THE MUMMY OF PATRIARCH JOSEPH IN THE CAIRO MUSEUM
was the king who appointed Joseph, of the coat of many colors,
as his minister and during which period of Egyptian history did
he live? Since the start of archaeological digging in Egypt more
than a hundred years ago, scholars have been trying to answer
seemed to me like a flash of inspiration, an unexpected moment
of revelation when I felt that I was about to resolve a problem
to which many gifted scholars had devoted their minds without
success for more than a century—identifying a major biblical figure
as the same person as a major Egyptian historical figure. It was
a problem to which I had devoted twenty-five years of my own adult
life. As part of the quest I had left my native Egypt and moved
to London, lured by the superior facilities the United Kingdom
offered for biblical and historical study and research. One cold
night fifteen years ago, unable to sleep, I slipped out of bed,
made a pot of tea and settled down by the fire to read, as I often
did, the stories of the Bible. I opened it at the account in the
Book of Genesis of the life of Joseph the Patriarch.
Joseph is said in the Bible and the Quran, to have been sold as
a slave into Egypt. It was his own brothers who handed him over
to a trade caravan, as they became jealous when Jacob their father
gave him a coat with many colors. An Egyptian official bought
the young Hebrew boy and made him overseer over his house, but
when his mistress falsely accused him of trying to seduce her,
Joseph was sent to prison. Two years later, Joseph was set free
by Pharaoh, who also appointed him as one of his ministers, when
he was able to interpret the king's dream.
a result of a famine in the land of Canaan, Joseph's brothers
went down to Egypt to buy corn there. Joseph recognized Jacob's
sons when they arrived, but they did not recognize him in his
Egyptian costume; he kept his identity secret. The famine in Canaan
persisted, however, and caused Joseph's half-brothers to return
to Egypt on a second corn-buying mission. On this occasion Joseph
invited them to have a meal in his house and, in an emotional
moment, he revealed his identity to his brothers. They were ashamed
of what they had done to him when they sold him as a slave, but
he asked them not to feel any sense of guilt: "For God did send
me before you to preserve life, and He has made me a father to
Pharaoh," he said.
to Pharaoh." It was this statement that caused my excitement that
night. Egyptian officials were usually given the title "Son of
Pharaoh," but "Father to Pharaoh" was a rare title and only few
people had it. Immediately the name of Yuya came to my mind. Yuya
served as a minister and commander of the military Chariots for
Amenhotep III (c. 1405-1367BC) of the 18th dynasty. Among his
many titles, Yuya bore one that was unique to him, it ntr n nb
tawi, the holy father of the Lord of the Two Lands, Pharaoh's
formal title. The reason for Yuya to get this unique title was
the fact that the king, Amenhotep III, married Yuya's daughter
Tiye and made her his great wife, the Queen of Egypt. For this
reason also, Yuya became the maternal grandfather of the monotheistic
Joseph the Patriarch and Yuya be one and the same person?
Israelite In the Valley of the Kings
tomb of Yuya and his wife Tuya was found in 1905, three years
after Theodore M. Davis had obtained a concession to excavate
in the Valley of the Kings. The site of the tomb, the only one
in Egypt to be found almost intact until the discovery of Tutankhamun's
seventeen years later, occasioned some surprise. Davis provided
the money, while the actual work was carried out by British archaeologists.
There is a narrow side valley in the Valley of the Kings, about
half a mile long, leading up to the mountain. Eight days before
the Christmas of 1904, James Quibell started the examination of
this side valley. A month later, he decided to transfer the men
back to the mouth of the side valley, and by February 1 they had
exposed the top of a sealed door that blocked the stairwell, and
in few days time Davis and his group were able to enter the tomb,
in which they found the sarcophagus of Yuya and of his wife, Tuya,
including their mummies. Although both Yuya and his wife were
known from Egyptian history, neither was considered particularly
important. Nor, as far as anyone was aware, did either of them
possess royal blood, which one would expect when they enjoyed
the privilege of burial in the Valley of the Kings.
evidence that I was finally able to find convinced me that Joseph,
the son of Jacob and Yuya, the Egyptian minister, were one and
the same person.
than sharing the unique title of "Father to Pharaoh," both Joseph
and Yuya were foreigners in Egypt. Many scholars have commented
on Yuya's foreign appearance. For instance, Arthur Weigall, one
of the archaeologists involved in the discovery of Yuya's tomb,
wrote: "He was a person of commanding presence . . . He has the
face of an ecclesiastic, and there is something about his mouth
that reminds one of the late Pope, Leo III." Henri Naville, the
Swiss Egyptologist, took the view that Yuya's "very aquiline face
might be Semitic."
difficulties scribes had with his name also point to Yuya's foreign
origin. Eleven different spellings were found on his sarcophagus,
three coffins and other funerary furniture. Egyptian names usually
indicated the name of the god under whose protection a person
was placed—Ra-mos, Ptah-hotep, Tutankh-amun and so on. It therefore
seems that Egyptians must have named him after his own God, Yhwh
(Jehovah), and that is what the scribes were trying to write,
with spellings that included Ya-a, Yi-ja and Yu-i.
way Yuya was buried also points to his not having been Egyptian.
His ears were not pierced—unlike those of most royal mummies of
the 18th Dynasty, the time when Yuya saw service under both Tuthmosis
IV and his son, Amenhotep III—and the position of his hands, facing
his neck under the chin, is different from the usual Osiris form
in which the dead man's hands are crossed over his chest.
Elliot Smith, the British anatomist who examined Yuya's mummy
in 1905, raised the question of his non-Egyptian appearance. Smith
wrote in his report; "His (Yuya's) face is relatively short and
elliptical, . . . His nose is prominent, aquiline and high-bridged;
. . . The lips appear to be somewhat full. The jaw is moderately
square . . . When we come to enquire into the racial character
of the body of Yuya, there is very little we can definitely seize
on as a clear indication of his origin and affinities . . . The
form of the face (and especially the nose) is such as we find
more commonly in Europe than in Egypt."
king also gave Joseph an Egyptian wife and an Egyptian name, the
first element of which is "sef." Manetho, an Egyptian historian
who wrote the history of his country to Ptolemy I during the 3rd
century BC, mentions that Amenhotep III had a minister called
Sef. It seems that the name "Jo-sef" or "Yo-sef" in Hebrew and
"Yu-sef" in Arabic, was composed of two elements: one Hebrew,
"Yu," which is short for Yahweh, and the other Egyptian, "sef."
in the Tomb
the biblical account of Joseph the Patriarch, on his appointment
as minister, he received three objects from Pharaoh as insignia
of office, a ring, a gold chain, and a chariot. These three objects
were also found in Yuya's tomb.
the royal ring was not found in Yuya's tomb, written evidence
was found to show that Yuya was bearer of the king's ring. This
is clear from Yuya's titles, "bearer of the seal of the king of
Lower Egypt" as well as "bearer of the ring of the king of Lower
Egypt." A significant find in the tomb also was a gold chain that
had fallen inside Yuya's coffin, and come to rest beneath his
head when the tomb robbers cut the thread that held it in place.
A small chariot was also discovered in the tomb.
Age of Wisdom
Of Joseph's death and burial the Book of Genesis says that he
died at the age of a hundred and ten: "They embalmed him and put
him in a coffin in Egypt." Since as long ago as 1865, when the
British scholar Charles W. Goodwin suggested the age the biblical
narrator assigned to Joseph at the time of his death was a reflection
of the Egyptian tradition, this idea has become increasingly accepted
Grafton Elliott Smith, the anatomist who examined Yuya's mummy
after its discovery, said in his medical report that Yuya was
not less than sixty at the time of his death. Smith was unable
by facial appearance alone to judge the exact age, but Henri Naville,
who translated Yuya's copy of The Book of the Dead, wrote in his
subsequent commentary on it that ". . . the artist wished to indicate
that Iouiya (Yuya) was a very old man when he died: therefore
he made him quite a white wig . . ."
apparent discrepancies about age are easily resolved. As the average
age to which people lived at the time was about thirty-five, ancient
Egyptians considered old age to be a sign of wisdom, and those
who attained long life were looked upon as holy figures. Both
Joseph and Yuya were considered wise by Pharaoh.
Joseph he said: "There is nobody as discreet and wise as you."
Yuya is described on his funerary papyrus as "the only wise who
loves his god." The age Egyptians ascribed to those who lived
to be wise was one hundred and ten, irrespective of how old they
actually were. Amenhotep son of Habu, an Egyptian magician in
Yuya's time, was said to have lived one hundred and ten years
although the last information we have about him puts his age at
City with Many Gates
is not solely a comparison of the Old Testament account of the
life of Joseph the Patriarch and Egyptian historical records that
point to Joseph and Yuya having been one and the same person.
According to the Koran, the sacred Muslim book, before their second
visit to Egypt, Joseph's half-brothers were given some advice
by Jacob, their father:
my sons! enter not
All by one gate: enter ye
By different gates. . ."
advice indicates that the city they visited on their trade missions,
which had many gates, was either Memphis, the seat of the royal
residence south of the Giza Pyramids, or Thebes, on the east bank
of the Nile.
same story is found in Jewish traditions: "His brothers, fearing
the evil eye, entered the city at ten different gates" (Midrash
Bereshith Rabbah 89). As Jacob is said to have voiced his concern
before his sons set off on their second mission it is reasonable
to assume that he heard about the nature of Thebes on their return
from their first visit. Thebes was known throughout the ancient
world as "the city with many gates," and the Greek poet Homer
mentioned it around the 8th century BC as "the hundred-gated city."
These were not references to gates through a profusion of walls,
but to entrances belonging to its many temples and palaces.
Time of Yuya and Joseph
the name of Pharaoh who appointed Joseph as his minister is not
given in the holy books, scholars looked for some other details
in the story of Joseph, to help them in fixing his time. They
noticed that the "chariots," were mentioned three times in the
Book of Genesis: