An exciting new analysis from one of Egypt's most prominent archaeologists about the Aper-el or Aper-al tomb in the Saqqara region:
The Whisper of Tombs
By Dr. Zahi Hawass
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- In my opinion, the Israelite Exodus from Egypt will remain a point of controversy amongst scientists and researchers until the Day of Judgment or until new archaeological evidence is unearthed that is able to settle this issue. However in light of the information currently available to historians and archaeologists, we can do no more than practice moderation and caution.
There have been whispers in the archaeological community following the discovery of the Aper-al tomb in the Saqqara region in the area known as Abwab al-Qotat [Doors of the Cats] by French archaeologist Alain Zivie. Abwab al-Qotat was given its name following the discovery of thousands of mummified cats interred in the tomb...
The discovery of this tomb which took place almost 20 years ago remains an important archaeological event. The reason for this is that the person buried in the tomb was known as "Aper-al" and this is an Egyptianized form of a Hebrew name. Aper-al was the vizier for King Amenhotep III, and later for his son King Akhenaten. Pharaoh Akhenaten was the first ruler to institute monotheism represented by the worship of the sun which he called Aten.
Excavations of this tomb continued for almost 10 years, beginning in 1980 and ending in late 1989. Amongst the artefacts discovered here were several portraits entitled "spiritual father of Aten" as well as "the Priest" and "the first servant of Aten." This means that Aper-al served as the chief priest of Aten in the Memphis region during the reign of King Akhenaten.
Of course the effects of the news of the discovery of a Hebrew tomb has raised many questions and controversies amongst archaeologists with regards to whether or not a temple for Aten existed in Memphis or not. The portraits found in the Aper-al tomb indicate that such a temple did in fact exist in Memphis, and this is contrary to the tradition accepted by archaeologists which is that monotheism [Atenism] did not exist beyond the city of Tell el-Amrana in central Egypt. Tel-Amrana was the city founded by Akhenaten for his family. Akhenaten swore never to depart the city so long as he lived, and he named it Akhen-Aten meaning the city faithful and loyal to Aten.
In addition to this, there has been prolonged controversy between Torah scholars and archaeologists over the credibility of Aper-al in fact being a Hebrew name. This creates the impression that Hebrews were present in Egypt during the eighteenth dynasty, and that some Egyptianized Hebrews held senior state positions. It is important to emphasize that all the artefacts discovered in the Aper-al tomb, such as the sarcophagus, the mummies, as well as the carvings on the walls of the tomb, are consistent with the Egyptian style of the time. Even Aper-al’s portrait, his cloths, and his jewellery, are purely ancient Egyptian. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
A video describing the findings:
Portrait of Aper-el and his daughter
And another dazzling report:
The remains of the Vizier, his wife and their son were found in beautiful coffins, along with canopic jars of alabaster, objects of daily and religious use, and many jewels. The gold was transferred to the Cairo Museum and is on exhibit there. The beautiful rings and bracelets can be compared only with those found at Thebes at the beginning of this century.
Dr. Zivie's report, referring to the funerary chamber as the 'chapel', stated that:
"...until the end of 1993, only a small part of the chapel itself, near the entrance, was known. A late masonry, very compact and thick, was present almost everywhere at the first level of the tomb, preventing investigation. This masonry is no only present in Aper-El's tomb, with its representations of the Vizier. Three cult niches were revealed when we removed the masonry and gebel (dry stones) which had blocked the entire chapel..
The decoration on the main, central, niche remained in a very good state of preservation. On the sides are paintings of the Vizier, each with his complete name, Aper-EI, receiving offerings of flowers or purification from two sons previously unknown to us. Their names and titles are present: one, Seny, was a high official; the other, Hatiay, was a priest. The representations are important because they illustrate the art of the time of Akhenaton (the Amarna Period) and its aftermath not at Amarna or at Thebes, but rather at Memphis, which remained the main city of the country.
But also in some neighboring tombs. This masonry can almost certainly be dated to the beginning of the Ptolemaic (Greek) Period. The site would have been consolidated then for re-use in cat burials at the sanctuary of Bastet above the cliff.
It was necessary to remove the blocking (late masonry) in order to explore the chapel completely... a technical task, not a work of excavation. We undertook it with the agreement of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization. The operation provided the Mission with a chance discovery: the larger part of the chapel of the tomb had been hidden by the masonry. The decoration had been very well preserved behind the stones and mortar.
The work took several months, but the chapel is now completely cleared... Now we have a complete picture of the first level of the tomb. The result is impressive. There are three square pillars, one completely unknown before, on the inner faces of which one can still discern representations of the Vizier and of his son. The fourth pillar is no longer present. A splendid ceiling, beautifully decorated in brilliant colors, is also almost completely preserved.