Thursday, November 30, 2006

CT Scans Confirm Midrashic Account of Pharaoh's Death

That he died in a horse accident. Well, maybe. From HorseTalk, following more standard news sources.
A CT Scan survey of King Tut has confirmed he was not murdered, and instead may have died following a fall from a horse or chariot, linking his untimely demise with a curious story preserved in the Jewish Talmud.

Tutankhamun was not murdered - that's the official line from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities following a recent CT scan survey of his remains.


In addition to this, no trace of the aberration, or 'dark area', first noted at the back of the skull following an x-ray examination of the remains by Professor Ronald Harrison of Liverpool University back in 1968, was seen, further confirming that Tutankhamun did not suffer a blow to the head, or suffer any kind of brain haemorrhage as a result of it.


Another rumour dismissed by the recent CT scan survey is that the boy king suffered from a crippling medical condition.


Yet with speculations concerning Tutankhamun's murder fast fading, another mystery raises its head. The pathologists who examined the CT scan results determined that the king's thigh bone and ribcage were both broken. Since embalming material had seeped inside the thigh wound, and there is no obvious evidence that the bones had started to heal, the Egyptian team admit it is possible that these fractures occurred shortly before death.

On learning this news, Robert Connolly, Senior Lecturer in Physical Anthropology at Liverpool University's Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, re-examined the original x-rays from 1968, and admitted that if the breakages did not occur when the body was autopsied in 1925, then it is clear evidence that the young pharaoh might have suffered an accident before death.

In his opinion: "It's possible Tutankhamun's thigh injury could have been sustained in an accident. There are remarkable similarities between his ribcage injuries and those of a British mummy - St Bees Man in Cumbria - who sustained fatal damage to his chest in a jousting accident. It is therefore highly possible that the king could have died as a result of a chariot or sporting accident, or even at war."


It is a theory explored by Andrew Collins and Chris Ogilvie-Herald in their book Tutankhamun: The Exodus Conspiracy (Virgin, 2002). They found support for the idea that the young king fell from a horse or chariot, leading eventually to his death, in a most unlikely source - the Jewish Talmud, the collected folklore of the Jews. Here an unnamed Egyptian pharaoh, equated with the biblical Exodus and identified by the authors as Tutankhamun, is said to have sustained injuries after a fall, and died shortly afterwards.

According to the account, as the king's steed passed into a narrow place on the borders of Egypt, other horses, running rapidly through the pass, "pressed upon each other until the king's horse fell while he sate upon it, and when it fell, the chariot turned over on his face, and also the horse lay upon him. The king's flesh was torn from him ... [and his] servants carried him upon their shoulders ... and placed him on his bed. He knew that his end was come to die, and the queen Alfar'anit and his nobles gathered about his bed, and they wept a great weeping with him."

Collins and Ogilvie-Herald believe that this account from the Talmud is consistent with the injuries sustained by Tutankhamun shortly before his death. What is more, if correct, it places the ancestors of the Jewish people in Egypt at the time of Tutankhamun's reign, and indicates that they might have preserved a tradition concerning his untimely death for over 3300 years. Should this theory prove correct, then it reignites the debate over the identity of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, an event which Collins and Ogilvie Herald firmly believe took place around the time of Tutankhamun's reign.

Read it here.

From Forbes (Healthday News):
"I think the femur fracture probably is significant," Tashjian said. "Number one, it's not healed. Number two, femur fractures -- any long-bone fracture -- can have a number of complications, any of which can lead to death, either from infection or an embolism. It's an unusual way to die, from a fracture, but it does happen, even now."
The citation appears to have been taken from Ginzberg's The Legends of the Jews, chapter 16 I don't have a copy of it here to check his footnotes where he took it from. Help?

Here is the citation:
The latter years of Israel's bondage in Egypt were the worst. To punish Pharaoh for his cruelty toward the children of Israel, God afflicted him with a plague of leprosy, which covered his whole body, from the crown of his bead to the soles of his feet. Instead of being chastened by his disease, Pharaoh remained stiffnecked, and he tried to restore his health by murdering Israelitish children. He took counsel with his three advisers, Balaam, Jethro, and Job, how he might be healed of the awful malady that had seized upon him. Balaam spoke, saying, "Thou canst regain thy health only if thou wilt slaughter Israelitish children and bathe in their blood." Jethro, averse from having a share in such an atrocity, left the king and fled to Midian. Job, on the other hand, though he also disapproved of Balaam's counsel, kept silence, and in no wise protested against it,[101] wherefor God punished him with a year's suffering.[102] But afterward He loaded him down with all the felicities of this life, and granted him many years, so that this pious Gentile might be rewarded in this world for his good deeds and not have the right to urge a claim upon the beatitude of the future life.[103]

In pursuance of the sanguinary advice given by Balaam, Pharaoh had his bailiffs snatch Israelitish babes from their mothers' breasts, and slaughter them, and in the blood of these innocents he bathed. His disease afflicted him for ten years, and every day an Israelitish child was killed for him. It was all in vain; indeed, at the end of the time his leprosy changed into boils, and he suffered more than before.

While he was in this agony, the report was brought to him that the children of Israel in Goshen were careless and idle in their forced labor. The news aggravated his suffering, and he said: "Now that I am ill, they turn and scoff at me. Harness my chariot, and I will betake myself to Goshen, and see the derision wherewith the children of Israel deride me." And they took and put him upon a horse, for he was not able to mount it himself. When he and his men had come to the border between Egypt and Goshen, the king's steed passed into a narrow place. The other horses, running rapidly through the pass, pressed upon each other until the king's horse fell while he sate upon it, and when it fell, the chariot turned over on his face, and also the horse lay upon him. The king's flesh was torn from him, for this thing was from the Lord, He had heard the cries of His people and their affliction. The king's servants carried him upon their shoulders, brought him back to Egypt, and placed him on his bed.

He knew that his end was come to die, and the queen Alfar'anit and his nobles gathered about his bed, and they wept a great weeping with him.
Perhaps. Certainly it is interesting. I wonder if one could connect it with a non-midrashic, but rather Biblical account, of Pharaoh in pursuit of Israel as they fled Egypt. This would make him slightly later Pharaoh.

Update: Another distinct possibility. There were Egyptian historical accounts that have been lost. It is possible that the midrashist had access to these accounts, and blended Egyptian historical documents with midrash and Bible to create a new account. This would then not necessarily shed light on the identity of the historical Pharaoh of Exodus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Identifying the pharaoh of the oppression or the pharaoh of the Exodus, takes more than linking a possible fracture in a pharaoh's femur with a Talmudic story. For example, Seqenenre Tao II seems to have suffered from a terrible skin disease. When his mummy was found, his flesh still stunk to high heaven. The smell was so bad that the archaeologists had trouble working on the mummy. In addition, he seems to have had injuries to his head. Usually these injuries are attributed to battle axes. But they're concentrated just on top of the head. In the Talmudic story, "the chariot turned over on his face". Since Josephus calls Ahmose, his son, the Pharaoh of the Exodus, by identifying the Exodus with the Hyksos Expulsion, it seems more likely that Seqenenre not King Tut is the Pharaoh of the Talmudic story. If you want to see a reasoned argument about all this, you should check out "The Exodus Decoded", Simcha Jacobovici's brilliant film about the archaeology behind the Biblical tale. It aired on History Channel. You can get a copy from in the US or in Canada.


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