Damien F. Mackey
Some by now well established biblico-archaeological parameters serve to fix, with some degree of precision, the era of the patriarch Joseph, son of Jacob.
Joseph, that much loved Hebrew of Genesis who saved Egypt from its seven years of famine, is known from the Genesis narratives to have existed after Abraham, but before Moses.
In very round figures, the famine that Joseph had predicted would have occurred about 200 years after Abram (later Abraham) encountered the coalition of four kings led by Chedorlaomer, as narrated in Genesis 14.
The same famine of Egypt occurred, in turn, approximately 200 years before the Exodus in the time of Moses.
This roughly estimated biblical span of 400 years accords quite well with Dr. John Osgood’s estimation of it (after adding another 40 years down to the Joshuan Conquest) of “464 years” (“From Abraham too Exodus”: http://creation.mobi/from-abraham-to-exodus):
So we are in fact dealing with a period between the events of Abraham’s life described in Genesis 14 and the conquest of Canaan by Israel in 1406 B.C., a period of 464 years. Into that period we must fit the whole of the Early Bronze age of Palestine (west of the Jordan River), that is, Early Bronze I, II and III (see Figure 1). If this model is correct, then the whole of the Palestine Early Bronze age to the end of the EB II of western Palestine encompasses approximately 470 years.
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Now, zooming in archaeologically, with the assistance of the research still of Dr. John Osgood (“The Times of Abraham”: http://creation.com/the-times-of-abraham), we can thus pinpoint the invasion by the four kings:
- The Ghassul IV culture disappeared from Trans Jordan, Taleilat Ghassul and Beersheba and the rest of the Negev as well as from Hazezon-tamar or En-gedi apparently at the same time. It is remarkable when looked at on the map that this disappearance of the Ghassul IV culture corresponds exactly to the areas which were attacked by the Mesopotamian confederate of kings. The fact that En-gedi specifically terminates its culture at this point allows a very positive identification of this civilization, Ghassul IV, with the Amorites of Hazezon-tamar.
If that be the case, then we can answer Bar Adon’s question very positively. The reason the people did not return to get their goods was that they had been destroyed by the confederate kings of Mesopotamia, in approximately 1,870 B.C. in the days of Abraham.
Now as far as Palestine is concerned, in an isolated context, this may be possible to accept, but many might ask: What about the Mesopotamian kings themselves? Others may ask: What does this do to Egyptian chronology? And still further questions need to be asked concerning the origin of the Philistines in the days of Abraham, for the Philistines were closely in touch with Abraham during this same period (Genesis 20). So we must search for evidence of Philistine origins or habitation at approximately the end of the Chalcolithic (Ghassul IV) in Palestine. All these questions will be faced.
The Mesopotamian complex of Chedor Laomer
Ghassul IV corresponds in Mesopotamia to the period known as the Jemdat-Nasr/ Uruk period, otherwise called Protoliterate (because it was during this period that the archaeologists found the first evidence of early writing). Ghassul IV also corresponds to the last Chalcolithic period of Egypt, the Gerzean or pre-Dynastic period ….
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Middle Bronze I
Osgood and others, like Dr. Rudolph Cohen, have also shown most conclusively that the wandering Israelites correspond to the Middle Bronze I (MBI) people of archaeology, who destroyed the towns and cities of the early Bronze III/IV civilisation in Palestine and Transjordan.
These are the archaeological parameters between which the time of Joseph must now be set.
Archaeology for the Famine
Further assistance may be gained from Dr. Osgood’s “From Abraham too Exodus”, wherein he proposes a Late Bronze II setting for the great famine at the time of Jacob and Joseph:
By the accepted model it is currently assigned 900 years, from approximately 3000 B.C. to 2100 B.C., that is, almost double the proposed time claimed here.
Nearly halfway through this time period – according to the biblical model – a great famine occurred lasting seven years which affected the entire earth and significantly affected many nations (Genesis 41, especially verses 54-57).
In the archaeological record midway between the beginning and end of the Early Bronze Age (EBA) a significant effect can be noted on the habitation of the land of Canaan. The EB II civilization shrank in area and the further Bronze age was geographically constricted.
It will be reasoned that the most likely explanation of this archaeological phenomenon was in fact the great famine of the Bible in Joseph’s day.
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The reader may like to peruse Dr. Osgood’s full account of this.
In easy-to-follow terms, the Abram incident occurred close to the beginning of Early Bronze I (city building era);
the Famine of Joseph perhaps in Early Bonze II; and
the Conquest destroyed much of Early Bronze III/IV.
The above archaeological perspective enables, in turn, for a fairly precise determination of which dynastic rule (particularly Egyptian in the case of Abra[ha]m, Joseph and Moses) must have confronted these patriarchs. Thus Osgood writes, in the case of Abraham
The chronological conclusion is strong that Abraham’s life-time corresponds to the Chalcolithic in Egypt, through at least a portion of Dynasty I of Egypt, which equals Ghassul IV through to EB I in Palestine. The possibilites for the Egyptian king of the Abrahamic narrative are therefore:-
- A late northern Chalcolithic king of Egypt, or
- Menes or Narmer, be they separate or the same king (Genesis 12:10-20).
Of these, the chronological scheme would favour a late Chalcolithic (Gerzean) king of northern Egypt, just before the unification under Menes.
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I have more recently argued for Menes as the Pharaoh of Abram, and for Narmer as Naram-Sin, the Akkadian conqueror of this Menes:
“Thanks to the important revision of Dr. John Osgood, in “The Times of Abraham”, the Sothically mis-dated monarch, Narmer (c. 3100 BC, though conventional dates vary) can now be established archaeologically during the lifetime of Abraham (c. 1870 BC)”.
“…. what makes most intriguing a possible collision of … Menes with a Shinarian potentate … is the emphatic view of Dr. W. F. Albright that Naram-Sin … had conquered Egypt, and that the “Manium” whom Naram-Sin boasts he had vanquished was in fact Menes himself (“Menes and Naram-Sin”, JEA, Vol. 6, No. 2, Apr., 1920, pp. 89-98)”.
Early Bronze II, Osgood’s choice for the era of the biblical famine, is conventionally dated to c. 3000-2700 BC, a period spanning Egyptian dynasties I-III.
Realistically, with Abram contemporaneous with Dynasty I, we should expect to find Joseph situated in II and/or III.
Now it just so happens that a famous Egyptian inscription, known as the Famine Stela, tells of a seven-year famine that occurred during Egypt’s 3rd Dynasty (III) (http://www.touregypt.net/03dyn02.htm):
The second king of the 3rd Dynasty was Netjerykhet, the son of Khasekhemwy. Also known as Djoser, he ruled for almost two decades and is accredited with building the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. The king’s vizier, Imhotep, was the architect of that great tomb, and of the magnificent Funerary Complex of Djoser at Saqqara. Egypt experienced a seven year famine during Djoser’s reign, so he sought the counsel of Imhotep and one of his governors, Medir, and agreed to travel to Elephantine at Aswan. Once there he erected a temple to the god Khnum, who was said to controlled the flow of the Nile. The famine ended, miraculously enough, and people believed it was due to this act of faith.
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Revisionist historians have consequently fastened on to pharaoh Zoser’s famous vizier, Imhotep, as the historical Joseph of Egypt. See, e.g. T. Chetwynd’s “A Seven Year Famine in the Reign of King Djoser with Other Parallels between Imhotep and Joseph” (C and AH, January, 1987. Volume IX, Part 1).
I, too, regard Imhotep as the stand-out official in dynastic Egypt for Joseph.
(See also next section).
Early Bronze III/IV, the revised era for the time of the nomadic Israelites (MBI people), is conventionally dated to c. 2700-2200 BC, a period spanning Egyptian dynasties III (late) – VI. Realistically, with Joseph contemporaneous with Dynasty III, we should expect to find Moses somewhere around IV (the great pyramid building age) -VI.
And I, having accepted Imhotep as Joseph, have indeed placed Moses during dynasties IV-VI in my:
Part Two: Re-aligning Egypt’s Kingdoms
In order to gain a fuller perspective on the era of Joseph in Egypt, I believe that the so-called Old and Middle Kingdoms need to be re-arranged side by side, rather than according to the conventional ‘Indian file’ sequence.
To Sum Up What Went Before:
Archaeologically, those biblical patriarchs whose lives were heavily involved with Egypt, Abraham; (Jacob) Joseph; and Moses (Joshua), are nicely situated with regard to the four phases of Bronze Age Palestine:
Abram (Abraham) and Early Bronze I;
Joseph (famine) and Early Bronze II; and
Moses, the Joshuan Conquest, and Early Bronze III/IV.
Now, in terms of the early Egyptian dynasties:
Abram (Abraham) was right at the beginning, Dynasty -1;
Joseph at Dynasty III; and
Moses around Dynasties IV-VI.
However, there is more to it than just that simple outline.
Since, as I have argued:
and with the Old Kingdom era of Moses (as above) now needing to be aligned with the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt’s so-called Middle Kingdom:
then it might well follow that the Eleventh Dynasty was contemporaneous with Joseph (and some have argued for the Tenth Dynasty to have been contemporaneous with Abraham). Indeed Creationist, Patrick Clarke, has suggested that the Eleventh Dynasty is the most suitable era for Joseph, based on the name pharaoh (Clarke’s Eleventh Dynasty ruler, Mentuhotep II) had given to the biblical patriarch (“Joseph’s Zaphenath Paaneah—a chronological key”: http://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j27_3/j27_3_58-63.pdf).
Thus the Egyptian dynasties (Old and Middle Kingdoms) prior to the so-called New Kingdom (beginning with Dynasty XVIII) are no longer, according to my revision, to be set out in Indian file, but must significantly overlap. A very tentative re-arrangement would be:
|Patriarch||Old Kingdom||Middle Kingdom||Archaeology|
|Joshua (Conquest)||MBI on EB III/IV|
|Anarchy in Egypt||VII-IX (?)||XIII-XVII|
Now, a colleague in Canada has referred me to some recent criticism of the rather popular view that the biblical Joseph was the Vizier Imhotep of Egypt’s Third Dynasty. Whilst I shall attempt to deal with this matter in Part Three, I would like to suggest, from what I have already written in this series, that the biblical Joseph was most likely, archaeologically speaking, to have belonged to the Third Dynasty era of Egyptian history. Revisionists claim to have found various parallels between Joseph and Imhotep, not least the common reference to a seven-year famine.
Also, Imhotep is credited with having built the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Now, given that Egyptologists (e.g. Joyce Tyldesley, Pyramids) have written of the pyramids as ‘staircases to heaven’, then my view that the Step Pyramid may have been a ‘material icon’ of his (as Joseph) father Jacob’s dream of a Stairway to Heaven may not be all that far-fetched (Genesis 28:12):
“[Jacob] had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it”.
Part Three: Answering Some Criticisms
According to the article, “Joseph was Imhotep”,
The idea that the Joseph of the Old Testament was Imhotep[wp] is a mixture of the usual “Biblical history” pseudo-historical distortion, with a bit of crossover appeal to the lunatic fringe “Alternative” Egyptology nuts. It’s a kind of anti-intellectual, anti-historical supermarket, with something for everyone.
Whilst I cannot wholly agree with it, this article does, in fact, make some quite legitimate points. The revision of history, in order to align with the Bible, is being promoted, in some cases, by those who could at best be called rank amateurs, and at worst, as above, “nuts”, “anti-intellectual” (as regards basic Egyptology), and I believe that one could even add, charlatans.
One would be loathe, for instance, to give any credence to the following ridiculous piece of ‘Egyptology’, or what the article rightly refers to as shying “away from tackling the vagaries of the Egyptian language in a decisive manner”:
“Imhotep was revered as the son of PTAH, a creator-god of Memphis, the patron god of craftsmen; equated by the Greeks with Hephaestus. The cult of Imhotep reached its zenith in Greco-Roman times when sick people slept in his temples with the hope that the ‘god’ would reveal remedies to them in dreams — much like Edgar Cayce‘s legendary abilities. The ‘TA’ in Ptah means earth. Take the P and H and add them to (D)Jose(r) and you have Joseph — which doesn’t mean anything, but it is interesting just the same.” —Betty Rhodes
The article is also highly critical of Mary Nell Wyatt, wife of Ron Wyatt who died in 1999. In the past I have used the word “charlatan” to describe the latter, who laid claim to some of the most awesome biblical finds, but without ever having come up with anything solid to show for it. His antics (and those also of Mary Nell Wyatt) are well summed up here
Surely, Wyatt has not disappointed those who have supported him. Ron Wyatt claims to have discovered far more than any credible archaeologist could ever expect to discover in ten lifetimes, let alone one. Yes, according to the various internet sites promoting W.A.R. products such as DVD’s, books, tours to Israel, etc., among Ron Wyatt’s discoveries is Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, the Exodus Crossing, chariot wheels from the Exodus Crossing, the location of Mount Sinai, the site of Christ’s crucifixion, actual blood from Jesus Christ with only 24 chromosomes (an impossibility), Sodom and Gomorrah, actual samples of the rain of fire from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and much more. Most of these sites under different internet names and urls are run by the same people. You see, dear reader, those shysters have to create various new internet sites to try to keep their garbage on top on the search engines. Our pages exposing their frauds are among the top ten pages of main search engines. They have been quite busy trying to get our pages exposing them buried beneath their avalanche of advertising using multiple web sites.
Since Ron Wyatt’s death, his wife along with her new husband and a host of others are still making money from Wyatt’s bogus claims. Recently, went to Israel to re-open the way to the cave in which Wyatt claims lies the actual Ark of the Covenant from Moses’ time. Wyatt claims the Ark of the Covenant was actually covered with the blood of Jesus Christ who was supposedly crucified above the cave. According to Wyatt, he discovered a hole in which the Cross of Christ was planted. Beneath that hole was a crack that led into the cave in which the Ark of the Covenant was situated. According to Ron Wyatt, he took samples of the blood to an Israeli blood lab. They told him, according to Wyatt, that this blood only had 24 chromosomes, and that it was alive! He also said that the folks at the lab were ready to hear about Jesus as a result of this. You can watch Ron Wyatt on YouTube discussing this. This supposedly happened years ago. Of course, we don’t have any of this evidence available to us. The men at the lab are anonymous. Ron Wyatt’s “evidences” disappear as quickly as he discovers them. The blood of Christ has vaporized and we only have Ron Wyatt’s tales on his videos and his recorded presentations some of which have been posted on YouTube.
This last visit to Israel by Mrs. Mary Nell Wyatt and her new husband was supposed to uncover the cave that contained the Ark of the Covenant that was covered with the very blood of Jesus Christ. They got permission from the Israeli Antiquities Department to do some excavating near Zedekiah’s cave which is where Ron Wyatt said the entrance to the tunnel to the Ark of the Covenant was years ago. You, reader, might wonder, if Wyatt Archaeological Research is a bogus operation, why would the Israeli Antiquities Department grant Mrs. Mary Nell Wyatt and company a license to dig? That’s a good question. I asked my source in Israel who used to be a curator at the Israeli Department of Antiquities. He said “MONEY!”
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Emmet Sweeney is a terrific and entertaining writer, and can come up with some great insights. But the article is also correct in showing that some (though not all) of his lengthy and hopeful comparisons between Joseph and Imhotep lack any sort of solid foundation.
To some extent, then, though not entirely, this critical article is feeding off some quite wacky and wayward efforts at Egyptology.
Moreover, the article is written from a conventional basis and fully presupposes that Sothic dating (and Radiocarbon dating) is accurate. For an alternative view about this, see my:
And, regarding other dating methods, supposedly scientific, such as Radiometric, Carbon – 14, see Dr. John Osgood’s “A Better Model for the Stone Age” (http://creation.com/a-better-model-for-the-stone-age), section: “Dating Techniques”:
…. It follows naturally that if the scientific method cannot work in the past and conclusions about the past must rest on assumptions, then there is not today a dating method that can be scientifically substantiated as being correct, for every method will have built into it an assumption.
Name Given to Joseph: Zaphenath-Paneah
According to Genesis 41:45: “Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On [Heliopolis], to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt”.
Scholars with genuine Egyptological expertise have considered this name to have an Egyptian basis. Thus we read (https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/zaphenath-paneah):
ZAPHENATH-PANEAH zăf’ ə năth pə ne’ ə, (Heb. צָֽפְנַ֣ת פַּעְנֵחַ; LXX Ψονθομφανήχ), is the Hebraized form of the Egyp. name given to Joseph by the king of Egypt (Gen 41:45) after Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. …. The most widely accepted explanation of the name is that advanced by G. Steindorff (ZÄS 27 , 41, 42; ibid., 30 , 50-52), followed by Brugsch, Griffith, et al.: “the god speaks and he lives” (or “the god said: he will live”); cf. J. Vergote, Joseph en Égypte (1959), 141-146. E. Naville suggested that Zaphenathpaneah is a title, not a name: “the head of the sacred college of magicians” (JEA 12 , 16-18). Other interpretations, largely rejected, include that of A. S. Yahuda, who proposed “food, sustenance, of the land ‘is the living’ or ‘is this living one’” (The Language of the Pentateuch in its Relation to Egyptian , 33). – See more at: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/zaphenath-paneah#sthash.0BRJ0HXQ.dpuf)
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- Clarke, though, is critical of earlier efforts to interpret the meaning of the name. For instance, “Zaphenat is the English transliteration of the Hebrew transliteration of the original Egyptian word”. He continues, arguing that “Zaphenath” is probably a “title” :
The first section of Joseph’s Egyptian name is, as earlier indicated, not a proper name; rather it is a very important and, as far as I can discern, unique title. The Egyptian equivalent of Zaphenath is almost certainly ḏf3wn‘ty, which translates into modern English as ‘Overseer/Minister of the Storehouse of Abundance’. The title ḏf3wn‘ty . can be easily broken down into its composite elements of ḏf3w ; n ; and ‘ty . Part one, ḏf3w, is a noun derived from the verb ḏf3—(to provide for/to abound in supplies), where ḏf is the etymological equivalent of the Hebrew tsof. Part two, n, is the masculine genitival adjective ‘of’. Finally, part three, ‘ty—is a noun expressing the official title ‘Storehouse Overseer/ Minister’, which is drawn from the Archaic Egyptian30 root ‘t—storehouse . The second section, p3nn’i3ḫ , is a proper name, and like the ending ‘ty of ḏf3n‘ty, exhibits
Archaic traits. This name, p3nn’i3ḫ, is also composed of three elements—p3n ; n’i ; 3ḫ . The first part, p3n, ‘he of’ is written but there is no grammatical or historical evidence for it necessarily being vocalized. The second part, n’i, and the third, 3ḫ, combine to express Joseph’s new Egyptian name literally as [p3n]n’i3ḫ ‘[He of the] Excellent/Gracious Spirit’ where n’i translates as ‘excellent/gracious’ and 3ḫ translates as ‘spirit’.
In the list of proposed names shown earlier, many indicate the belief that the end of Joseph’s name is to be translated as ‘life’ (Egy. ankh anḫ). This is, however, completely wrong. In the Hebrew ‘spirit’ is rendered as ruwach (pronounced rü’·aḫ) with the entirely legitimate understanding of ‘impelling a prophet to utter instruction’ or ‘warning’. Ancient Egyptian has a number of words for ‘spirit’, but it is 3ḫ, the equivalent of the Hebrew ruwach, that confirms the intimate inside knowledge of the writer of the Joseph narrative. The Egyptian 3ḫ most often refers to spiritual power and/or intellectual ability; both qualities agree with the Hebrew and were abundantly exhibited by Joseph. This accords perfectly, when compared contextually, with Genesis 41:38–39:
“And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you [emphases added].’”
Pharaoh is clearly asking his courtiers a rhetorical question; in his mind he has already decided the right course of action. Pharaoh wastes little time in conferring upon Joseph a title and a new Egyptian name, ḏf3n‘ty p3nn’i3ḫ ; the Hebrew Tsophnath Pa`neach, better
known in English as Zaphenath Paaneah.
There were many holders of the title ‘overseer of the storehouse’ (Egy. imy.r.šnwt ), yet Joseph’s particular title appears to be unique in the record as indicated by the etymological link between the Hebrew tsophnath pa`neach and the Egyptian ḏf3n‘ty p3nn’i3ḫ.
Moses has rendered the Egyptian name almost identically in Hebrew, giving the final part of the name as ‘spirit’—further evidence that Moses had a profound knowledge of the Egyptian language and culture, including spiritual matters—a subject of considerable importance to ancient Egyptians.
Significantly, when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers (Genesis 45) he made no mention of his office of Overseer of the Storehouse of Abundance, but chose to refer to himself by three other titles:
“… a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and ruler throughout the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:8).
These three titles are consistent with known Egyptian titles from the Middle Kingdom and generally were retained for life. (‘Father to Pharaoh’) was equivalent (though subtly changed by Joseph to avoid any connection with the Egyptian priesthood) to the Egyptian it nṯr and as a result became an honorary title denoting not only rank but degree of intimacy with the king; (‘Lord of all his house’), was the equivalent to the Egyptian imy r pr nsw (pr nsw being of archaic root as with elements of Joseph’s name discussed above) ; and ‘… ruler throughout all the land of Egypt’ was equivalent to the Egyptian … sḥḳ3.n i n kmt ḫt t3 pn r ḏr.f (… caused me to rule throughout the entire land of Egypt.) , where t3 pn r ḏr.f translates literally as ‘this entire land’. ….
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Obviously a lot more work has to be done if the Joseph = Imhotep equation is to be fully achievable. A big part of this will involve, I believe, bringing together the two pieces of the puzzle, the Old and Middle kingdoms, presumably the 3rd and 11th dynasties.
Clarke claims to detect the following actions of Joseph during the Eleventh dynasty:
When the famine predicted by Joseph arrived, his first political move, acting on Pharaoh’s behalf, was to offer grain for ‘money’ (Genesis 47:14—Heb. כּסֶֶף keceph i.e. silver 40).
All the monetary silver was placed in Pharaoh’s treasury. A year later the people exchanged their second-most-valuable commodities—their livestock—for grain. In the third year, all the people clamoured for more grain (Genesis 47:19) and offered their most valuable commodities—their bodies and land—in exchange for grain. In the space of just three years Joseph had achieved what decades of internal struggles had failed to do. In an amazing tour de force, he handed the land of Egypt, along with its people, back into Pharaoh’s power, as in the days of the Old Kingdom; only the temples, their estates, and the priesthood were exempted.41
The actual cost in all of this to Pharaoh? Nothing? The gain for Pharaoh? Everything—absolute control of Upper and Lower Egypt.
It is not unreasonable to say that Joseph had, in the process, helped create a semi-feudal system not dissimilar to the later European feudal system of the Middle-Ages; and this almost 3,000 years before the Europeans.
Coupled with Joseph’s grain policies, Mentuhotep II was free to initiate a strong policy of centralization, reinforcing his royal authority by creating the posts of Governor of Upper Egypt imy r sm‛w and Governor of Lower Egypt imy r t3 mḥw , who had power over the broken nomarchs.42 Mentuhotep also, importantly, created a mobile group of royal court officials who further controlled the activities of the nomarchs. Eventually nomarchs who had supported the Herakleopolitan kings of Lower Egypt, such as the governor of Sawty (modern Asyut), lost their power to the benefit of the pharaoh.
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The Famine Stela
The article is also highly critical of the efforts by revisionists to interpret this Stela in accordance with the account of the Genesis famine at the time of Joseph. Though belonging to a time far later than Imhotep, when he had become virtually ‘canonised’ and deified (see Wildung, Imhotep und Amenhotep, Munich, 1977), the stela does however hark back to those early days (see: http://www.geopolymer.org/fichiers_pdf/FAMISTEL.pdf): “… certain reliable clues have led Egyptolgists to believe that, in an amplified form it had already become an authentic document by the beginning of the Old Kingdom (2,750 BC)”.