Friday, July 11, 2008

The Golden Plates of Mycerinus

There is a footnote on page 15 of The Book of the Dead, as translated by E. A. Wallis Budge (copyright 1960 by University Books, Inc.), which has stirred a variety of emotions in me over the years, since Hugh Nibley first brought it to my attention. I do not know if the passage is credible; I have not found anything to corroborate it; I have not read anything that disputes it. Here is the account:

"The Arabic writer Idrisi, who wrote about A.H. 623 (A.D. 1226), states that a few years ago the "Red Pyramid," i.e., that of Mycerinus, was opened on the north side. After passing through various passages, a room was reached wherein was found a long blue vessel, quite empty. The opening into this pyramid was effected by people in search of treasure; they worked at it with axes for six months, and they in great numbers. They found in this basin, after they had broken the covering of it, the decayed remains of a man, but no treasure, excepting some golden tablets inscribed with characters of a language which nobody could understand. Each man's share of these tablets amounted to 100 dinars."

If this account is accurate, can you imagine what treasures of truth may have been etched onto those plates of gold! Mycerinus is the Greek name of the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Menkaure, the builder of the smaller of the three great pyramids on the Gizeh plateau. It is believed that he ruled for 18 years, beginning in 2490 BC. I think that is about 200 years too early, but that's for another article. Nonetheless, Menkaure would have been alive during the days of Noah. I don't think it is beyond reason to believe that copies of the uncorrupted scriptures, preserved by the patriarch Noah, were carried down into Egypt by Menkaure's Hamitic ancestors. He may have possessed them. However, I don't know what was written on the plates. I have wondered what kind of literature would be considered so valuable as to be inscribed on plates of gold and laid up in the Pharaoh's tomb. I wish leaden plates had been used instead. Perhaps then, the temptation to exploit them for their metallic value would not have been so irresistable. I read history and wrestle with 'what might have beens.'