Manfred Bietak and his team unearthed the tomb in Avaris in the Northern Hemisphere Spring of 1987, in the southern part of the palace garden at the stratum D/1 level. The superstructure for the tomb measured 12 metres by 7 metres. It was the largest sepulcher found in the Avaris area and the most significant tomb in the garden compound. It was covered by an elegant steeped sided pyramid which had to be removed in order to excavate the stratum below. There are volumes of excavation reports written by Manfred Bietak explaining the details of what was found and numerous articles written summarizing those reports.
For this to be Joseph’s tomb it must meet the following criteria:
1. It must be found in the right historical cultural and geographic context
2. The body cannot still be present in the tomb
3. The body should have been removed with no sign of the tomb being plundered.
4. The tomb should be Egyptian yet there should be evidence of the occupant’s Asiatic heritage.
5. Given his prestige the tomb should be impressive.
All of the above criteria were found when Bietak and his team opened the tomb of Grand Vizier of the Department of the North. The one for whom the tomb had been built was clearly the one who had occupied the palace, who’d been highly regarding in the community. The tomb was found to be almost completely empty. There was no body, no mummy and no grave clothes. The burial chamber had been stripped clean. This accords well with the suspicion that this Grand Vizier was none other than Joseph, son of Jacob. The details discovered track well with the Genesis account of what the Bible records at the end of the Joseph story. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear to do this. He said, "God will certainly come to help you. When He does, you must take my bones with you from this place."(Ex 13:19)
While there was no body left in the tomb of the Grand Vizier, there was something else of huge interest left behind. I teased you at the end of the previous Nugget with the idea of what we might find in Joseph’s closet or wardrobe. Well I must confess it was a ploy on my part to highlight what was found. No, Joseph’s coat of many colours was not found. But those who opened up the tomb made a rather amazing discovery. They found a substantial number of lumps of white limestone. These broken blocks of white limestone were the remains of a large seated statue. The statue was clearly of the owner of the tomb. The neck and shoulders of the statue of the owner remain. The statue head was lying separate from the body and there had been an attempt to cleave it in two. There were scars remaining from a series of violent blows to the crown of the head. The face had been disfigured, the nose smashed and the inlaid eyes gouged out.
The Vizier’s face is painted in pale ochre which is the standard pigment the Egyptians used to depict foreigners of the Levant or Palestine. His features are Asiatic but he had no beard; he was clean shaven as all Egyptians. The hair is flame red and fashioned in a mushroom shape. Across his right breast the Grand Vizier holds a “throw-stick”, which represents the Egyptian symbol for a foreigner. The statue of the Grand Vizier is one of a Syrian or Palestinian but who has been completely integrated into Egyptian culture. The body is wrapped in a coat of many colours. The coat consists of red and blue geometric patterns of stripes and rectangles trimmed with black and white. It is very similar to the costumes worn by the Asiatics in the tomb of Khnumhotep at Beni Hasan.
Manfred Bietak and his team have not found Joseph’s coat of many colours. If you know your Bible well, you will know that Joseph’s coat was dipped in goat’s blood and then taken to show Israel as “proof” of his death. But perhaps they have found the next best thing – a statue of Joseph wearing a coat of many colours. That the Pharaoh allowed such a statue of someone who was not native Egyptian to be crafted is astonishing. And furthermore, to entomb the Grand Vizier beneath an Egyptian pyramid is quite remarkable and only goes to show the esteem the Egyptians had for Joseph.
David Rohl theorizes that the statue had been disfigured by the townsfolk after the Israelites left. Upset at the fact that their esteemed Grand Vizier has departed from them, they took their anger out on the statue of Joseph that was left behind.
However we may piece the evidence together, what is hard to deny is that all the pieces fit. The evidence found in the time frame which matches Rohl’s New Chronology in the exact ,geographical location required, in sequence with all of the other Joseph evidence.
I agree with Rohl and Bietak. We have found Joseph in his Egyptian setting.