Ramses’ Riches now published

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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

 

 

 

Refresh and Relaunch

“Fiona, your books are great fun to read … but your cover designs are doing you no favours.”  So I was told recently.  “Why don’t you update the jackets so they look like the fictional adventure stories they are?  At the moment they look like dull and boring history books!”

I’ve always believed it’s a good thing to respond positively to feedback.  So, here are the results.  I’ll let you judge for yourselves …

In my first book, Merry gets trapped in the Howard Carter Museum in Luxor, and finds some hidden hieroglyphics.  It sets her off on a madcap treasure hunt…

From this …       BookCoverPreview.do            To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - CC

In Merry’s second adventure, the hieroglyphics have led her to believe there may be precious jewels hidden in Egypt … If only she can find them before anyone else does …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do             To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - TT

In book 3, Merry has found the precious jewels … but can she protect them …?

From this …       Hatshepsut's_Hideawa_Cover_for_Kindle              To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - HH

Her fourth adventure finds Merry racing to find a Dead Sea Scroll, perhaps hidden by King Farouk before it can fall into the wrong hands …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do            To this …  IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - FF

In book 5, Merry is trying to stay one step ahead of a blackmailer intent on exposing her explosive secrets …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do            To this …  IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - AA

And her most recent adventure finds Merry on a quest to discover the inside track on “The Greatest Story Ever Told” – The Exodus …

From this …      BookCoverPreview.do            To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - SS

Hmm, I can completely see where the person was coming from …

Personally, I love them.  I hope you do, too.

Fiona Deal

 

Causeway of the Great Pyramid Found

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Photo Credit : Ahram.org

Reading ‘Ancient Origins’ online, I see a report that after years of searching, the causeway for the Great Pyramid of Egypt has been found.

As is often the case, the facts read like something from a novel: a local resident living near the Giza Plateau was illegally digging beneath his home when he discovered a tunnel leading to the Pyramid of Khufu, the largest of the three pyramids in Giza.

Apparently a resident in the village of El Haraneya in Giza, a prohibited area for drilling, began digging beneath his house to a depth of about 10 meters.  He discovered a passage consisting of huge stone blocks.

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Artists impression showing pyramid causeways. Credit: Saint Anselm College

The Minister of Police for Tourism and Antiquities was alerted to the discovery (it’s not clear whether this was by the resident himself). Whatever, security forces immediately placed a cordon around his property.  An archaeologist was placed in charge of a committee to investigate. The committee’s report confirms the finding of the corridor leading to the Great Pyramid, the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in Giza.  It’s thought these causeways were covered corridors or passages linking each pyramid to its temple complex or maybe with the Nile.

How exciting!  I love it when new discoveries are made in Egypt.  As a writer of fiction, it’s a never-ending source of inspiration.

What became of the resident beneath whose home the causeway was found is not clear.  Perhaps I can somehow weave him into a story !

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

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What lies beneath …?

Photo by Paolo Bondielli Min Project – Luxor Times

Published in the Luxor Times on 1 January, the first discovery in Egypt of 2015.  Found in Qurna, on the Nile close to Luxor, this is an Osirieon, a kind of God’s tomb, dedicated to Osiris.  It just goes to show how much still lies buried beneath the sands of Egypt, awaiting discovery.

As a fiction writer of an adventure/mystery series set in present-day Egypt, these continued discoveries are beyond thrilling.  My characters have been lucky enough to make a few discoveries of their own.  Some might say their ‘finds’ are far-fetched, and they’d probably be right.  My characters are not archaeologists or excavators.  Meredith (Merry) Pink starts her adventures in Egypt as a simple holidaymaker.  She counts herself fortunate when she meets a would-be Egyptologist who then introduces her to a professor who is the real thing, and can help her out with what she’s found.

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Carter’s Conundrums is Merry’s first adventure.  It’s the story of an accidental discovery that sheds new light on Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  And it poses a few questions about what else he might have found that the world wasn’t told about at the time…      Writing it, I gave myself the imaginary holiday of a lifetime!  I hope it does the same for my readers.

There are a further five books so far in the series.  In each one Merry plays a part in unlocking a secret from Egypt’s ancient past.  The series is a joy to write and all the time new discoveries are coming to light, I know there will be plenty more ancient Egyptian mysteries for Merry to explore.

All six books in the series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt are available to download or in paperback on Amazon.

Fiona Deal

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Exodus: Gods and Kings (Part 2)

imagesRidley Scott’s motion picture Exodus: Gods and Kings is in cinemas now.  It has sparked a storm of controversy in some Middle Eastern countries, where many have banned it for both historical and religious inaccuracies.  I wrote a blog a couple of days ago looking at the historical side of the Exodus story, specifically whether there is any evidence that Pharaoh Ramses II was the Pharaoh of the Oppression / Exodus as depicted in popular culture.

It is problematic to write an opinion-piece about religious inaccuracies for fear of causing offence.  There has always been debate about the extent to which the Old Testament and other religious books, such as the Torah, are historical or literary works.  As such, I guess the question is whether they should be taken literally or whether some poetic licence is allowable.  I daresay even the most ardent Biblical scholar would accept the Old Testament stories were handed down orally through generations before they were written down.  So some embellishment and distortion is likely, which is perhaps how all the best myths grow up in the popular imagination.

So to call something inaccurate religiously-speaking, one would have to take the Bible stories at face value and expect them to be faithfully retold without deviation or dramatic licence.  Perhaps that’s a bit much to ask of a movie-maker.

To my way of looking at it, the Bible and other religious works are books of faith.  I personally don’t consider faith is at odds with having an enquiring mind.  I don’t see how seeking the historical genesis (no pun intended) of the Bible stories undermines any theological beliefs we may hold.  Put simply, whether or not I believe in Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as a ‘historical’ event or as a parable to reference good and evil and the consequences of our choices and actions…  it makes no difference to the ‘faith’ I may have in a higher being, whom we might call God.

BookCoverPreview.doAnd so, I turn to the Exodus story and feel free to ask questions and form opinions as, I suspect, did Ridley Scott and Cecil B DeMille and other film-makers.  I do so because I am a fiction-writer.  My latest novel, Seti’s Secret (Book 6 in a series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt) also explores the Exodus story, although from a different angle.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something could be found in Egypt to cast light on the Exodus from the historical / archaeological perspective?

The ten plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea by Moses are apocryphal.  We can choose to see the hand of God at play or we can seek an explanation in the natural world.  Much has been written about the possibility of a series of ecological disasters causing the plagues.  The volcanic explosion of Santorini in antiquity is also cited as possibly being linked to both the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.  But was it the Red Sea?  The literal translation of Yam Suph is ‘Sea of Reeds’.  This might make a more likely location for the crossing of the fleeing Israelites in bitter lakes near the Delta region, not far from Suez (perhaps not quite so exciting for the special effects team of a movie-maker).

Morocco halted screenings of Ridley Scott’s epic because the film contains a “representation of God”, which is forbidden under Islamic Law.  Scott depicts the vengeful God of the Old Testament as a young boy who comes across as a bloodthirsty little chap, for all his public schoolboy way of speaking.

This vengeful God has always seemed to me somewhat at odds with the author of the Ten Commandments.  But then, as others have pointed out, these appear to be a re-phrasing of Spell 125 of ancient Egyptian Book of The Dead.

Similarly, Psalm 104 is a virtual mirror image of ‘the heretic’ Pharaoh Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Aten.  So to my way of looking at it, and at the risk of offending those of a more orthodox religious view, the origins of many of the world’s leading religions today can be found in ancient Egypt.

Moses is credited as being the father of Judaism and forefather of Christianity and Islam.  Many writers and historians have sought out the identity of Biblical Moses among the royal families of ancient Egypt.  The Bible makes it clear he grew up in the royal household.  Sigmund Freud, the Jewish father of psychoanalysis, was the first to suggest a link between the apparently monotheistic beliefs of the pharaoh Akhenaten and the great monotheistic religions of the world today.  In his book Moses and Monotheism, published in English in 1939, he suggested Moses may have been a follower of Akhenaten, and perhaps served at his court.  This seems to me an inherently more likely scenario than growing up as a ‘brother’ of Ramses II, and helps explain so much more …

BookCoverPreview.doIf you’re interested in finding out more, and you like a relatively light escapist read, you might want to give my fictional series a try. The Moses story is explored in Akhenaten’s Alibi and Seti’s Secret.

BookCoverPreview.doThe series starts with Carter’s Conundrums.  All six books in the series are set in present-day Egypt.  Each is a modern adventure that also sets out to explore an ancient mystery.  They are available to download or in paperback on all Amazon sites.

Happy New Year to all.

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings

BookCoverPreview.doMy latest novel in the series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt is called Seti’s Secret.  It is an adventure story set in modern-day Egypt but, as with the previous five novels in the series, it sets out to explore an ancient mystery.  For this book, I have chosen the Exodus story, proposing the historical identities of the Pharaoh as well as of Moses himself.

Publication of my book has coincided with Ridley Scott’s release of his Biblical film epic Exodus: Gods and Kings.  I went to see the film yesterday, interested to compare my take on ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ with Scott’s.

Since its release on Boxing Day, the movie has been banned in Egypt, Morocco and the UAE.  Egypt cites historical inaccuracies in the film, including depictions of the Jews building the pyramids and an earthquake causing the parting of the Red Sea.  Morocco has halted screenings because the film contains a “representation of God”, which is forbidden under Islamic Law.  The UAE has supported its decision saying the film contains religious inaccuracies about Islam as well as other religions, although it has not specified these inaccuracies.

I guess the movie-going public is arguably less concerned about historical and religious accuracy than it is about enjoyment.  I won’t comment on whether or not the film is enjoyable – that is for each person who sees it to decide.  I certainly found it epic, with sweeping vistas and grand stage sets – the plagues were particularly well depicted.  But as a writer, accuracy is something I have to be concerned with, and there are a few points I’d like to explore.

The opening title sequence tells us it is 1300 BCE (Before ‘Christian’ or ‘Common’ Era).  This places us in the latter years of the reign of Pharaoh Seti I, who appears briefly in the early scenes of the film as the elderly king about to pass on his throne. To be fair to Ridley Scott, I’m not sure he represented the Hebrew slaves as building THE pyramids.  True, the film shows workers constructing pyramids (in the sweeping panoramic shots of ancient Memphis) but I expect this is just for dramatic effect.  The Giza pyramids were built some 1000 years earlier during the Old Kingdom, presumably long before the Israelite sojourn in Egypt as described in the Bible; and before the 400 years Scott’s opening titles claim the Hebrews have been enslaved.  I guess it depends whether you’re prepared to accept that pyramids continued to be built in Egypt, even into the New Kingdom.

A more interesting historical inaccuracy for me was the scene showing Seti I’s funeral taking place at the Temple of Abu Simbel – another piece of grand cinematography – but factually impossible, since Abu Simbel wasn’t built at the time, and Seti I was interred in the Valley of the Kings.

If the film showed an earthquake parting the Red Sea, I missed it.  I saw Moses go to sleep asking for divine intervention, then wake to find the waters had miraculously drained away to allow the Hebrews to cross.  The special effects showing the seawater crashing back in again are among the most impressive in the film – although it is perhaps stretching credulity to the limit for both Moses and Ramses to survive the deluge, on their opposite banks of the Sea, given the on-screen violence of the Tsunami-like wave that engulfs the Egyptian army and both lead characters with it.

The Bible is oblique about whether or not the Pharaoh survives being cast into the sea.  The Torah is more specific in suggesting the Pharaoh drowns.

Which brings me to what I consider the crux of the historical matter.   Was Ramses II (Ramses the Great) the Pharaoh of the Exodus?  Ridley Scott apparently believes so, as did Cecil B DeMille before him, in his film The Ten Commandments.  Yet is there any historical evidence for his candidacy?

Ramses II ruled Egypt for upwards of sixty years.  His mummy is on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and is of a man in his nineties when he died.  So if he pursued the fleeing Israelites into the Red Sea he certainly survived it.

Interestingly, the Bible never names a Pharaoh.  So we are forced to look for other evidence in the Old Testament as well as in the historical and archaeological record to identify which Pharaoh is described.

The primary argument in support of Ramses II in the Exodus story seems to be that the Bible states the Pharaoh subjected the Hebrews to harsh labour building his store cities of Pithom (the location used in Scott’s film) and Ram’ses.  Ramses II certainly built a new capital city Pi-Ramses (or Piramesse).  Its remains have been discovered under the modern town of Qantir in the Eastern Delta, close to a branch of the Nile that silted up approximately 1,000 BCE.  Because Ramses built a city and named it for himself, hey presto he is the Pharaoh of the Biblical Exodus story.  That’s it.  That’s the evidence.

What is perhaps not so well known in popular culture is that Pi-Ramses was apparently built on top of the remains of an earlier city.  Historians have identified this as the Hyksos capital of Avaris and perhaps also the border city of Zarw, identified by some as Biblical Goshen, where the Hebrew tribes are said to have settled after their descent into Egypt.

If true, this enables us to construct a rather different scenario.  The historical record tells us that the grandfather of Ramses II, who ruled as Ramses I, was the Overseer of the Fortress of Zarw while still a commander in the previous Pharaoh’s army.  As he shares the name of his more famous grandson, I think it equally possible that he was the one who oversaw the daily lives of the Hebrews living in the place his grandson later decided on as the location for his new city.

The Bible also suggests the Pharaoh of the Exodus was not the same individual as the Pharaoh of the Oppression.  Exodus 3:6 describes Moses’ reluctance to return the Egypt to free the enslaved Hebrews after God speaks to him from the burning bush.  God reassures Moses that his life will not be in danger if he returns to Egypt as “all those who wished to kill you are dead”.  The earlier section (Exodus 1:8) tells us “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt”.  These passages suggest that during the years Moses spends in the wilderness, the previous pharaoh has died to be replaced by a new one. This would exclude Ramses II as being the Pharaoh to banish Moses and also the one on whom Moses unleashes the ten plagues.

There is more evidence, of course.  But, for now, I’ll end by saying if you’re interested in how the historical and archaeological evidence can be used to construct an alternative set of characters for the Exodus story, you may wish to read Seti’s Secret. (This is book 6 in a series, so I’d suggest you start with the first book Carter’s Conundrums).  The books are available on all Amazon sites.

As for the religious inaccuracies cited by the nations who have banned Ridley Scott’s film, I’ve decided they are the subject of a whole new article, which I will publish in the next couple of days.

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

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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