Sunday, January 14, 2007

Did ancient Egyptians have direct contact with Malta?

"Two members of the Egyptological Society of Malta are promoting the theory that the many ancient Egyptian artefacts unearthed in Malta were brought over by the Egyptians themselves, and not, as commonly thought, by traders.

In an article titled Did The Ancient Egyptians Ever Reach Malta?, published in the Egyptian Egyptological journal, Anton Mifsud and Marta Farrugia analysed Egyptian artefacts found here and went through old and recently published material on which to base their conclusions.

Dr Mifsud and Ms Farrugia argue that because of their beliefs in afterlife, the ancient Egyptians were extremely reluctant to leave their country to live and possibly die miles away from home. However, war and trade with the Eastern Mediterranean nations and islands lured the Egyptians out of their homeland.

The authors note that though it has always been assumed that it was the Phoenicians who brought the earliest Egyptian artefacts to Malta, the items found here span a time frame that pre-dates the arrival of the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC.

The earliest Egyptian artefacts date to the end of the third millennium BC, 400 years before the arrival of the Phoenicians, and one continues to find artefacts from various Egyptian civilisations until after the eighth century BC.

Four funerary Egyptian stone slabs, known as Egyptian steles, were found in 1829 beneath the foundations of a mid-17th century villa on a promontory in Grand Harbour. These funerary slabs were later investigated by renowned Egyptologist Margaret Murray who concluded that they dated from the 12th dynasty (1991-1802 BC) and that the position they had been excavated from showed they must have been brought to the island "at some remote antiquity".

Dr Murray also mentioned other analogies between ancient Malta and Egypt, such as "the spiral decoration so common in the early temples of Malta that is equally common on scarabs of the 12th dynasty in Egypt".

Dr Murray also carried out excavations at various sites in Malta, and in her report of 1928, she identified several other Egyptian artefacts that were found in rock tombs in various localities. The most significant find was a ring with a scarab bearing the name of Sebek-hetel, dating to the 13th Dynasty (around 1,700 BC)."