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:
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.”
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.