs. Its importance lies in the fact that it provides decisive scientific evidence disproving the claim by some historians that the ancient Egyptians were unfamiliar with coins and conducted their trade through barter.

“The researchers discovered the coins when they sifted through thousands of small archeological artifacts stored in [the vaults of] the Museum of Egypt. [Initially] they took them for charms, but 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.

“There used to be a misconception that trade [in Ancient Egypt] was conducted through barter, and that Egyptian wheat, for example, was traded for other goods. But surprisingly, Koranic verses indicate clearly that coins were used in Egypt in the time of Joseph…

“Research team head Dr. Sa’id Muhammad Thabet said that during his archeological research on the Prophet Joseph, he had discovered in the vaults of the [Egyptian] Antiquities Authority and of the National Museum many charms from various eras before and after the period of Joseph, including one that bore his effigy as the minister of the treasury in the Egyptian pharaoh’s court…

“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 archeological finding is also based on the fact that the inscribed face bore the name of Egypt, a date, and a value, while the engraved face bore the name and image of one of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs or gods, or else a symbol connected with these. Another telling fact is that the coins come in different sizes and are made of different materials, including ivory, precious stones, copper, silver, gold, etc.”

Source:  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/133601

And here is my response:

Coins from the time of Joseph? Not bloody likely! First of all, most history texts will tell you that money is a Lydian invention, appearing no earlier than 700 B.C. We don’t see coins anywhere else until the Persians started minting Darics, around 520 B.C. Therefore I wouldn’t expect to find any Egyptian coins older than the XXVII dynasty.

Second, it would have helped if the story had mentioned which pharaoh was mentioned on the coins. Probably Thutmose III or Amenhotep II, if the 1450 B.C. date is correct, and they are going by the most widely accepted chronology. However, I don’t know of anybody who puts Joseph that late. Most chronologies have him living around 1662 or 1877 B.C., which would put him either in the Middle Kingdom or the Second Intermediate Period (also called the Hyksos era).

By the way, last spring they had a fine exhibit of 200 Egyptian artifacts at the University of Kentucky, which had been found a hundred years ago by the great Egyptologist, Sir Flinders Petrie. Among other things, I saw a black granite statue of an unnamed, tired-looking court official, from the late XII dynasty. The card on the glass case said he must been been a very important person, to receive a statue that was so realistic. Because of the date, I’m guessing that it’s none other than Potiphar, the former owner of Joseph. I heard once that the last important Middle Kingdom pharaoh, Amenemhet III, had a treasurer named Ptahwer, and this could be another spelling of the same name.

Third, Moslems also believe that Alexander the Great visited Mecca and practiced Islam. Since Mohammed was born 892 years after Alexander’s death, I think it’s safe to say that the Koran is not a reliable source on ancient history. Most Moslems aren’t interested in events before Mohammed’s lifetime anyway, and will dismiss it as the “Age of Ignorance.” On the other hand, the Biblical stories of Joseph and Moses seems to agree with the idea that Egypt had a barter economy; for example, Joseph taxed the people during the seven good years by taking one fifth of their crops and storing it. We don’t hear of him storing gold or silver, and when the Hebrews left Egypt, they took the jewelry of the Egyptians, not their money.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Excellent discussion of this issue. I congratulate you for your skepticism. Dr. Thabet, the Egyptian team leader, also supports his argument that the objects must be coins because they are sort of roundish (unless they are oval), they are sort of small, and they are made of precious metal (except when they are made of precious stone and, now and then, of faience).

    They have two sides, too, one with some writing on it and one with a picture on it. But then he admits they often have spells written on them, often have a hole so they could be strung on a string, kind of like an ornament or bead, and some were even shaped like scarabs. Hm! Sort of sound like decorative items, charms, and talismans — kinda like what all those other archeologists thought all along, eh?

    I have a campaign button from 1984 with a picture and a name and a date on it, ya know. It has a fastener on the other side (a pointy pin). But it’s roundish and flattish and sorta like a coin (sorta not, too). Think I could pass IT off as money?

  2. The picure of Joseph as shown on
    Egypt – Coins with Image of Yosef HaTzadik Found — VosIzNeias.com

    is part of a display at the British Museum. Reference:

    http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/n/nebamun_viewing_his_herds.aspx

    It is one of the famous art works at the BM.
    Recently I read the lovely book mentioned at the BM site on the detail of the wall paintings
    Nebamun was actually a grain “accountant” so well chosen to be Joseph on the “story” about the coins. If that picture came from the instigator of the coins then it adds to the dubious.

    Is 25 Sep similar to our 1 April – ie dubious stories

    There are pictures shown of the supposed coins but they are many shapes and some like scarabs

  3. Most scientists don’t view the Bible as accurate history, but I do. Since your mention of Joseph as a historical figure concerns the Joseph mentioned in Genesis, I think it only fair to refer to two verses in Genesis that shed some light on the methods of trade in Joseph’s time. Genesis 37:28 states that Joseph’s brothers sold him to Ishmaelites for the sum of 20 shekels of silver. Genesis 42:25 states that Joseph restored every man’s money to his sack, when his brothers came to Egypt to purchase grain during a famine. Genesis is the first book of the Torah. The Torah consists of the first 5 books of our present day Old Testament. As I understand Islam, they also accept the Torah as authentic, as do Jews and Christians.

  4. I am not an expert on ancient Hebrew, but I am aware that there are one or two little differences between interpretations of the Torah, the Christian versions of the Old Testament, and the Qur’an. Muslims, Christians, and Jews may consider their books to be authentic, but these books are interpreted as saying somewhat different things. I do know a little about ancient Egyptian and I do not see any writing that looks like it spells anything resembling Joseph’s name on any pictures of “coins” shown on the web associated with the story. I suggest readers maintain healthy skepticism until expert Egyptologists have a good look and agree or disagree with Dr. Thanet’s interpretation.

  5. Hi
    Any updates on the Joseph “coins” discovered in Egypt?
    Thanks.

  6. Hey! I just saw one other message in one other blog that appeared like this.
    How do you know all this stuff? That’s one cool post.

  7. If you want to take much from this piece
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