In these trying times, have you ever wished there was a god of knowledge we could turn to for answers to the many difficult questions facing us, our children, our leaders and especially the people working on making smartphone batteries last longer? Archeologists in Egypt may not have found that god … yet … but they’ve uncovered the tomb of one of his high priests which may have some clues as to how to contact him.
This particular archeological project began in late 2017 at a newly-discovered necropolis near the city of Minya, south of Cairo. The underground tomb complex contains numerous burial shafts, each containing mummified remains, funeral objects and other artifacts from around 300 BCE, putting them in the late Pharaonic to early Ptolomaic periods. Antiquities Minister Kaled el-Enany gives an idea of the size of the project.
"We will need at least five years to work on the necropolis. This is only the beginning of a new discovery."
If they’re looking for some ‘knowledge’ to help with the dig, perhaps a good place to start is in the tomb of Djehuty-Irdy-Es. Canopic jars in one tomb have hieroglyphics identifying the mummified remains inside them as the former body parts and organs of this priest whom the writings call "One of the Great Five." That’s a title given only to the most senior of priest serving the Egyptian god of knowledge – Thoth.
While Thoth’s name may not ring a bell, his face would … with his beak. The god is usually depicted having the head and long bill of an African sacred ibis, although it’s sometimes replaced with the head of a baboon – still sacred but not as sexy. Thoth had a lot to do, even for a god. He was responsible for maintaining the universe, standing beside Ra’s boat as it hauled the sun across the sky every day, judging the dead and settling disputes between the other gods. Along with those heavy tasks, he still found time to invent alchemy, magic and writing, which made him the founder of all literature, art, science, mathematics, astronomy and medicine.
With his connection to writing, ancient Egyptian scribes called themselves “followers of Thoth” and imagined the baboon-headed version of him supervising them at work. His priests, like Djehuty-Irdy-Es in the tomb, ran the ‘houses’ of knowledge and were responsible for the “The Book of Thoth”, which was said to be 42 papyrus scrolls covering all knowledge of the time. Unfortunately, no copies remain – one was said to have been lost in the 4th century CE fire that destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria.
Will any information on the Book of Thoth be found in the tomb of Djehuty-Irdy-Es? It’s possible. His canopic jars and the sarcophagi which are believed to contain remains of 40 of his family members are covered in hieroglyphic writings. And, as the Antiquities Minister pointed out, there’s five years worth of tunnels to explore and 1,000 statues and countless other artifacts to analyze.
What are they waiting for? We need that Book of Thoth’s knowledge NOW!