Deir el Medina
In the Western world the cobra rarely inspires sentiments of benevolence, warmth or good intentions. It is not a cuddly beast. Matters were more ambivalent in ancient Egypt where a range of wild animals were identified with deities imbued with admired values of physical strength, protection and courage, as well as less obviously admirable qualities like aggression, retribution, vengeance and retaliation. Like Sobek, the crocodile deity, and Sekhmet the lioness, the cobra deities comprised a mixture of attributes that centred on their fierce ability to defend themselves and to strike, hissing and spitting poison, to annihilate their aggressors.
In Judgement of the Pharaohs Tyldesley has tackled a subject that challenges the populist view of Ancient Egypt as a perfect world untroubled by social problems. Tyldesley begins by explaining how she described the idea for her new book to a colleague who said “Crime and punishment in ancient Egypt – surely there wasn’t any?” If an archaeological colleague was so quick to question that perfection of the Egyptian idyll, it is just as well that Tyldesley begins by assuring the reader that there was plenty of crime to be punished.
Edition - January, 2012
In Joyce Tyldesley’s Judgment of the Pharaohs, Tyldesley makes several references to an individual at Deir el-Medineh named Paneb, whom she describes evocatively as “the all round bad guy” (2000, p.127). In this short article, I have brought together some of the misdemeanours outlined in a letter known as Papyrus Salt 124 (BM 10055) for a closer look at this colourful character.