Jan 14, 2007
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.
A statue of an Egyptian triad of gods was found in an abandoned archaeological site in 1713 and has been firmly dated to the 18th Egyptian dynasty, dating back to 1550-1292 BC.
This period is known as the New Kingdom and is the most famous of all the dynasties of ancient Egypt. Tutankhamun, one of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs, reigned during this time.
The statue was documented by the renowned East German Egyptologist Carl Lepsius, who stopped in Malta in 1842 en route to Egypt. Similar triads have been found in Cairo and Thebes in Egypt.
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).
Dr Mifsud and Ms Farrugia state that an array of other Egyptian artefacts were found in Malta: A number of faience beads were excavated in the Tarxien temples and were confirmed as deriving from the 18th Egyptian Dynasty (circa 1550-1295 BC).
"Just as the Phoenicians were implicated in the importation to Malta of Egyptian artefacts during the late first millennium BC, other intermediaries might have been involved during the 12th and 18th Egyptian Dynasties.
"At this time the Minoans of Crete and the Mycenaeans of the Greek mainland were well known as active seafarers in the Eastern Mediterranean basin," Dr Mifsud and Ms Farrugia argue.
There is also evidence of Egyptian vessels making it to Malta in the prehistoric graffiti on two fixed limestone slabs in the Tarxien Neolithic temples.
"Though it was possible that the Mycenaeans acted as intermediaries in the transfer of ancient Egyptian artefacts to Malta, it is just as probable that the ancient Egyptians themselves were responsible for bringing their own artefacts to the Maltese islands during the Middle and New Kingdoms," Dr Mifsud and Ms Farrugia conclude.