Joseph of Biblical Times: Archeologists Seek Ancient Famine Evidence

Part 9: Christiane Amanpour and her son take a hot air balloon ride over Egypt's ancient lands.
6:16 | 12/21/12

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Transcript for Joseph of Biblical Times: Archeologists Seek Ancient Famine Evidence
Egypt, land of the phaohs, home to one of the world's greatest civilizations, a kingdom that dominated this vast region for 3,000 years. At the same moment as the stories of the bible. The egyptian landscape is littered with the remains of its ancient past in dusting off these ruins, archaeologists have foun treasure trove of clues about the empire's captivating culture and about the truth behind the stories of the bible. The question really is how much historical information is in the bible, story behind the story is what we archaeologists are trying to get at. Mommy, can I get your entrance? My son darius and I journey to egypt to see what, if anything, about joseph is grounded in fact. We decided to start our search with a bird's-eye view. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh, I can't believe it. Ancient ruins practically hit you in the face. What's truly stunning is the impact of water. So, here you can see absolutely clearly what water does the whole of egyptian civilization, the stories of the bible, everything revolves around water. Not just any water, great waterway that is the river nile. Crops, transportation, riches, the mighty egyptian empire would not have been powerful. East and west bank fertile, green as far as the eye can sea until you hit the desert. There is life and frankly, death. The bible has an enormous concern for natural resources but what happens when get into history is history is chaotic. We find famine, we find flood, we find plague. How do we understand life when the ground won't yield? Or our children are flooded out of their homes? The bible allows us to raise those questions. And the story of joseph answers one of those questions. He interpreted the pharaoh's dream that a great famine would sweep the land. Indeed, joseph in egypt is able to predict a cycle of famine and prepare for it during the cycle of plenty. The nile's ability to provide for humanity is as abundant now as it was in biblical times. Today, 95% of egypt's population of 80 million people lives along its banks. This is what you can see from space at night. Lights show life clinging to the desert plenty of reasons for the israelites to venture into egypt from the vast surrounding deserts where they lived. We do know in early times but 2000 b.C. People from southern parts of modern israel would be crossing the sinai with their herd and residing in the eastern delta, which is the area called goshen in the bible. They came for the water and they came for the trade. But they also came against their will. We saw etchings and heiroglyp heiroglyphics showing e conquests and a flour ishg slave trade that may have brought joseph here after his brothers sold him. You see the pharaoh here, ramses himself, you notice that people are under his feet. Now we're at the temple of luxor, magnificent ruins that date back before the time of a great pharaoh called ramses. Would any of these sbrn israelites? Some were from the area of what would be southern israel today or sinai. So, if there is evidence of israelites in bondage here about the time of joseph's story, what about evidence of his rise from lowly slave to the pharaoh's right-hand man? The story in the bible of a cana canaanite boy who is in salavely and rise toz prime minister sounds fantastic but it's not, the story of joseph fits in egypt in 1500 b.C. There is evidence of the egyptian empire starting to weaken when the pharaoh couldn't control every last corner of his vast empire and a group of newcomers from the east was able to gain some power. That story despite the miraculous elements is probably grounded in fuel events. What about that special gift of joseph's that enraged his brothers so much and impressed the pharaoh joseph attracted the attention of the pharaoh because of his talent in interpreting dreams and in fact, he even interpreted the pharaoh's dreams and just as they are today, dreams were incredibly important to ancient egyptians as well and we know that because of e sphinx and what is between his feet. He had a divine right to rule, and indicates that is important as well -- the writer or whoever composed the joseph story, knew an egypt of the 7th through 4th century b.C. And clues about joseph's famous many colored coat can be seen in these carvings. You see people from canaan coming as traders and the egyptians with fascinated by them because their clothing, which reminds us of the coat of many colors in the joseph story, were painted with the most care. These ruins help build a clearer picture of joseph's time, even if they don't prove that joseph ever lived. They also set the stage for a dramatic struggle against the mighty egyptian empire, the bible's greatest story of the fight for freedom.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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