By Dr. Zahi Hawass
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Many archaeologists and researchers have spoken about Aper-al’s tomb that was discovered in the Saqqara area. Aper-al held the title of “Prime Minister of Egypt” and they [archaeologists and researchers] say that the name Aper-al indicates that he was one of the Egyptianized Hebrews.
One adventure that I will never forget is when I entered that tomb that was sculpted into a rock of the plateau upon which ancient Egyptians built their pyramids and tombs over 5000 years ago. I descended more than 30 meters underground and saw the antiquities found in the tomb including jewels, cosmetic equipment, beautiful funerary masks and coffins embellished with inscriptions.
The question I had in mind at that moment was: could a Hebrew assume the highest position in a state after the position of Pharaoh? And would he have been permitted to build his tomb on a sacred ancient Egyptian site like Saqqara, the name of which is derived from the ancient Egyptian god “Sokar,” the god of death in ancient Egypt?
Behind closed doors, some quietly claim that this tomb belongs to Prophet Joseph, son of Prophet Jacob, especially as we came across texts inside the tomb that referred to the significant role played by Aper-al side-by-side with the Pharaoh despite being of Hebrew origin.
According to some people, those texts carry indirect references to Prophet Joseph’s biography as mentioned in the holy books including his astonishing rise above social classes to reach the position of “Al-Aziz Misr” which is equivalent to the post of prime minister.
But what contradicts this theory is the fact that Prophet Joseph, peace be upon him, lived before the Amarna era, that is, before 1353 BC, and that his remains had been moved from Egypt by his grandsons according to what was stated in the Book of Exodus (13, 19).
French archaeologist Alain Zivie believes that Aper-al’s upbringing in a royal court is quite reminiscent of the life of Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. Since we are discussing the Amarna era, we’re not that far from Akhenaten (for whom Aper-al worked) or from the very special monotheistic creed that he created. Accordingly, anything became possible including imaginary conceptions and far-fetched interpretations of the inscriptions found on the antiquities.
The monotheistic creed advocated by the Prophets of the Israelites, including Moses, peace be upon him, is completely different to Akhenaten’s concept of monotheism. Though they both agreed that the universe had one God, Akhenaten failed to completely rid himself of inherited, idolatry aspects when he embodied the power of the one and only God in a sundial and portrayed its rays as the hands of god reaching out to humans with light and illumination.
The people of Prophet Moses did the same when they were overcome by idolatry tendencies. They embodied their god in the form of a sacred calf and incurred the anger of Moses and the wrath of God. So they were doomed to wander in the wilderness of Sinai’s plains, deserts and mountains for continuous 40 years.
As for the Vizier Ramose, he has one of the most beautiful tombs of the Nobles in the West Bank of Thebes or Luxor. It is tomb number 55 and some prefer to pronounce his name as “Ra’amusa”. He was a vizier during the period in which Akhenaten joined his father Amenhotep III in ruling Egypt from the 18th dynasty in the New Kingdom, around 3500 years ago.
Researcher Ibrahim Mohammed Kamel argues that the name Moses spread widely in Egypt in the early 18th dynasty and during the 19th dynasty and it means “boy” or “newborn.” Egyptians were sometimes given the name “Moses” on its own or as part of compounds containing the names of their gods for example, Raa’-Moses, Amoun-Moses or Eyah-Moses, which respectively mean the newborn of Raa’, the newborn of Betah and the newborn of the moon. So did Prophet Moses bear the name of an ancient Egyptian deity?
As for Aper-al, there is one possibility that I am strongly in favour of; he is most probably an Egyptian and not a Hebrew, even though his name is non-Egyptian. Until now, there are Egyptians who have names that might refer to nationalities and ethnicities that are non-Egyptian, even though they are Egyptian to the core.