Maybe They Weren’t Slaves

16 Jul

We got the following in a newsletter we subscribe to:


Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a largely juvenile slave force, numbering in the thousands, buried in Egypt. These slaves had worked to build the city of Amarna, Egypt’s new capital city under Akhenaten, the eccentric pharaoh of the New Kingdom’s 18th Dynasty who is thought to have adopted a form of monotheism. Evidence from the graves indicates there was oppressive treatment of this disposable and possibly foreign workforce. Naturally, some have latched onto this find (and its similarities to the Exodus account) to propose that this might be evidence of Israelite slaves. Assessing that idea by examining the finds and then applying a patterns approach will be the subject of this two-part Thinker post.

The city of Amarna (located about 200 miles south of Cairo) had a very brief history. Pharaoh Akhenaten’s religious revolution exchanged the traditional pantheon of Egyptian gods for worship centered on the single deity Aten (depicted as the rays of light extending from the sun’s disk). After this shift, Akhenaten had the entirely new city of Amarna constructed for his grand capital in a matter of five brief years. Once completed, it would only serve as a thriving city for about a decade, as it was quickly abandoned and demolished after the death of the heretic king. Most of its stones were scavenged for building projects at other locations. Conventional dates for the city are from 1346 BC to shortly after 1332 BC, which marked the death of Akhenaten. His successor Tutankhamun (King Tut) moved the capital to Memphis, and Amarna was never rebuilt.

That is just the beginning of a long address on the title discovery. As we read through this information the thought struck us that there is actually nothing that ties those skeletons to slavery. Being badly buried, badly injured and so on does not indicate the skeletons belonged to slaves. These bones could have been the remains of prisoners, forced child labor policies, they could have been runaways and so on. Tying them to slavery may be difficult, even if some DNA samples proved that some of the remains originated somewhere else.

The archaeologists would have to prove that the Egyptians had slaves at that time to make this theory credible. The only reason the Egyptians had Hebrew slaves was because they Egyptians were afraid that the Hebrews would ally themselves with the Egyptian enemies and overthrow the current government. There is nothing tying these young people to the Hebrews. So why mention it? Because mentioning the Hebrews means more clicks and readers that is why.

Shepperson proposes that at this early stage of the investigation there are three main options for considering who these people were. Because of the likely separation from families (who would normally have provided the proper burials that were so important to ancient Egyptians)

Or the families were to poor to properly bury their young dead. Without documentation explaining the who’s and why’s it is all pure reading into the discovery on the part of the archaeologist. Archaeologists prefer good bedtime stories and not the truth. We will withhold judgment on this discovery until there is something more than ‘maybe’, ‘possibly’, ‘could be’ and so on. There is nothing in these graves that we have read so far that even dates these graves to Akhenaten.

Then Akhenaten could not be the Pharaoh linked to the Exodus. That Pharaoh believed in many gods not one, he was killed and his eldest son/daughter was killed in the plaque. Look for someone else to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in academics, archaeology, controversial issues, education, history, leadership, science, theology


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