Background Information on Secret of the Prince's Tomb for Parents and Teachers

Q and A

Q: Why didn’t this story talk more about the Great Pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx?

A: Because those structures were built a thousand years before Joseph was born. By the time Joseph entered Egypt, pyramids (tombs of the pharaohs) were built much smaller in size. Also, the Hebrews lived to the north-east of Giza, which was very far away, especially if you had to travel by camel.

Great Pyramid at Giza.

Q: Why did the ancient Egyptians make mummies?

A: To preserve bodies for the afterlife journey. Even poor people dried the bodies of their relatives in the sun. The ancient Egyptians believed a person needed a body to go into the land of the dead.

StelaQ: Where did the word Habiru come from?

A: I heard it first in Focus on the Family’s TrueU DVD series. Presenter Dr. Stephen Meyer spoke about a "stela," which is an ancient commemorative stone or wood monument or clay tablet with writing on it. The Egyptian word Habiru (or Apiru) was etched on it and described people who some scholars believe were the ancient Israelites or Hebrews.

An ancient Egyptian stela of Amenophis III that mentions the Israelites.

Map of EgyptQ: In what Egyptian city did this story take place?

A: The city isn’t named because I wasn’t positive I could accurately identify it. Because the scholarship isn’t definitive about the names of the cities that were in the region at that time, I didn’t use a specific city name. The names of the pharaohs who honored Joseph, enslaved the Hebrews, and spoke with Moses are also disputed by scholars, though conservative academics believe it was Pharaoh Ramesses who enslaved the Hebrews and/or dealt with Moses. Two good choices for cities that Joseph might have lived in include the ancient Egyptian cities of Avaris or Tanis. The Bible says the Hebrews lived in the Land of Goshen (see Genesis 45:10; 46:28–31; 47:27), which is east of the Nile delta. According to Christ Notes online Bible Dictionary, “[The land] lay east of the Nile, and apparently not far from the royal residence.”

Q: The Bible in Exodus 1:11 says the Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses. Why did you depict the Hebrews building canals in Secret of the Prince’s Tomb?

A: This story takes place at the very beginning of the Hebrew’s slavery. It’s plausible that the Hebrews built canals for irrigation since there was not the usual flooding taking place that year. The AIO team chose not to have the Hebrews building the storage cities of Pithom and Rameses because the distance would probably have been too far for Patrick and Beth to travel on foot.

TanisQ: Were there booby-traps in the pyramids and tomb vaults?

A: I wish! I wanted to write in a scene with a large rolling boulder or poison darts or something really dramatic. But according to The Tomb in Ancient Egypt, there were only four main ways the ancient Egyptians tried to prevent tomb raiding. The first was to use heavy, hard stone blocks to encase the tombs and cover up the entryways. The second was to write curses across the entryway to the tomb. The intent of the curse was scare thieves away. The third deterrent was to build the pyramids and tomb vaults far away from the cities so robbers would have a difficult time getting to and from the tombs. The fourth way, which didn’t come into play until long after Joseph was buried, was to use sand hydraulics and fill the tombs with sand. Then any potential tomb robbers would have to dig, dig, dig, to reach the treasures. There were, in fact, some tomb mazes built in the Middle Kingdom. The tomb/vault mazes weren’t always built intentionally, however. Because the ancient Egyptians just added tombs as they needed them and didn’t have a master plan, the passageways often led to dead ends. There was also the danger that the floor might fall through and a worker or a thief would land in another older tomb. In Secret of the Prince’s Tomb, author Marshal Younger came up with the idea to have Patrick fall into a well. There were ceremonial wells in some pyramids and vaults. The wells were used for ceremonial washings. Our tomb vault also had guards. The Tomb in Ancient Egypt tells us: “[T]ombs were given monumental entrances, closed by no more than a sealed door and in full view. In this case, security was in the hands of the guards who were assigned to protect the royal [tomb].”

Source: Aidan Dodbon and Salima Ikram, The Tomb in Ancient Egypt (London: Thames & Hudson, 2008) 45–48.

Necropolis ruins at Tanis.

AnuketQ: Why didn’t you discuss the gods of the ancient Egyptians more in the book?

A: The AIO team chose to write about ancient Egypt because we knew the subject is popular with kids. Ancient Egypt is studied in elementary schools and so kids are curious. Hieroglyphics are fascinating. Tombs are dangerous and exciting. We are thrilled with the cover done by artist David Hohn. I didn’t, however, want to dwell too much on the false gods of Egypt and their mythical powers and bizarre family relationships. Instead the AIO team wanted to focus on the God of the Old Testament and His interactions the Hebrews living in Egypt as was recorded in the books Genesis and Exodus (with a lot of imagination thrown in). It was our goal to help kids picture and empathize with the Hebrews who were surrounded and oppressed by people with a different culture and religion.

The Egyptian goddess of the Nile, Anuket.

Bibliography for Secret of the Prince's Tomb

Bargallo, Eva, Ancient Civilizations: Egypt (Barcelona, Spain: Chelsea House Publishers, 2006) 8–19.


Harris, Geraldine, Ancient Egypt (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2007) 6–7, 62–67.


Hart, George, Ancient Egypt (San Francisco: Time Life Books, 1995), 6–7, 12–17, 26–30.


Hart, George, Eyewitness Books: Ancient Egypt (New York: Knopf, 1990), 40–51.


Lassieur, Allison, The Ancient Egyptians (San Diego: Lucent Books, 2001) 25–26.


Putnam, James, Egyptology: An Introduction to the History, Culture and Art of Ancient Egypt (New York: Crescent Books, 1990) 44–53, 76–77.


Rohl, David M., Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1997) 16–17, 26–61, 91–107, 257, 332, 349, 356.


Strouhal, Eugene, Life of the Ancient Egyptians (University of Oklahoma Press, 1992), 223–233.