Hershel Shanks

A MODEL FOR JOSEPH? In 1993–1994 a team of French archaeologists led by Dr. Alain Zivie, Director of Research at the French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS), opened a hidden chamber in the tomb of Aper-El at Saqqara (for more about Saqqara, see sidebar). Aper-El was a vizier, second-in-command to pharaoh, in the 14th century B.C.E. whose name appears to be of Semitic origin (equivalent to Hebrew Abed-El, “Servant of God”). Does this provide a historical model for the Biblical Joseph’s rise to power in pharaoh’s court? According to Hawass, it’s a possible option. “If the Israelites lived with the Egyptians—and they did live in peace together … someone could be trusted by the king and rise to this position.” In the tomb’s inner chamber, Aper-El is depicted three times: in a relief that looks straight out the doorway, on one side wearing a wig (shown here) and on the other side with a shaved head, as was customary for a vizier.