There was an interesting (and even a little racy) documentary on the Discovery Channel this week called "Scandals of the Ancient World: Egypt". Check here for other airings:
1) The first scandal involves the revival in the 18th Dynasty by Hatshepsut of the 'Festival of Drunkenness'. This festival commemorated the role of the Great Goddesses in the Flood Myth.
"Egyptian New Kingdom legend relates that the once exalted Re, having become both old and decrepit, paranoid and indignant, summoned his remaining faithful "sons" to discuss the fate of the world and rebellious mankind. Upon the urging of Re, Hathor stormed out in her identity as "The Great Flood" and soon began killing off the people with abandon. But when the water that covered the land turned blood red, Re repented of his murderous intent and instead decided to rescue the unruly subjects. It was later said that Re deliberately turned the waters of the Nile to the color of Hathor's favorite fermented drink, red beer. Having become intoxicated, she abandoned her zeal for destroying mankind and a remnant was saved."
The Discovery Channel special highlights not only the drunkenness but also the sexual abandon associated with the festival, however doesn't delve into the motivation of Hatshepsut in reviving it. However, it is clear that Hatshepsut was seeking to justify the adoption of pharaonic powers through identification with the Great Goddess, and a long-standing tradition of queens that acted as pharaohs in times of national crisis ("Exodus events").
"Hatshepsut modeled herself after Queen Sobeknofru, who was the last ruler of the 12th Dynasty ... In the aftermath of the devastating floods and mass Exodus that brought down the dynasty, Sobeknofru ruled for a short time as a pharaoh (prenomen Sobek-ka-re).
"In identification with Sobeknofru, Hatshepsut assumed the prenomen of Maat-ka-re. Another basis that Hatshepsut used to justify her pharaonic status was the claim of chasing off an exodus party. She left a very revealing inscription. Quoting from a book called Distant Secrets (p 128) by Robert Schiller, "As [Egyptologist] Goedicke translates the text, it tells of a people called the Amu (an Egyptian term for Canaanites), among whom was a group of aliens called the shemau (semites?), who had enjoyed special privileges which Hatshepsut had annulled, and had 'disregarded the tasks assigned to them.' After she allowed these 'abominations of the gods' to depart, the 'father of fathers (who Goedicke identifies with the primeval water god Nun) came unexpectedly' and 'the earth swallowed their footsteps.' To Goedicke, this is nothing less than an Egyptian version of the Exodus ..."
In essence, Hatshepsut was claiming both to have driven off unwanted people from Egypt and also to have saved a remnant who would then rapidly repopulate the land (and who were thereby granted sexual license in order to do so). Despite her deliberate and careful emulation of former ruling queens, the status of Hatshepsut as pharaoh was later suppressed.
"The legitimacy of the role of Hatshepsut as a repetition of Queen/Pharaoh Sobeknofru, the 'Queen of the Exodus', was rejected. It was argued that a true Exodus was to occur after a revival of Egyptian culture, as in the Middle Kingdom, and not after a prolonged time of neglect in Egypt. The statues and memory of Hatshepsut were literally buried."
The validity of a queen ruling as pharaoh in Egypt was not denied, however Hatshepsut was judged posthumously to have attempted her coup at the wrong time.
2) The second greatest scandal of ancient Egypt also involved Hatshepsut. The rumored affair of Hatshepsut with her steward Senenmut is given its due by this documentary. It is even suggested that Senenmut could have been the father of Hatshepsut's daughter Nefrure. It has been concluded here that Senenmut was the twin brother of pharaoh Thutmose II and that they were Perez and Zerah of the Genesis account. Senenmut was no commoner and his only fault seems to have been not being able to raise up a son for his dead brother (and for himself) through Hatshepsut.
We can compare Senenmut to Owen Tudor of England. Owen Tudor was something much more than he appears to have been. The difference between him and Senenmut being that he did produce sons by the queen, and ultimately his line was established as the Tudor Dynasty of England.
3) The third scandal presented was the Harem Conspiracy in the reign of Ramses III. This segment featured Susan Redford, author of 'The Harem Conspiracy' and wife of Donald Redford. In her book, Susan Redford states that the fate of Queen Teye, who attempted to replace Ramses III with her own son, is unknown. However, in the documentary Susan Redford states unequivocally that Tiy was burned alive for her role in the assassination attempt. The only explanation she gives is that this was a common punishment for women declared guilty of high crimes during that period.
The Harem Conspiracy is discussed in depth here:
4) The fourth scandal is the looting of the royal burials in the Valley of the Kings. The Mayor of West Thebes, Pawero, is named as the man behind the most serious looting. However, we learned that the true culprits were the pharaohs themselves.
(See especially End Note 2)
5) The last featured scandal is the so-called 'Cocaine Mummies'. The documentary actually downplayed earlier findings of cocaine and tobacco (not to mention hashish) in hair samples of ancient Egyptian mummies. The show expressed a need for further analysis, but did not say that any such testing was planned in the future.
One of the unexpected scandals of the documentary was the absence of Zahi Hawass. He exhibited remarkable restraint by not appearing in this particular special, although I suspect he was somewhere behind the scenes!
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.