Ramses’ Riches now published

Please click here to find out more or purchase

book 9 - v3On a mission to Egypt to retrace the steps of the great explorer Giovanni Belzoni, the next stop is Abu Simbel.  But Merry and friends have more reasons for wanting to make the trip down Lake Nasser than just to see The Great Temple of Ramses that Belzoni famously dug from the sand.

First, there’s the golden statuette of Helen of Troy apparently found there.  And second, the promise – on very good authority – of a stash of treasure.

Intrigued and mystified – as both are surely impossible – Merry sets sail to find out more.

This is the ninth book in my fiction series following Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt. The books are escapist fiction – adventure stories – set in the present day.  All have an ancient Egyptian mystery at their heart.

IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - CCThe first book in the series is Carter’s Conundrums.  It starts with Merry, on holiday in Egypt, getting trapped inside the Howard Carter Museum in Luxor, and making a discovery … This sets her off an a treasure hunt, and the adventure of a lifetime.

The books are aimed at adults who enjoy action, mystery and adventure stories.  And at anybody with at least a passing interest in ancient Egypt; its mysteries, treasures and enduring civilisation.

All books are available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon.  I do hope you enjoy them…

Fiona Deal

 

 

 

Belzoni’s Bequest now published

BookCoverImageBook number 7 in the series following Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt is now published on Amazon.  For a limited period it will be available with the old-style cover design.  This is to enable anyone who was collecting the series before I updated the covers to have the new book in the same style as the others if they wish.  The new cover will replace this one at end-September.

Belzoni’s Bequest

Swapping the heat and dust of Egypt for the cooler climes of London, Merry and Adam find themselves caught up in an intrigue involving the Egyptian collection at the exalted British Museum.  

First of all, an Egyptologist disappears in the midst of a security evacuation.  Then Merry stumbles across a mystery suggesting the circus strongman Giovanni Belzoni and his wife discovered more than just tombs and temples during their excavations in Egypt in the early 1800s.  A stolen journal, a set of newspaper-wrapped artefacts, and a blast from Adam’s past combine to make this a most perplexing mystery!

As ever, I welcome feedback and comments here on my website.  I also read and very much appreciate all reviews on Amazon.

To find out more or download now please click here.  The book is also available in paperback.

I hope you enjoy Merry’s latest adventure … Fiona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking the Nile

Unknown

Photo Credit : Channel 4

Last night I watched the last episode of Channel 4’s documentary ‘Walking the Nile’.  This four-part series followed former soldier Levison Wood as he set out to walk along the longest river on earth, from its source in deepest Africa, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt.  That’s 7 million steps and nine months of solid walking!

This was an impressive undertaking, given the heat, the distance and the painful foot blisters (shown in all their graphic glory!).

I found myself unexpectedly moved when Mr Wood – or ‘Lev’ as he introduced himself – reached the end of his epic journey and dived into the sea before an emotional reunion with his family.

I’ll be honest and say I haven’t watched all four episodes although I’ve seen bits of the previous ones, showing Levison travelling through Ethiopia and Sudan.  It was the final leg of his journey – through Egypt – that I wanted to see.  I’d hoped this might show Egypt in a light that would encourage tourists to return.  In this wish, I was disappointed.

I’m sure much of the challenge for Levison Wood was to be seen to walk through parts of the world that might be described as ‘trouble spots’.  He’s a battle-hardened man, who’s made a name for himself trekking across war zones.  But, to me, it was disappointing to see Egypt given this treatment.

I’m not so naive as to think everything in the garden is rosy in Egypt.  The News reports over the weekend of clashes in Cairo marking the 4-year anniversary of the Revolution to topple Hosni Mubarak – which have left 18 people dead – are testament enough to the on-going political unrest.  But I thought the Walking the Nile documentary was overly skewed towards portraying a country apparently rife with gun smugglers, where the atmosphere is one of tension and mistrust of foreigners.

In my 11 visits to Egypt (including trips in each of the last four years 2011-14), I have never experienced this sense of unease at all.  Admittedly, I have been a visitor to Luxor, not to any of the towns previously strongholds for the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.  Even so, I thought Egypt was misrepresented in last night’s programme.

Levison Wood paused briefly to enjoy the hospitality of the famous Old Cataract hotel in Aswan.  Previously host to Sir Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie, the hotel was conspicuously devoid of guests.  He also made short stops at some of the temples along Lake Nasser (although we weren’t shown him visiting Abu Simbel, despite the promise of the opening titles) and in Luxor.  But the jaw-dropping history and archaeological sites of Egypt were given scant air time, brushed over in favour of scenes of Mr Wood being followed by the police.  In this, too, I felt the Egyptian authorities were done a disservice.  It seemed clear to me the police officers concerned were good natured and concerned for Mr Wood’s safety whilst in their country, nothing more sinister than that.

I’m not sure what it will take for tourists to venture back to Egypt.  To be fair, the purpose of Channel 4’s documentary was not to be a travelogue.  Nevertheless I thought it a shame that such a spectacular country, one with so much to offer its visitors, was represented as a war zone.

I applaud Levison Wood for his courageous journey.  What a remarkable achievement.  Nevertheless, I hope I will be believed when I say Egypt remains a fabulous destination for a holiday.  I hope to go again during 2015, and make it a fifth consecutive year for a visit.  True, I may not have Cairo on my itinerary – and I will certainly avoid the Sinai Peninsula.  But Luxor is a treasure not to be missed.  I hope even Levison Wood would agree with that !

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – a series of mystery/adventure novels set in Luxor.  Available on Amazon.

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Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered

Last night I watched the hour long BBC1 documentary called ‘Tutankhamun : The Truth Uncovered’.

It set out to present clues as to why the most famous Egyptian Pharaoh of them all died so young.  The theory of murder due to a blow to the head was debunked.  Actually, it was debunked years ago … the bone fragments shown by X-ray to be floating in the back of the boy king’s skull were proved to have been displaced post mortem and also after the embalming process.

The programme showed us a ‘virtual autopsy’ using more that 2,000 CT scans of Tutankhamun’s mummified body.  This remarkable technology has enabled scientists to reveal the first ever full-sized, scientifically accurate computer generated image of the young king.  Sadly, it is a far cry from the hauntingly beautiful and perfect image we are more used to from the glorious death mask and much of the other artwork and statuary surviving of Tut from antiquity.

It reveals the club foot, which explains once and for all why so many walking canes – over 120 of them – were found by Howard Carter when he entered Tutankhamun’s tomb. I can’t help but wonder if seeing ‘the truth uncovered’ might actually be a little less than Tutankhamun deserves.  We come face to face with a teenager who might now unkindly, but no doubt accurately, be referred to as a cripple.  I’m sure he’d have preferred the images of himself riding his chariot, full of youthful vigour to be the ones to survive him down the centuries.

And with mention of the chariot (there were six of them found dis-assembled in Tutankhamun’s tomb) we come to the next popular theory explaining his early death. The CT scan reveals the fracture above his knee, which experts believe to have killed him.  A long-held theory is that the fracture was caused by a fall from his chariot whilst out hunting, or perhaps even in battle. (Or maybe he was pushed?).  But last night’s documentary suggests it would have been almost impossible for the young king to ride at any speed in a one-man chariot.  Or indeed ride a chariot at all.  The club foot and bone wasting disease shown also to be affecting his left foot would, we are told, have made it excruciatingly painful to ride.

And so, another explanation has to be found.  It is not slow in coming.  Epilepsy.

This condition, we are told, may also account for the ‘visions’ experienced by Tutankhamun’s predecessors.  His great-grandfather, Thutmosis IV, recorded in the famous ‘dream stele’ (still situated between the paws of the Sphinx) the vision in which the Sphinx spoke to him and told him if Thutmosis cleared the sand from around the Sphinx’s body, he would be crowned king.  And, Akhenaten, the controversial pharaoh who preceded Tutankhamun was apparently given to religious visions, which led him to elevate the sun disc, the Aten, as the sole god from the Egyptian Pantheon.  They also led him to build a new city, modern Amarna, on virgin soil in middle Egypt.

And now, with the mention of Akhenaten, we come to the part where I take issue with last night’s documentary.  DNA testing has enabled scientists and Egyptologists to build Tutankhamun’s family tree.  This has established that the body found in tomb KV55 is Tut’s father, and the ‘younger lady’ found in the cache hidden inside Amenhotep II’s tomb is Tut’s mother.  More astonishing, Tutankhamun is shown to be the product of an incestuous full-brother-and-sister relationship.

This much, I believe, is irrefutable.  It seems to me tragic that in their attempts to keep the royal bloodline pure, the pharaohs of the late 18th dynasty actually inbred its genetic downfall.

BUT, the documentary makes one big and, to my way of looking at it, unsupportable assumption … That the KV55 mummy is Akhenaten.  Ergo Akhenaten is Tutankhamun’s father.  This is presented as FACT, with no questions asked.

This does the viewing public a huge disservice.  While Akhenaten is unquestionably one candidate as the KV55 mummy, he is not the only one.  Many scholars believe the skeleton to be that of Akhenaten’s younger brother, an ephemeral character on the pharaonic stage.  His name was Smenkhkare.  Nobody has ever been able to prove the identity of the KV55 mummy for sure.  So, for the BBC to overlook this and present Akhenaten as the sole candidate seems to me to be misleading and negligent.

We know Akhenaten was famously married to Nefertiti.  They very publicly had six daughters.  Images of the whole family are plastered all over Amarna.  Nobody has yet gone so far as to suggest the ‘younger lady’ is Nefertiti, or that she was Akhenaten’s full sister.  So, we must suppose that Akhenaten had an incestuous relationship with one of his full sisters, who bore Tutankhamun.  Under the royal protocol of the time, she would have had to be one of his wives, possibly even his Great Royal Wife.  For this to have completely escaped the historical record seems to me extremely unlikely.

Yet, if his younger brother Smenkhkare were to have had an incestuous marriage with one of their sisters, with Tutankhamun as the result, it seems perfectly possible for no record of it to have survived.

I personally believe Smenkhkare is the KV55 mummy.  Other scholars agree.  One other piece of evidence supports this theory.  On last night’s documentary, Tutankhamun was repeatedly described as Akhenaten’s successor.  He wasn’t. At least, not at first.  The historical record shows quite clearly that Smenkhkare came to the throne on Akhenaten’s death.  Incidentally, Smenkhkare married Akhenaten & Nefertiti’s eldest daughter, his niece Meritaten, presumably to strengthen his right to rule.  She became his Great Royal Wife.  Whether his previous sister-wife was still alive at the time is a matter for conjecture.

It is not clear how long Smenkhkare ruled.  Some experts say a few months, others up to three years.  But rule he did.

To me, this is more evidence that Tutankhamun was not Akhenaten’s son.  There are plenty of other examples of minors coming to the throne, so his age would not have presented a reason for him to be passed over in favour of his ‘uncle’ Smenkhkare if indeed Akhenaten was his father.  I think in the absence of a male heir who was his son, the throne passed to Akhenaten’s brother and only then on Smenkhare’s death to his son, Tutankhamun.

Frustratingly, none of this can be proved once and for all.  We need more discoveries to be made in the historical record, or for modern science to take yet another leap forward.

I’m left with the impression of a documentary wanting to re-work old ‘truths’ to find a new angle.  I’d have been perfectly happy with this, if only certain assumptions were not presented as fact.

Luckily for me, there is one field in which it’s more acceptable to work within what’s known, and make up the rest.  I am a fiction writer.  The mysteries of ancient Egypt are my chosen subject.  So last night’s documentary was of particular interest.  I’m pleased to say, it didn’t present anything to make me go back and rewrite any of the content of my books.  The second book in my series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt is Tutankhamun’s Triumph.  If you’re interested in reading more about Tut’s family tree, you may wish to give it a go.

Fiona Deal

Author of Carter’s Conundrums, Tutankhamun’s Triumph, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway, Farouk’s Fancies and Akhenaten’s Alibi. Available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and all other Amazon sites.

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Book 2 of Meredith Pink's adventures in Egypt

Book 2 of Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt

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Howard Carter’s Legacy Lives on…

carterHoward Carter died seventy-five years ago on 2 March 1939.  His death went largely unremarked.  This is fairly extraordinary considering Carter was the man responsible for making arguably the most important archaeological discovery ever … the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun, dating from the 14th century BC.

UnknownIt seems astonishing to me that such a spectacular find should earn no accolade at all for its discoverer.  Howard Carter lies buried in an unremarkable grave in a Putney Vale cemetery in London.  Only the words on his grave stone give any clue to the love of Egypt, Egyptology and his world-famous discovery…

Howard Carter,

Egyptologist,

Discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun 1922

“May your spirit live, may you spend millions of years, you who love Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind, your eyes beholding happiness.”

It’s hardly the most lavish epitaph!

So, why the lack of recognition?  All Carter earned during his lifetime was an honorary doctorate from an American university.  In his own country; nothing.

Carter had a reputation as an irascible man, pig-headed, stubborn and intractable.  He rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy (notably his patron and sponsor the Earl of Carnarvon) yet wasn’t one of them.  Perhaps an incident early in his career in Egypt cast a long shadow. It became known as the Saqqara Affair.  Carter committed career suicide, refusing to apologise to the authorities over an incident where he forcibly ejected a group of rowdy and drunk young Frenchmen from the site of the famous stepped pyramid.  Carter resigned over the incident, halting a hitherto promising career, and entered what have become known as his ‘wilderness years’.  He scratched a living as an artist and antiquities dealer before being recommended as an excavator to Carnarvon.

The rest, as they say, is history.  But Carter’s temper continued to be his Achilles heel.  After Carnarvon’s untimely death just 5 months after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, Carter once again exploded. This time it was over the refusal of the Egyptian Authorities to allow the wives of the excavation team a private viewing of the tomb.  Carter downed tools and took himself off on a lecture tour of America.

But perhaps more damning were the rumours that started to circulate while he was away that Carter was misappropriating items from the tomb.  A lotus flower head of the boy king was found inside a Fortnum & Mason wine case.  Carter said he’d stored it there for safekeeping until it could be properly conserved.  His explanation was accepted without question, but I wonder if the powers that be were really convinced …?

Whatever, the recognition he might have expected as arguably the most famous excavator of all time never materialised.

Carter returned to England in 1935, having taken 10 years to clear the tomb.  He continued to deal in antiquities for many of the major museums of the world – perhaps considered a dodgy profession…?  He died, aged 65, of lymphoma.

But perhaps the action that meant he could never earn the recognition he deserved was his alleged unauthorised break-in to the tomb the night before its official opening in November 1922.  It’s never been proven, but it’s now achieved the status of something of an open secret.  Carter and Carnarvon, together with Carnarvon’s daughter and their friend Pecky Callender, are said to have broken into both the outer chamber and the burial chamber of the tomb.

I think, if true, it’s hard to blame them.  Which of us can honestly say we could have resisted the temptation after such a long search?

Whatever, rumours of wrong-doing seem to have dogged Carter’s footsteps – and his memory.

Book 1 of Meredith Pink's Adventures in Egypt

Book 1 of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

These provide fertile soil for a writer of fiction, such as myself.  In the first book in my series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, my heroine finds herself caught up in a mystery that draws heavily on the conduct and character of Howard Carter.

So, despite the lack of any public recognition, I’d like to remember the seventy-fifth anniversary of his death, and thank Howard Carter for his legacy.  It was gawping at the Tutankhamun treasures in the Cairo museum as a teenager that sparked my enduring fascination for ancient Egypt … and perhaps that’s when my desire to write was first born.  So, thank you, Mr Carter … your legacy lives on …

Fiona Deal

Author of Carter’s Conundrums, Tutankhamun’s Triumph, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway and Farouk’s Fancies