Ahmed Osman Feature






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Rebuttal to the "Battle for Hearts and Minds"

In the March/April 2002 issue of Archaeology, executive editor Mark Rose calls upon scholars to "battle for hearts and minds" of Akhenaten enthusiasts, and to defend against "purveyors of unfounded theories and mystical interpretations." King among these heretics, Rose names Ahmed Osman, whom he condescendingly calls an "amateur historian," and a "playwright who believes Akhenaten was Moses and writes fat paperbacks with titles like Stranger in the Valley of the Kings: The Identification of Yuya as the Patriarch Joseph." Rose continues, "For scholars, Rohl and Osman are a problem. Do you ignore them, even though they can attract large numbers of people keen on the subject, or do you join them at the podium, give your own version of ancient history and archaeology and pray that some members of the audience are paying attention? Appearing alongside them might, after all, lend a sense of legitimacy to their far-out interpretations."

It is doubtful that Mark Rose has ever seen Stranger in the Valley of the Kings, much less read it. If he had, he would know that this book is far from "fat," but athletically trim. Perhaps, this is why Mr. Rose is identified as an "executive" editor. The four titles by Ahmed Osman are very serious scholarship. They were painstakingly researched and documented. They are not inflated with fantasy and speculation. They were also first released in scholastic hardcover, and published by leading companies such as Harper Collins. His second title Moses:Pharaoh of Egypt will be republished in the US this year.

Mr. Osman has been an active member and occasional speaker at the International Congress of Egyptology over the past 15 years. He has five years of formal training in Egyptian history and language from the University of London. His aim is not to get rich off of his profound discoveries, but this does not make him an "amateur historian." If in the minds of some he still is, then it is a testimony to a lifetime of sacrifice and selfless pursuit of truth. It clearly distinguishes him from academic mercenaries and guardians of ignorance. Ahmed Osman has devoted the better part of five decades to the study of ancient Egyptian history and to the Amarna Period in particular. This is as long as the new stars of the Egyptology field have been alive.

An ulterior motive for the attack on Ahmed Osman is buried deeper in the pages of the current issue of Archaeology. The feature article "Who's in Tomb 55?" also written by Mark Rose concludes that Smenkhare is still the most likely candidate as former occupant of mysterious Tomb 55 in the Valley of Kings. However, DNA testing needed to better establish the relation of this mummy to that of Tutankhamun was first approved and then abruptly cancelled. Shockingly, Egyptian officials cited reasons of "national security." Statements made by the press indicated that the tests might instead be used to better establish the link established by Ahmed Osman between Amarna royals and the Biblical family of Moses.

Rose attempts to downplay the controversy by dismissing the theories of Ahmed Osman as "wild" and "far-fetched." He is confident that DNA testing can only guard against his "creative interpretations." Mr. Osman has himself been an outspoken advocate of DNA testing. It is unfortunate that the Egyptian authorities have chosen to deny all researchers new information just to spite Mr. Osman. It is equally unfair to blame him for the cancellation of these tests. The insight that Mr. Osman has skillfully drawn out of Egypt is highly creative, but certainly not "wild." His conclusions are measured and rest on conservative sources, not the esoteric. His books do represent an enormous leap forward in understanding. They bring us much nearer to the heart of the Amarna Age. Historical reality will prove to be much stranger than the present fiction being put forth by institutional scholars.

The present model of the ancient world endures, not because it is accurate, but because it is inert. It postulates a bare minimum of interaction. This facilitates the separation of persons, places, events and artifacts, which can then be analyzed by specialists in isolation. Analysis is of great value, it has its place, but it is not sufficient. Analysis alone robs history of its soul. Synthesis based on the contributions of many disciplines is needed - from physicists, geneticists, anthropologists, engineers, psychologists, linguists, artists, sociologists, mathematicians, musicians, biologists, chemists, exegetes, philosophers, lawyers, and doctors to name a few. It is true that in his younger days Ahmed Osman wrote Egyptian plays. He has also studied law and taught Arabic. His work in ancient history reflects an eclectic mind. It is a brilliant work of synthesis. It represents an approach that is foreign to academia, but desperately needed in historical studies. Rather than applauding the original and independent thinking that went into his books, institutional archaeologists are offended by it. However, the rest of us need not be.

The present academic model of ancient man is as sterile and lifeless as the stone monuments from which it was fashioned. In this reconstruction, there is little place for cross-cultural influences. Kings are rarely challenged from abroad, or forced to share power with a defiant family rival. Neither are they often inspired to crown their own son before dying. Rulers and dynasties for the most part follow one after the other in a tidy progression. Real life, of the royal or those who toil, is not and was not so protracted and orderly. It is and was much more dynamic, full of competition and brutal conflict. Human history cannot be faithfully modeled without taking human nature into account. But that is precisely what has been done.

It has been said that Moses is a figure of myth that was lost to history, and that Akhenaten is a man of history who strangely does not figure in myth. Can the two be reconciled, as a wide wandering ba-spirit to its body? Is it wrong to say, "what if?" We would not expect to find evidence of a legendary English mum named Bess in official documents. However, Queen Elizabeth is a different story. Similarly, Moses of the Bible is not named in contemporary annals of reigning ancient royalty. The Bible refers to such records, but is itself the cultural memory of long dead royal persons. The Bible also refers to departed people and places by colloquial Hebrew epithets, both pleasing and pejorative.

In Biblical accounts, the former land of the Patriarchs is especially denigrated. It is only to be expected that the actual association of Moses with the Egyptian court had to also be gravely understated. Archaeology alone cannot tell us who he really was, but it is essential. We must travel to the very place the Bible forbids the reader to ever go. What the Bible concealed may now be revealed. We can once again solve "the riddle of the Sphinx" and many other mysteries of that land. And in doing so, we will free ourselves, Egypt and Israel from a cruel curse that has been perpetuated for no good cause.

A world in turmoil is in desperate need of historical accuracy and meaning. With Akhenaten, a true brother in adversity and painful searching has reappeared. Will the knowledge of his world lead the sick and dying of this one to a "promised land" or only to a "final solution?" Is it too late to save this generation from falling again with him? Perhaps, but there is hope for the children of the damned. If we care about them in the least, then we will resolve to know nothing so that they might learn something. We will take our revenge on ignorance and spare the innocent. We will pilgrimage to hell so that they may trespass in heaven. And if our eyes are opened to horrifying truth, we will not blind them. If still we cannot see, we will not pretend to, nor belittle those who don't look in the same way we do. In this love we will see God, and be blessed beyond belief.

Charles Pope

Charles Pope, a researcher and scholar, is the publisher of The Domain of Man . . . on the Internet at:

His featured article for Future Link, The Double Helix of DNA and Genesis, is in this publication at: