Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Egypt 21: Abydos IV

It seems appropriate, about now, as we come back through the temple and make our way out, that I include a caveat.  I've been making powerful claims regarding West's and Schwaller de Lubicz's thinking compared to those who espouse standard academic thinking on Egypt, (West likes to call those folks quack-a-demics.)  It's important to note that, even though we are on post number 21, in all of my posts I am just barely skimming the surface of the arguments I am presenting.  I am leaving out volumes of detail from all sides of the discussion.

This was shot wide open at ISO 2000.  This image makes the temple look a lot brighter than it really was.  The colors here on the ceiling have been restored.  They did not change the pigments at all, merely cleaned off centuries of soot.  The vulture shown here is a symbol of upper Egypt.  There is much more to its symbolism, of course.  It is the vulture and the cobra that we see on the crown of the pharaoh. 

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Egypt 20: Abydos III

The idea of transition is huge among the reliefs we saw in Egypt.  In some of the noble's tombs the inside of which I was unable to photograph, we saw many reliefs showing tasks of the ancient's everyday life.  We saw wine making, carpentry and the like in so much perfect detail that scholars now have a really good idea about what every day life was like back then.  However, West and Schwaller de Lubicz make the point that those reliefs also symbolize a deeper meaning:  The idea of transformation.  Taking the 'untamed' world, as it were, and transforming it--both physically and spiritually. 

Physically turning the grapes into wine, the raw wood into furniture, the raw tablet into one with writing.  But also, on a spiritual level, it showed the occupiers of the tombs becoming proficient in perfecting their own mastery of themselves--to a point where they were masters of the raw material (and thereby, the untamed world and, thereby, Set--or, more accurately, the concept of Set) instead of those things mastering them.

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Egypt 19: Abydos II

Abydos was covered with finely carved murals and hieroglyphs, many of which are in remarkably good repair, with their colors largely intact.  The quality of the art in this place took my breath away.  Each scene, each depiction was a masterpiece of design and execution.  One can only wonder what this temple must have looked like when it was new and thriving.  They say that the ancient Egyptian pigments were excellent.  That if protected, they would last nearly indefinitely.   Unfortunately, for many of the temples that we visited, once abandoned, they were used as sources of limestone and then as refuge for squatters.  It wasn't until relatively recently that the Egyptians, themselves, placed any value on these ancient sites.   

Here is the one flash photo we were able to get in front of a relief.  (Flash is not technically allowed.)  The color here is not too bad.  Please try to mentally extrapolate these color tones into the following images.  The hawk headed individual on the left behind us is Horus, on the right is the pharaoh, notice the triangular apron, also his hat with the cobra and the vulture.

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Egypt 18: Abydos

The next day we were up bright and early and on our way to Abydos, about 90 miles north of Luxor a famous temple there, called, oddly enough, by the same name.  Abydos, is dedicated to Osiris.  This temple has been carefully restored over a number of years to as close as is possible to its original state.  A funerary temple since the earliest dynasties, the inside measures roughly 200 feet deep by 175 feet wide.

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Egypt 17: a Digression

When we see a mosque spire rising up from a small village, in this case, a village on the west bank of the Nile near Luxor, (notice all the unfinished buildings) that spire tells us a lot about the village.

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Egypt 16: Luxor Temple III

Standing in the Court of Ramesses II, number 2 in the diagram, looking back and east.  This shows all of the different 'gods' depicted in statue.

One of the many reasons modern archaeologists have had such a hard time attempting to discern the true meaning of ancient Egyptian culture is that the ancient Egyptian's thought processes have turned out to be so completely, radically different from our own.  Many of the modern scholars, indeed, most, are still unaware this is the case.  After spending 15 years deciphering the ancient Egyptian's thought processes, Schwaller de Lubicz apparently felt that he had made his case:  that those who wish to understand the true meaning of this and other Egyptian Temples must learn how to think as the ancients did.

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Egypt 15: Luxor Temple II

Notice the crowds.  The Luxor Temple was packed even at 8pm.  We're looking at the Hypostyle Hall, number 6 in the diagram below, from the back facing forward.

When Schwaller de Lubicz began studying this temple, he was looking for proof that the ancient Egyptians had consciously used the golden section and understood the laws of harmony and proportion.

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Egypt 14: Luxor Temple

All interpretation of any kind rests upon certain assumptions.  For example,when it was announced that we would be visiting the Luxor Temple at night, I assumed that I would find some way to come back during the day and make some photographs.  Unfortunately, that did not happen, won't bore you with the long story, so I am forced to describe this magnificent temple with only the images I was able to take that one night.

Similar issues arise when one attempts to interpret the meanings of the elaborate symbols and fantastic reliefs found in Egyptian temples.

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Egypt 13: From Cairo to Luxor

The next day we drove to the Cairo airport from our hotel on the Giza plateau, 25 miles or so to the Cairo airport, then flew the approximately 300 miles from Cairo to Luxor.

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Egypt 12: On the Road

So, we're in the van on the way back to the hotel from Dshshur.  It had been two very intense days of sightseeing and, truth be told, I was suffering a bit from information overload.  I'm watching this amazing, wonderful, totally-foreign world go by out of a side window when Suhaila, our Egyptian tour guide, started yelling at me.  "Lee, quick, get a picture of this!"

I had jammed my camera in my bag when we climbed into the van back at the Bent pyramid, and I had done that with no thought to taking any more pictures that day.   Suhaila needed to yell at me one more time before my brain engaged and I finally retrieved my camera and began firing out the front window.

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Egypt 11: Bent Pyramid

The Bent pyramid lies only a mile or two away from the Red Pyramid.

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Egypt 10: Red Pyramid

West planned our pilgrimage such that we began with the oldest remaining structures and tombs first and then gradually worked our way forward in time.  The Step Pyramid at Saqqara, covered in previous posts, represented the largest stone complex known to the world when it was built. (if one agrees with the accepted age attribution of the Sphinx and its temple complex--which most of us on this trip didn't, but it gives you a relative idea).

I neglected to mention in previous posts that the step pyramid, which many Egyptologists consider to be the 'prototype' for other pyramids that followed, was revised and enlarged several times.  The chronology of those changes is unclear.

It is not unreasonable to presume that the reconstruction and enlargement continued after other of the 'later' pyramids were built.  Given the precise, clean lines of the temple complex that still stand, I for one, have a hard time swallowing the 'prototype' theory.   Whoever designed the place knew exactly what they were doing.

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Egypt 9: Sakkara II

Notice the scaffolding that been placed to keep the blocks from falling down.  Notice also how many different types of blocks there are on this side of the step pyramid alone.  One can only wonder how many times this structure has had restoration work done.

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Egypt 8: Sakkara

The next morning bright and early we headed off to Sakkara, which is somewhere around Cairo.  I have no idea where, only that it is out to the west of town somewhere because mostly what there was to see at the first stop was miles of sand.  We were there to see some Old Kingdom tombs of the Nobles of 5th and 6th dynasties (ca 2350-2200 BC).

 Here is an entrance to one of the tombs.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the tombs.  Still you get an idea of how low and steep the passageways were.  This passageway was actually large, compared to the ones in the great pyramid.  They weren't all steep narrow tunnels, however.
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Egypt 7: Solar Boat of Khufu

First, I have to apologize to Melony.  I forgot to include one of her shots in the last post that I think tells a great story about the challenges of excavation on the Giza plateau.  I'm convinced that one can drop a shovel in anywhere out there and, once the sand is removed, find something of import.

After wandering around the Giza plateau for a couple of hours we entered a building that had been constructed next to the great pyramid.  John promised us an amazing treat.  We were not disappointed.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Egypt 6: Giza Plateau

What amazed me about the Giza plateau was that, one, it is so large.  Two, that there is so much stuff out there.  And, three, that there is so much bloody sand.  Sand is the enemy from an excavators perspective.  Dig it out and it blows back, seemingly the next day.
In this place, people have been building things on top of each other thousands of years of .  In the US, we think anything over 50 years is old.  Here, 50 years old is still brand spanking new.   But leave it out in the open here and in now time it will buried under the ever present sand
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Egypt 5: Sphinx area II

A few more images of the Sphinx that may interest you:

Here's the Sphinx from the back.  One doesn't often get see a Sphinx's butt in photos.

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Egypt 4: Sphinx

We turn around from the last photo in the last post and see the Sphinx in all its glory:

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Egypt 3: Sphinx Temple II

One walks through the doorway shown in the 5th image from the top in the previous post.  It is a T shaped room with 24 vertical columns.  Some say the number 24 stands for the number of hours in a day.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Egypt 2: The Sphinx temple

We left off with our group working its way to the Sphinx on the Giza plateau.  In order to get inside the enclosure surrounding the Sphinx, one must walk through a wonderful little temple.  The temple feels supremely ancient to me.  It's made out of huge limestone blocks faced with red granite.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the small enclosure where one enters the temple.  This is a shot through the first doorway.
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Egypt 1: We get there.

We got to Cairo after a 12 hour flight, exhausted.  It was mid afternoon Egypt time but 6am New York time.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  We were picked up by the shuttle and driven through Cairo's crazy traffic, all the way through the city and out near the Giza plateau, to our hotel--40 kilometers from the airport.

Our hotel, called the Mina House, has been a favorite hotel for Egyptian travelers since 1869.   It's a time warp throwback to the old British colonialism, and still sports both the good and the bad aspects of that system.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of five star hotels, but I have say that when  we opened the drapes in our room and saw  the above view, I had to admit the place might have some redeeming social value.  We had come all this way to see the pyramids and there they were, right outside our window in the haze.  So close, yet so far away.
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If you are interested in the Egypt posts, please begin here

Last fall, Melony and I were privileged to take a trip to Egypt lead by John Anthony West.  West leads trips to Egypt once or twice a year and, based upon our experience, we cannot recommend him highly enough.  He may be reached at his web site:

West is considered a rabble-rouser by many mainstream academics who specialize in Egyptology. He is disliked by them because he has presented evidence, more than just a little, to undermine many of their most cherished theories.

If one is so inclined, two of his books, that I highly recommend are The Traveler's Key to Ancient Egypt and Serpent in the Sky.  Both are available on Amazon. 

The posts that follow are a diary of our trip.  They were first sent out by email to a select few friends and family.  However, the requests have been pouring in for me to send them off to others.  Owing to the size of each post and the number of posts, 43 in all, instead of clogging up more in boxes, I have decided to start my blog with them. 

However, there is a problem with this.  Posts show up in Blogger last to first.  If you wish to have these posts make any sense, then I recommend you begin here and follow the links at the end of each post to the next one.  That way you will be able to read them first to last instead of last to first. 

Two comments before we begin:

One: All the photographs on this blog and especially the Egypt posts are copyrighted.  If you have any interest in purchasing rights for publication to any of them, please contact me.  I'm sure we can work out a deal.  In my emails, the photos were larger than you will see on the blog.  Simply click on any photo and you will see it full sized.

Two: I have enabled comments on each of the posts.  They are moderated.  I have moderated my comments because some of the material you are about to read is bound to be controversial.  While I do enjoy spirited discussions from all sides of an issue, I do so only when the discussion is civilized and respectful. 


Continue on to Post 1: We get there, by clicking here.