Pharaoh and Mummy in the Covid Intermediate Period
By J M Hamilton
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The Covid-Intermediate Period is an enigmatic time about which nothing much has yet been revealed in the archaeological record. The exploits of a well-meaning but rather inept ruler, who is generally just referred as Pharaoh along with his companion Mummy, survive in a series of images which are reproduced here. We don’t know for certain who this Pharaoh was, but there is a small stela fragment which suggests that his name was Red-i heka, which roughly translates as Leg-O Ruler.
Series 2: The Late Covid Kingdom
Pharaoh's cache of the so called 'loo rolls', hidden in a cleft in the hillside, appeared to have taken on a life of its own and come to haunt him.
Pharaoh was a bit put out to find that Mummy's corner shop was selling essentials only. 'What, only bread! No beer, ox and fowl?' he exclaimed. 'I could also do with some alabaster and linen, not to mention all things good and pure.'
'No chance' replied Mummy.
During the time of the great pestilence, when disease roamed the land causing havoc and hardship, Pharaoh and Mummy discovered, too late, the reason they should have followed advice and stayed home. The giant hippo boys in blue were out patrolling and rounding up those who were out on non-essential business.
It became the custom for the citizens to clap the carers. Pharaoh and Mummy join the citizens in giving a great big hand to the NHS. Thank you!
The Egg - a symbol of new life, regeneration, fertility. Pharaoh secretly thought that Mummy had slightly unrealistic expectations in all three of those departments.
Wash your hands! Pharaoh and Mummy, having no proper hands on account of being Lego people, improvised as best they could.
During the time of the great pestilence, there was a shortage of personal protective equipment so Pharaoh began work on a prototype mask. However Mummy had his doubts as to whether the design could be scaled up and whether cost and production time would be prohibitive.
Daily Exercise: Anubis refused to budge. The natural order of things felt so very wrong. 'Surely it should be me leading the way on this walk to The West?' he barked. No one understood.
One day during the Covid-Intermediate period, Pharaoh and Mummy were entertaining themselves by devising royal titles. Stuck for inspiration, they looked around for ideas. 'Son of Re' exclaimed Pharaoh looking at the sun. 'Or how about He of the Sedge and the Bee' said Mummy, somewhat randomly. Hmm, that one will never take off thought Pharaoh.
Spr-mrkt's store had re-stocked and was open again for business. Unfortunately even Pharaoh and Mummy had to join the antisocial-distancing (two cubits) queue which wound its way around the donkey-park.
Pharaoh heard tales of impressive fund raising by an inspiring wise man named Captain Tom. He had a think about this and came up with a plan to run the Heb-Sed course to raise funds for NHS Charities.
Please consider making a small donation to 'NHS Charities Together' by clicking on the link to our Just Giving page.
During the Covid-Intermediate Period, the people sometimes had trouble breathing. Workshops across the land devised ways to help ease the suffering. Today Pharaoh visited Mummy's workshop to see how work on the 'Sweet Breath of Life' stelae was progressing.
For more information on this stela see:
'On the Context and Conception of Two ‘Trademark’ Styles from Late Middle Kingdom Abydos' by Paul Whelan
Sekhmet was furious. 'Just look at the state of my statues' she raged as she unleashed pestilence on the lands. Drastic measures were needed so Pharaoh and Mummy prepared offerings of blood and wine to appease The Mighty One.
Note - no actual animals were harmed in the preparation of this offering.
Pharaoh and Mummy were fortunate during the time of the isolations. They had a palace and beautiful gardens in which to roam. They were quite shocked when they discovered how many citizens were self-isolating in what can only be described as sarcophagus-sized spaces and relying on Spr-Mrkt's home delivery services for sustenance (mainly beer and fish).
At one point during the Covid-Intermediate Period there was such a shortage of protective gowns that Pharaoh issued a decree to start manufacturing and exporting to those in need. Not knowing much about gowns or indeed about protection, the prototype styles Mummy made for inspection, whilst quite chic, did not look very practical. Back to the drawing ostracon Mummy.
Rainbow: a symbol of gratitude and hope. Legend has it that treasure can be found at the end of a rainbow so Pharaoh (in his new clothes) and Mummy set out to investigate. What did they find? Not gold for the treasury but the most valuable of gifts - Life, Prosperity, Health.
Whilst Pharaoh and Mummy were working on well-intentioned but flawed projects, what has Great Royal Wife being doing? GRW, the renowned wise woman, has developed a pestilence testing kit using the superior scenting skills of dogs. The anti-covid canine squad is now ready to be sent out into the land to sniff the people.
Distinguishing between fake news and real news was never easy. Pharaoh fell into an uneasy sleep disturbed by weird reports of men from the sky and the great monuments built by his ancestors. The evening of wine drinking and lotus sniffing with Mummy probably exacerbated the nightmare.
During the Covid-Intermediate Period it was decreed that entertainment venues must close. Some enterprising entertainers devised a way of 'live-steaming' their music to the people. Sailing or rowing along the river, both up-stream and down-stream they brought merriment and joy to the citizens who watched from the riverbank. Pharaoh and Mummy settled down for the evening with a large bowl of fishy crackers to enjoy the novelty.
To escape the doom and gloom, Pharaoh and GRW took a skiff out on the river with plans to enjoy a peaceful picnic. Was this essential travel? Was this allowed? The paparazzi, always after a story, did not think so and interrupted the romantic duo by snapping away.
Unable to socialise, the people spent their days baking. And more baking and yet more baking. Indeed so much baking was done, the resulting grain shortage began to cause problems. Under normal circumstances, workmen would have gone on strike and marched to the Temple to demand sacks of grain. Instead they stayed home and ate bread, and more bread and yet more bread. Even Pharaoh.
In the days before 24 hour news was invented, the populace depended on Pharaoh's daily briefing to find out what may or may not be going on in the country. Pharaoh returned to his duties to update and reassure the people. The number of individuals who actually attended the briefing was not great - and half looked as if the life-force had already drained away. However, the vast majority of the population, not having a clue what was going on lived in happy ignorance and just got on it.
Hippos. Somewhat tricky to understand - on the one hand, creatures of chaos, associated with Seth and quite frankly dangerous. On the other hand, revered for their maternal devotion and associated with Taweret. So on seeing an approaching hippo, Pharaoh and Mummy had to quickly assess the risk - basically was it good hippo or bad hippo? A whole risk assessment industry had grown up to deal with such problems. There were endless papyri with graphs and charts to go through. Time being a bit of an issue here, the dynamic duo relied on gut instinct alone and just scarpered.
Pharaoh learnt that sometimes people took comfort in watching the curious and crazy antics of cats. Mummy rounded up some felines so they could try this cat therapy. Unfortunately these little Bastets were not playing ball, or anything else for that matter.
Masks: With the possibility that mask wearing would be mandatory, Pharaoh assessed the two latest designs. GRW had gone for simple styling, whereas Mummy's cartonnage 'improved nasal protection wrap' or 'inpw' would certainly turn a lot of heads!
It was Pharaoh's turn to do the home schooling today. Working through that scribal classic, 'The Instruction of Dua-Kheti' AKA 'Satire of the trades' he did wonder if a new edition was due and that essential workers should be more valued.
Note: Pharaoh could not be sure these two were true sons of his body as lego children arrive in little packets and just need to be assembled.
During the Great Pestilence of the Covid-Intermediate Period, businesses were closed and many people had no food. Pharaoh opened up the Treasury and, as was the customary ethical behaviour of an official, he sent bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked, cats to the bored and wine to the mothers. Lots of it.
Unable to travel, unable to visit, people needed new ways of communicating so birds of prey were trained to carry messages. Clap-nets, previously used to capture birds, were re-purposed as hubs, providing sustenance and safe haven for the delivery of correspondence. Pharaoh named the system the 'Inter-net bird-mail or b-mail for short.
Needing to test the population for signs of the pestilence, GRW's mobile 'Canine Sniffer Squad' was touring the country sniffing people. Test results were instant: Infected = Dog sits, Negative = Dog ignores. A most impressive system that probably would not be improved upon for 1000's of years. Congratulations on reaching the testing targets GRW!
Because so many workshops and businesses were closed, people were taken out of service until the pestilence had passed. Pharaoh re-deployed the Sem Priest sty-At-hm to oversee the operation. Now this particular priest had a habit of wearing his official furry leopard skin low-slung across his body in a rather jaunty fashion. He soon became known as 'Old Fur-Low' (alt. Furlough) and those workers he decommissioned were therefore Furloughed.
A plan was needed to return the country to normal and to re-establish maat, so Pharaoh and Mummy took a trip to Abydos to meet with Wepwawet.
As 'Opener of the Ways' this ancient canine was chosen by Pharaoh to show the people the way forward, out of lockdown but remaining safe from the lurking pestilence. Wepwawet was not particularly happy with this. He would much rather continue with his usual job of leading processions and such like.
The borders were closed. Pharaoh ordered that no one under any circumstances could enter the country - unless of course they were bringing gold or exotic creatures or cute monkeys or wine etc.
Whilst it was commendable to learn new skills, young Meret's attempts to master the tootie pipes displayed obvious lack of talent and had no merit. She so disturbed the peace of the mountains that Meretseger, 'She who Loves Silence' was awakened. Pharaoh and Mummy tried to appease the goddess with a gift of crocodile dung earplugs. Lovely.
Going stir crazy: This term originated during the Covid-Intermediate Period when GRW was experimenting with remedies for the pestilence - there was much crushing, boiling and stiring of herbs, poppies and lotus sweetened with honey . The concoctions gave off potent hallucinogenic fumes which affected those who took turns to stir. Result - the crazies!
The bad hair day: hairdressers could not work. Up and down the land people suffered from bad hair crises and took to studying self-help images. Results were mixed. Fortunately when Pharaoh had a go at GRW's hair, she was not worried on account of being a plastic person.
Sinuhe had been living in foreign lands and wanted to return home but alas, the borders were closed. He wrote to Pharaoh begging to be allowed into the country and, oh happy day, Pharaoh said yes. This would have been fine if travel boats were allowed to dock. Some were all at sea for weeks.
As Re said nighty-night and dipped below the horizon to begin his perilous journey, Pharaoh and GRW stood beside the river and contemplated the beauty of the world. Re would rise again in the morning and bring forth a new day, a new beginning full of hope and possibilities. There was much to do, for Re had placed Pharaoh in the land of the living for eternity and all time, for creating truth and destroying evil.
The burning question of the day was whether the opening of the mouth ritual would still work when maintaining social distancing? Pharaoh watched anxiously.
Pharaoh was vexed for he had allowed the populace to see his private library through the window of appearance. What did they see? Wisdom texts, stories, medical papyri, hymns to the gods, letters and lists from the Vizier. And, oh no! they also saw his rather racy papyrus and texts by those well known baddies, the rulers of foreign lands. Some of the people jumped up and down in fits of apoplexy - 'not fit to rule' they chanted. But others recognised the concept of 'know thy enemy'!
The R Number: Pharaoh explained to Mummy what this mysterious much quoted formula is all about. You see, the pestilence can be passed about by mouth - by coughs, splutters and general dribble - and as everyone knows, the mouth hieroglyph, when read phonetically is an R. So one coughing mouth can pass the pestilence to say, 3 new mouths = R3.
As the pestilence began to subside, some people were allowed back to work - unfortunately there were concerns that social distancing on the public donkey transport system would be a bit tricky.
Pharaoh was confused about the new social distancing rules - and he invented them. To meet or not to meet; that is the question. He can't meet Mummy and Daddy in the park - but on the other hand he can queue with strangers for hours to buy from spr-mkt's shop. hmmm
With potential pestilence danger everywhere, Pharaoh appointed Hawk Eye Horus as overseer of 'Staying Alert'. Hawk Eye was not entirely sure what this role entailed but he promised to keep both eyes open.
As for the populace, it was a bit more tricky to stay alert as coffee bars had not been invented, nor double expresso macchiatos for that matter.
The vaccine: GRW visited The Lab to work on an amulet to protect against the pestilence. To activate the powerful protective spell, the wearer just needed to give the amulet one kiss.
Note: It is believed that 'wa sn' or 'one kiss' was probably pronounced 'vaccine'.
Some of the populace tried self-medicating with random concoctions cooked up using recipes gleaned from the medical papyri and hearsay. Whilst some may have produced positive results, the whole process was a tad risky - as Mummy found out after knocking back a massive dose of 'mosquito-disease remedy'. Pharaoh hoped the effects would soon wear off!
With the washermen still not working, the river bank was overflowing with dirty clothes. The linen garments worn by the people, including Pharaoh and Mummy were beginning to look a bit mucky. Along with their mad hair this new relaxed look became known as 'lockdown chic'.
At home with Pharaoh and GRW. Today we are treated to a rare insight into how the couple spent their evenings during this difficult period. Puzzles! Pharaoh found a giant puzzle stored away inside a pylon at Karnak. Known as a talatat puzzle, it was an artefact from the period of the heretic, he who cannot be named. Pharaoh spent many a happy hour sorting and sticking the bricks onto a wall.
Return to Scribe School: Teachers were worried about contact with the now feral and potentially infected students so Mummy designed special protective enclosures from which they could safely teach the pupils. These became known as 'Oracles of wisdom'.
Well my friends, thank you for following Pharaoh, GRW and Mummy on their journey through the trials and tribulations of the Covid-Intermediate Period.
We will leave them as the pestilence begins to subside and as Re rises - a new day, new beginnings, a new normal. Perhaps we will visit them again in the near future to see how they are coping in the Late Covid Kingdom........
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Series Two: The Late Covid Kingdom
SERIES THREE: THE SECOND COVID INTERMEDIATE PERIOD