A farmer in Egypt stumbled across a find of Biblical proportions: an Astone tablet, or 'stele', dating back 2,600 years to the reign of a pharaoh mentioned in the Old Testament who was later strangled to death by his own subjects.
Standing about 91 inches tall and 41 inches wide, the sandstone slab was found earlier this month by a farmer tilling his land in the Ismailia Governate, about 60 miles northeast of Cairo.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, said in a statement that the stele appears to be related to a military campaign east of Egypt led by Apries, a pharaoh who reigned between 589 and 570 BC.
Stelae were used from the Old Kingdom to Roman times by the ancient Egyptians. Stela (pl. stelae) is a Latin word derived from the Greek stele, which means pillar or vertical tablet. They are known as the stone books from ancient Egypt as they were generally set up in pairs. pic.twitter.com/tfy1pBKIw5— Ma’at (@surimana16) April 14, 2020
At the top of the tablet is a carving of a winged sun disk, possibly associated with the Egyptian sun god Ra, with a representation of Apries and 15 lines of hieroglyphic writing below.
Archaeologists in Egypt are now working to translate the stele’s hieroglyphics.
Apries became pharaoh after the death of his father, Psamtik II, in 589 BC.
The fourth ruler in the 26th dynasty, he was also known as 'Wahibre Haaibre' and is identified in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah as 'Hophra.'
But his reign was marred by internal strife and military failures—his aid to King Zedekiah of Judah proved ineffective and, following a brutal 18-month siege, the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem just a few years into Apries’ reign and destroyed the First Temple.
It’s unclear if the military campaign Waziri referenced was the unsuccessful defense of Jerusalem or another battle.
The city’s destruction was followed by a mutiny among the military and a disastrous military defeat by the Greeks in Libya, prompting a civil war.
Many Egyptians threw their support behind general Amasis II, who had himself declared pharaoh in 570 BC.
Some historians believe Apries was killed in battle trying to reclaim the throne from Amasis.
But Greek writer Herodotus, often called the ‘father of history,’ suggested an alternative fate for the failed king: in his text Inquiries, written nearly a century after the fact, Herodotus claimed Apries made it back to Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt, whereupon his vengeful former subjects strangled him to death and buried him with his father.
Apries ruled during Egypt’s Late Period, which lasted from roughly 664 to 332 BC.
It saw the end of Egypt as an independent empire after the conquest of Alexander the Great and the installation of the Ptolemaic dynasty from Macedonian Greece, starting the age of Hellenistic Egypt.
Most of what historians know about Apries comes from references by Herodotus and the Old Testament, with only a few relics from his rule ever uncovered.
An obelisk which Apries erected at Sais was moved to Rome by Diocletian in the 3rd century and now sits outside the Santa Maria sopra Minerva basilica church.
A bust of Apries and a sphinx with his face on it are housed in the Louvre in Paris.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.