Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tombs and Treasures

They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?”
~Exodus 14:11
Our next day (Wednesday) we went across the Nile to the west bank across from Thebes. On the east side they built their cities and palaces. On the west they built their tombs and temples. Just as the sun sets in west and is reborn again in the east every morning, so they would be buried in the west in order to likewise be reborn in the afterlife. I already talked about the pyramids at Giza and other places near Memphis (Cairo) in the north, which carries the same ideas.
The sun may set in the west, but these hot air balloons were rising as we went to the Valley of the Kings
Our first stop of the morning was the famous Valley of the Kings, where over sixty Pharaohs were buried. Unlike the pyramids, which screamed out to all who passed by “There’s treasure inside me,” these tombs were hidden away. Unfortunately, almost all of them were looted in antiquity. The exception to that was King Tutankhamun (Tut), which is what made the discovery of his tomb so remarkable. We talked about how Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922. As he peered inside, he was asked if he saw anything. “Yes, wonderful things,” Carter replied. As king, Tut was not very important, but finding his tomb with all his treasures inside was very significant. We wandered around his tomb, saw his mummy, and later saw all the treasures found inside when we visited the Egypt Museum in Cairo. Also in the Egypt Museum is a room of the mummies of various Pharaohs. It really struck me to think I could be looking at the same face that Moses may have spoken to. Unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed in either the Valley of the Kings or the Egypt Museum.

Who built these tombs? Not far from the Valley, we visited a place known today as Deir el-Medina. This was where the workmen and foremen who worked on the tombs lived. The foundations of the village are visible today, revealing decent sized homes for the period. Pharaoh would have wanted to keep them happy to not share the secrets of the tombs. From what was found here, we can learn more about the average person’s life in ancient Egypt. One wonders how similar this place was to where the Israelites lived in Egypt. The Israelites lived in the north and this is in the south, but could there have been similarities?
Deir el-Medina from atop a nearby hill. The village is at the bottom and their tombs are on the hillside opposite.
Just up the hill from the village were their tombs. They had great skill in tomb-building and put that skill into their own tombs. Although not nearly as big as the Pharaohs’ tombs, they had great painted walls inside. And just like the Valley of the Kings, we couldn’t take pictures inside the tombs.

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