At the appointed time, the crew gathered in front of the Temple of Hathor complex. Discovered five years ago by Her Very Specialness, the temple complex was an architectural ode to the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor. During it’s heyday, this Western Desert Hathor complex may have even rivaled its more famous Nilotic counterpart in Dendera. It covered 45,000 square meters and was surrounded by what was left of a largely eroded mud brick wall. Within the walled enclosure there were currently two main research activities: the main temple that Omar was excavating, and the cemetery complex that Boernwhore and his team were working on. In addition, there was a secondary temple, the remains of a sacred lake, a large number of shrines, and a number of other structures all of which had yet to be properly surveyed, though their forms were clearly visible from preliminary multi-sensor airborne remote sensing and ground penetrating geo-physical data surveys.
Cameras rolling, Her Very Specialness began to speak. “We are here to take you on a tour of one of Egypt’s most exciting archaeological treasures. You see before you the unique Temple of Hathor complex in the Kharga Oasis in Egypt’s mysterious Western Desert, which is also known as the Libyan Desert. My good friend and colleague Dr. Jesse Sublime has joined me all the way from Canada to discuss the important research that I have conducted over the past five years on this great site, and I am very happy to have this opportunity to tell the story of my groundbreaking scientific work.”
Turning to Jesse, Dr. Hamama continued. “Dr. Sublime, you may not know this, but Hathor had more roles and took on more non-human forms than any other Ancient Egyptian deity. She was amongst other things the celestial, sun, and moon goddess, the goddess of women, love, sex, fertility, children, childbirth, music, musical instruments, beauty, cosmetics, precious stones and metals, perfume and incense, particularly myrrh, cheerfulness, dance, destruction, alcohol, drunkenness, east, west, moisture, agriculture, death, the underworld… and the list goes on. She is generally depicted as a cow, as a woman with the head of a cow, or as a woman who wears a head-dress with the stylized cow-horns holding the solar disk. Ancient Egyptians, my direct ancestors, made pilgrimages to Temples of Hathor where various physiological, psychological and magical therapies could be obtained; to have their dreams interpreted, and to invoke Hathor’s protection for children, during pregnancy, and for healing.
“Based on evidence of earlier cow deities with which she was identified, it is possible that Hathor worship may have had pre-dynastic roots. The earliest known and dated temples to Hathor were built throughout the Egyptian empire at least by the 4th Dynasty, 4600 years ago. Hathor was widely worshipped throughout the Egyptian empire and its interaction sphere.
Biblical and archaeological evidence suggest that Asherah, one of Hathor’s many names, may have also been the consort of the Israelite god Yahweh. When Moses ordered the destruction of Hathor’s likeness, the Golden Calf, and killed 3000 of her followers, he effectively began the single male-centric god worship dominant today. Hathor was one busy, long-lived and long-loved goddess.
“Within Egypt, the last temple to Hathor, on the Isle of Philae, was officially closed down in the 6th century A.D. by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. Having been a deity for so long may in part explain why she had so many roles throughout her godessly tenure.
“Many of the natives of the western desert oasis are from a tribe known as the Beja and speak a Cushitic language that is the closest living language to Ancient Egyptian, in the 70% range. They are Egypt’s oldest living cultural link to the past and believed to be of Hamitic origin, direct descents of Cush, son of the biblical Noah’s son Ham. In Ancient Egypt, the Beja were known as the Ta-Seti, and can be traced back to early dynastic periods when Egypt covered what is today known as Egypt and Sudan. They believe they are the descendants of a Lioness deity, probably Sekhmet, a rather unpleasant bloodthirsty aspect of Hathor, and a human consort.
“A matrilineal society, the Beja come from a long line of strong and fearsome queens whose empire was in Nubia-Sudan. The Beja continued to worshiped Isis, another aspect of Hathor, at Philae until it was closed down, converted to Christianity in the 6th century and then Islam in the 13th century; however, many Beja worshiped a pantheon of ancient Egyptian deities well into the 19th century, until its extermination during Ottoman times.
“Even today, the Beja practice “folk Islam”, a blend of Islamic and traditional beliefs, and the Beja women have great independence in marriage, divorce and relationships in general. For example, ethnohistorians noted that among some of the Beja tribes there is a “fourth day free” custom in which women are only considered married for so many days a week, forming what relationships they please on their days off from their marriage!
“I believe that Hathor’s influence may have spread beyond Ancient Egypt’s borders to other parts of the Mediterranean, North Africa and maybe even India, because her symbols, such as the solar disc, the cow, the papyrus reed, the snake, the mirror and a sistrum rattle show up throughout the region. Her influence is still evident in some cultural practices such as the use of the sistrum rattle in Coptic and Ethiopian Christian religious ceremonies.
Jesse, being well-scripted, asked. “Dr. Hamama, how did you find this stunning Hathor complex here in the remote Kharga Oasis?”
“Ahhh – that is a very interesting question. I am glad that you asked it. I discovered this site five years ago while going over the most recent remote sensing data for all the Western Desert oases. When I saw this outlines of these walls under the sand, I could not believe that I had missed a site of this magnitude on my earlier surveys.
“I pulled out the older images that I had used to develop the preliminary archaeological maps of the region – to see how I could have missed it. It was unbelievable! The older air photo images, which had been taken ten years earlier, showed that the complex was completely covered by a 20 meter high, crescent-shaped mega barchan sand dune field. Based on some preliminary optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating results, it looks like the site may have been buried for the last 1500 years – until just a few years ago. The shifting sands of Egypt had revealed it to me, Dr. Noora Hamama, again at last.
“I believe that the sand dunes migrated away from the site seven years ago during the worst harmattan wind storm in recorded history. Up to three centimeters of Saharan dust fell as far away as parts South America during this exceptionally dry, easterly wind storm. We have been seeing more and more of these super sand storms in recent years. Egyptian scientists attribute this increase in sand storm intensity to a natural drying cycle which real scientists like myself call an inter-pluvial.
“These dry periods are primarily caused by various climate cycles, such as the 23,000 year Milankovitch cycle – Earth’s movements around the sun – and smaller scale climatic cycles such as the very important Bond Cycle – a global 1500 year climate cycle – and other shorter solar cycles. In addition to naturally occurring climate cycles, Earth surface feedback processes and most importantly greenhouse gas warming caused by western countries’ fossil fuel burning, which is causing catastrophic changes to Egypt.” Dr. Hamama paused, spread her hands expansively at the desiccated landscape and loudly sighed, sadly shaking her head and gently rolling her eyes at the excesses of the western world.
“But 1500 years ago, for as far as the eye can see, this area had once been home to the goddess of love and beauty.”
“Let’s go for a walk around the complex.” They first stopped at the Hathor temple excavation. The camera panned the archaeological work site, the anointed locals and researchers expertly playing their roles as instructed. It had been decided to not visit the cemetery, as digging up the dead was currently a politically charged issue in Egypt.
As they walked away from the Temple, Dr. Hamama kept scanning the landscape. She stopped at a mud brick wall that was clearly part of a much larger complex made of hand hewn and carved stone blocks.
“Dr. Sublime, my hands are trembling – I am sure that there is something extremely important behind this wall. You see how this part of the wall is clearly more recent than the rest? It almost looks like an opening that was re-bricked up in ancient times,” Dr. Hamama said, while making a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner of the wattle and daub wall with her signature golden-colored Marshalltown trowel that she always had in her hand during photo shoots.
Along with Dr. Hamama, the camera peered into the small opening. Darkness and black space. She then inserted an iron testing-rod that had been given to her by one of her adoring HaMaMa-ites, demonstrating that whatever else lay beyond, there was a large cavity. In a modernized cinematic version of Howard Carter’s opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, she pulled out a candle and a glistening gold Ligne 2 Champagne lighter from her turquoise Birkin bag and held it into the chipped-out opening as a precaution against possible noxious gases – a show of theatrics from a day gone by that still had its utility. Then she widened the hole a bit more with a pink pick-axe, the wattle and daub easily giving way.
Dr. Hamama inserted a flashlight that Ahmad had handed her. She and the eye of the camera peered into the opening. Jesse Sublime, Archie MacPrestidigitator, Ahmed and three local children stood anxiously beside her, waiting with audibly abated breath to hear her verdict. As would later be reported to the press, at first she could see nothing, but as her eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mists of time. Dr. Noora Hamama had just discovered what appeared to be a library full of scrolls and what looked to be wooden-paged books.
For a moment, an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by, Dr. Hamama was struck dumb with amazement, and when Dr. Sublime, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, “Can you see anything?” It appeared to take all she had to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.” Like everything else she had ever “discovered,” she had just expropriated and nationalized Howard Carter’s famous words for a new generation.
The opening was photographed and documented. The cameras were turned off while Ahmad enlarged the opening and cleaned up the worksite, revealing the library. The camera’s eye resumed it’s scan. All the walls held recesses that held cupboards and shelves that were laden with scrolls, wooden books and large jars stuffed with more scrolls. Many, but not all, of the wood and mud-brick shelves had given way and the floor was littered with ancient volumes and debris from collapsed shelves. As Dr. Hamama and the camera spent time looking at the room and its contents, she noticed openings on two of the walls. She gingerly made her way to one and saw that it led to another room that contained more ancient texts and had additional openings. As had been agreed, she did not venture into them, only pointing them out for the camera, to make it clear that they were also part of her discovery.
Dr. Hamama bent down, the camera lens following what her eyes saw. On the floor was an absolutely exquisite carved and painted ebony box. The edges of the box were nailed shut with what appeared to be steel bands that encircled the box on all four edges. With the exception of a covering of dust the box looked like it had just been made, even the steel had not rusted in the dry desert conditions. She bent down, and using a fine brush, gently dusted the top of the box so she could read the inscription. She began to translate the hieroglyphic text to English.
“…Homage to you, Cow of Gold… The Beautiful, with Numerous Colors, the Only One in the Sky… Your Eyes Reach Kush, you are The Great Lady of Punt, The Lady of Byblos, Qadesh Beloved of Ptah, Asherah Consort of Yahweh as the Queen of Heaven, Elath Consort of El Mother of Baal, The Eye Of Re, Lady of the West, Baalat, The Mistress of Heaven, The Lady of the Stars, She With Two Faces, Mehturt, The Gold that is Hathor, Lady of the Sycamore, Mistress of Jubilation, the Queen of the Dance, the Mistress of Music, the Queen of the Harp Playing, Hathor-Aphrodite-Urania, al-Uzza, Ishtar, The Lady of the Choral Dance, the Queen of Wreath Weaving, the Mistress of Inebriety Without End, Goddess of Vegetation, In.Anna, The Golden One…. You illuminate the Two Lands with the Rays of Your Eye… Herein lies the true story of Hathor’s Coordinated Proceedings on Chaos and the Associated Binding Blood Contract Made Between the Gods to Prevent its Occurrence.” Her Very Specialness looked into the camera, gobsmacked.
Dr. Hamama momentarily lost her composure. “Dr. Sublime, this is no ordinary find”. Hamama purred, waiving her particularly lovely arms expansively to encompass the room. “I think this discovery may be the most important ever made in archaeological history. The knowledge that is contained in this library will change the world!”
Carefully, without disturbing anything, she and the crew carefully backed out of the room, surrounded by dutifully adoring locals and spellbound academics. Cheers, and chants of HaMaMa, HaMaMa… could be heard in the background.
[Continue reading: Chapter 7]