29 March 2011

Crime & Law Enforcement: Tomb Robbing

By: Jean Adams

The story of Amenpenefer is a truly sad tale. He was, for his sins, a tomb robber, along with a gang of others. A heinous crime in ancient Egypt, because not only was it a crime against the king and the state, it robbed the dead of their amulets needed for protection in the afterlife.

The robbers knew that if they were caught, punishment would be swift and harsh, so presumably they felt robbing tombs worth the risk.

Amenpenefer was a stonemason. He was arrested and held in the offices of the Mayor of Thebes, alone accused of tomb robbery. He managed to bribe the chief of police with gold, and was quietly released.

But he inadvertently became embroiled in a political struggle between two rival officials and his fate was sealed.

The very policeman he’d bribed, a friend of one of the two officials, arrested him for tomb robbery. Questioned (beaten) until he had confessed everything, after 7 days he was dragged to the high court, scene of the biggest political scandal in ancient Egypt.

The political struggle escalated and Amenpenefer’s trial was to become the scene of a political scandal that rocked Thebes, the then religious capital Egypt, between two of the most powerful men.

Fall guy Amenpenefer knew he would die anyway. He had nothing to lose, so he decided to take the others down with him. He named everyone in the tomb-robbing ring, including one of the two officials and the chief of police. The group also included tomb builders, a doctor, priests, slaves, fishermen, and scribes, among many others.

More than 45 people were arrested and tortured, and after confessing, brought to trial.

Amenpenefer was put to death, impaled on a wooden spike and left in the desert to die. But the account of his trial survives to this day.

Jean Adams' latest contemporary romance, YESTERDAY'S DREAMS, is due out soon from The Wild Rose Press. It is the first in a two-book series set in the New Zealand seaside town of Patiki Bay. Her trilogy set in ancient Egypt is a work in progress, but her time travel Egyptian romance, ETERNAL HEARTS, is available now in print from Highland Press.