Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Address to the Mummy in Belzoni's Exhibition

And thou hast walked about (how strange a story!)
In Thebes' streets three thousand years ago,
When the Memnonium was in all its glory'
And time had not begun to overthrow
Those temples, palaces, and piles stupendous,
Of which the very ruins are tremendous!

Speak! for thou long enough hast acted dummy;
Thou hast a tongue, come, let us hear its tune;
Thou'rt standing on thy legs above ground, mummy!
Revisiting the glimpses of the moon.
Not like thin ghosts or disembodied creatures,
But with thy bones and flesh, and limbs and features

Tell us - for doubtless thou canst recollect -
To whom should we assign the Sphinx's fame?
Was Cheops or Cephrenes architect
Of either pyramid that bears his name?
Is Pompey's pillar really a misnomer?
Had Thebes a hundred gates, as sung by Homer?

Perhaps thou wert a mason, and forbidden
By oath to tell the secret of thy trade,-
Then say, what secret melody was hidden
In Memnon's statue, which at sunrise played?
Perhaps thou wert a priest,- if so, my struggles
Are vain, for priestcraft never owns its juggles.

Perchance that very hand, now pinioned flat,
Has hob-a-nobbed with Pharaoh, glass to glass;
Or dropped a halfpenny in Homer's hat,
Or doffed thine own to let Queen Dido pass,
Or held, by Solomon's own invitation,
A torch at the great Temples dedication.

I need not ask thee if that hand, when armed,
Has any Roman soldier mauled and knuckled,
For thou wert dead, and buried, and embalmed,
Ere Romulos and Remus had been suckled:
Antiquity appears to have begun
Long after thy primeval race was run.

Thou couldst develop, if that withered tongue
Might tell us what those slightest orbs have seen,
How the world looked when it was fresh and young,
And the great deluge still had left it green;
Or was it then so old, that history's pages
Contained no record of its early ages?

Still silent, incommunicative elf !
Art sworn to secrecy? then keeps thy vows;
But prithee tell us something of thyself;
reveal the secrets of thy prison house;
Since in the world of  spirits thou hast slumbered,
What hast thou seen,- what strange adventures numbered?

Since first thy form was in this box extended,
We have, above ground, seen some strange mutations;
The Roman empire has begun and ended,
New worlds have risen, - we have lost old nations,
And countless kings have in dust been humbled,
Whilst not a fragment of thy flesh has crumbled.

Didst thou not hear the pother o'er thy head,
When the great Persian conqueror, Cambyses,
Marched armies o'er thy tomb with thundering tread,
O'erthrew Osiris, Orus, Apis, Isis,
And shook the pyramids with fear and wonder,
When the gigantic Memnon fell asunder?

If the tomb's secrets may not be confessed,
The nature of thy private life unfold:
A heart has throbbed beneath that leatheren breast,
And tears adown that dusky cheek have rolled:
Have children climbed those knees, and kissed that face?
What was thy name and station, age and race?

Statue of flesh, - immortal of the dead!
Imperishable type of evanescence!
Pasthumous man, who quittest thy narrow bed,
And standest undecayed in our presence,
Thou wilt here nothing until the judgment morning,
When the great trump shall thrill thee with its warning.

Why should this worthless tegument endure,
If its undying guest be lost forever?
O' let us keep the soul embalmed and pure
In living virtue, that, when both must sever,
Although corruption may our frame consume,
The immortal spirits in the sky may bloom.

Horace Smith

The Universal Anthology, Edited by Richard Garnett, The Clarke Company Limited, London. 1899

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ramses II and His Time

Immanuel Velikovsky
Doubleday & Company, Inc.
United States
First Edition
ISBN : 0-385-03394-x

Here we have another edition of Immanuel Velikovsky's 'Ages of Chaos' series. The series was very entertaining and controversial and still is. In the introduction, the author lays forth the breadth of this book in which he will attempt to identify three Dynasty XIX pharaohs including Ramses II with pharaohs of Dynasty XXVI.

The book opens with the famous battle of Kadesh which Ramses II claimed in a number of temples he had been glorious in victory when the reality was the world's oldest known peace treaty saved the day. The location of ancient Kadesh could be any number of sites along the Orontes or Euphrates rivers. The authors theory is that King Necho of Dynasty XXVI is, in fact, Ramses the great, though historically the two kings reigns are separated by 700 years.

From the start, I can see that this book will not appeal to a younger reader as it has few pictures and quotes passages from among other sources the Bible. Mr. Velikovsky's tale moves onto Ramses II and his battles with Nebuchadnezzar.

     'And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.'

                                                                                                                                                                          II Kings 24:7

The authors theory is enormously complicated especially as the kings in the sources whether Egyptian, Babylonian, Hittite, Phrygian or any number of kingdoms occupying the Middle East and Mesopotamia histories have multiple names for each including five for the Egyptian king alone. The reader is presented, or burdened with documentary sources often fragmented and or telling what appear to be related events which have historically been dated hundreds of years apart. This includes removing the seven centuries that chronologically now exist between Ramses II in the thirteenth century BC and Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century BC.

Every few dozen pages a couple pages of black and white pictures are presented usually representing reliefs, stelae, and related material which for the most add little to Mr. Velikovsky's points. The tomb of King Ahiram found at Byblos contained Hebrew inscriptions in Phoenician letters warning intruders at the bottom of the shaft to his tomb and on the lid of his sarcophagus against intrusion. The violated tomb also contained two damaged vases bearing cartouches with the names of Ramses II.

The archaeological descriptions while interesting have not lessened the confusion of the authors theory being put forward thus far.

     'Then something happened of which they had not dreamed. Out of a steep slope facing a riverbed beneath the ancient ruins of Boghazkoi crept tablets inscribed with cuneiform signs.' 'In three weeks excavating with the help of the peasants and without taking  proper precautions, they hurriedly carried from the slope two thousand five hundred tablets and fragments.' 'The next year (1907) thousands more tablets and fragments were carried from the slope in Boghazkoi, raising the number to about ten thousand.'

The question of accession of the line of Babylonian kings presents again challenges as according to Mr. Velikovsky and his points Nebuchadnezzar rewrote his history eliminating in later documents the reigns of his older brother and nephew. In the next chapter, we find the autobiography of Nebuchadnezzar who in the Talmudic is regarded as Nebuchadnezzar the Dwarf. In his youth when as an ill child a vision came to his brother that the sickly boy should be placed under the guardianship of the Goddess Ishtar for his well being.

Growing up in the temple of Ishtar as a priest created great devotion on behalf of Nebuchadnezzar, his devotion which would manufacture itself in his building and restoration of monuments to this goddess, though during his forty plus year reign the king would appease whichever god got the job done. For the most part, the images presented are an average lot with the exceptions of the photographs of the sarcophagus of King Ahiram.

The connection with Chaldean culture to the lost Hittite culture appears clarified as a singular culture within the now classified "Hittite Archives" discovered at Boghazkoi in 1906 which have linked Egyptian annals in time with the tablets.

Having just passed the books halfway point I realize that I am enjoying this read and the volume is becoming hard to put down as was the authors "Oedipus and Akhenaton" published some eighteen years earlier. The reader is taken to the confusion of the Anatolian archaeological record between 1200 to 750BC. The Marriage stelae of year thirty-four of Ramses II is put forward warranting a trip by Nebuchadnezzar to bring his daughter in marriage to Ramses.

     'At that time many princes and rulers of foreign countries were gathered in the residence of the pharaoh. But when they heard that the Great King of Hatti was coming, awe seized them. "The great chiefs of every land came; they were bowed down, turning back in fear, when they saw his majesty the chief of Kheta came among them, to seek the favor of King Ramses [II]."

Mr. Velikovsky brings together his characters in a summation of why he believes the kings of Dynasty XIX are one with the kings of Dynasty XXVI. In the epilog, our author attempts to resolve a number of issues which historically separate the two dynastic lines these include the location of the Ramesside capital at Tanis and the XXVI Dynasty capital at Sais believed to be on the Libyan side of the delta. The author has to contend also with the historical lengths of these kings reigns which leave a king like Seti the Great with a reign of over a decade in accepted sources while his Dynasty XXVI counterpart, a reign of over fifty years?

Every once in a while, Mr. Velikovsky puts forward evidence for his cause which I can find a flaw within. The author mentions the hole in the top of the head of the mummy of King Merneptah in the Cairo museum as evidence of a brutal murder of the king. He fails to mention that in the cache where Merneptah was found in  the tomb of Amenhotep II a number of other kingly mummies entombed beside him also had the same hole in their skulls which likely suggested that their mummies were hacked at on the top of their heads with a cutting weapon and peeled downward like a banana by robbers for the mummies accoutrement's.

The question of the validity of the Iron age, Bronze age dating system is put forward and not unreasonable from archaeological finds to suggest those cultures that were rich in iron ore deposits developed iron before the bronze rich societies such as Egypt leading to the passing of the Bronze age.

For myself, Mr.Velikovsky was unable to reduce that seven hundred year gap in time for me to recognize the great King Ramses II as King Necho of Dynasty XXVI. Many points raised by the author were of definite interest but in the end, the argument was not convincing to me and I would leave this book to those who enjoy Biblical archaeology.


Oedipus and Akhnaton

Friday, April 3, 2015

Masterpieces Of Tutankhamun

David P. Silverman
Abbeville Press Inc.
New York
ISBN: 0-89659-022-4

From the start, I really like the books format with a beautiful color photograph of a work of art on the right page while the left is reserved for the authors point beginning with a not frequently seen statue of Amenhotep III and the God Amon. Mr. Silverman writes in a compact description of about two or three paragraphs making his words clear for ages ten to one hundred and ten.

I have always loved the limestone relief of an Amarna princess eating a duck. The unfinished relief may have been a trial piece for the decoration of a wall in the North Palace  at Akhetaton where it was found. A particularly attract image displays two views of the small wood statuette of Tutankhamun rising from a lotus. The back of the head of Tutankhamun clearly shows that the statuette once wore jewelry, a back stud for an earring is still in place.

So many exquisite little chairs all  masterpieces of carpentry created for the royal children and interestingly assembled here by our author. One can only hope that when reviewing a book on this over popularized subject that at least one lesser or unknown object should enhance the publication and thankfully this is accomplished here. I am again faced with the gilded statuette of Tutankhamun on a skiff hunting hippopotami. The statuette or its mate was sadly smashed during the violation of the Cairo museum in 2011.

From here the author focuses on a series of elaborately decorated boxes and cabinets including game boards found in the tomb. These include a lovely ivory and wood chest decorated almost entirely in hieroglyphics in inscriptions and gilded fretwork representing the epitaph of "all life and dominion". The reader is next on to a short series of calcite vessels from Tutankhamun's tomb including my favorite of a waving lion which at the time of discovery was one of the few vessels in the tomb to still contain its contents.

     "P.E. Newberry, one of Carter's associates, was able to determine the season in which Tutankhamun was buried on the growing seasons of the plants used in the kings garlands. According to Newberry, the burial occurred from the middle of March to the end of April."

A shrine shaped pendant containing the goddess Nut as a vulture and found in the Anubis shrine is a complex jewel if not entirely satisfactory in design and quality for my tastes. The small recumbent wooden figure of Tutankhamun on a funerary bed was a gift from the kings official Maya who was likely responsible for much of Tutankhamun's burial arrangements as Maya held the title of "Superintendent of building works in the Necropolis".

Two pages of images are devoted to the gorgeous statue of Selkit, one of four goddesses surrounding the canopic shrine. Artistically the statue is one of the great treasures in itself of the tomb furniture.The goddesses arms outstretched with an unconventionally slightly turned head she protects the king's internal organs when she is not overthrowing the serpent Apophis.

It cannot go without mentioning I encountered an error on page150, it should say the coffins weighed over three hundred pounds with the gold coffin weighing over two hundred pounds though it says three and two thousand.

I enjoyed this book it was simple in presentation with Mr. Silverman's words nicely and briefly presenting his points making the book uncomplicated. The error I found with one of the last of Tutankhamun's stuff presented by the author was irrelevant to me. This volume was a good presentation put forward that I would give to a child to enjoy but plenty of adults would also like Masterpieces of Tutankhamun.

     "May your ka live;  May you spend millions of years, Oh, you who love Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind and your eyes beholding happiness."
                                                                                                  Tutankhamun's wishing cup