Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Egypt's Struggles in Returning Its Looted Artifacts

News broke out yesterday of Egypt's plea to Christie's auction house in London as well as UNESCO to stop the sale of an 11-inch Tutankhamun statue set to go on auction on the 4th of July.

Diplomats from Egypt's embassy in London have also contacted the UK Foreign Office to assist in stopping the auction and returning the statue as well as the other ancient Egyptian artifacts that were to be sold along with the statue.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's former antiquities minister and one of the world's leading Egyptologists, publicly stated that the statue had been obtained illegally from the Karnak Temple in the southern city of Luxor.

The Ministry of Antiquities also released an official statement threatening to take legal action with Interpol after Christie's auction house went public claiming that they legally obtained the artifact from Munich-based dealer Heinz Herzer in 1985 and that it was previously owned by Joseph Messina and Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis.

Via CNN.

"We would not offer for sale any object where there was concern over ownership or export," continued Christie's statement. "Christie's strictly adheres to bilateral treaties and international laws with respect to cultural property and patrimony."

"We will never allow anyone to sell any ancient Egyptian artifact," read an official statement from Egypt's antiquities ministry in response.

The statue is expected to be sold at a whopping £4mn, and at this point, whether it's going to be returned to its home country is still unknown. Nevertheless, kudos to the Egyptian officials for standing up for our country's heritage.

In recent years, Egypt has become more vocal about its stolen heritage and is actively demanding the return of the country's ancient artifacts. Just last January, the swift action of the antiquities ministry salvaged a stolen artifact that had been scheduled to go on auction at an unnamed auction house in London. The relic, which was originally placed on display at the Karnak open-air museum in Luxor, is a tablet carved with the cartouche of King Amenhotep I. The sale was stopped and the British authorities seized the relic and returned it to Egypt.


A month after this incident, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the United States returned the golden-sheathed coffin of Nedjemankh, a high-ranking priest of the 1st Century B.C. After investigators revealed that the sarcophagus was stolen from Egypt in 2011, the Met Museum decided to return it to Egypt and apologized for their lack of proper scrutiny.

According to Daily News Egypt, more than a thousand relics have been returned to Egypt in the past two years alone, but despite how impressive this number is, we are still not close to returning all of our lost heritage, not by a long shot.

Many of ancient Egypt's most iconic artifacts do not reside here, but overseas, as during the colonial era when Egypt was occupied by France and then Britain, we lost a huge portion of our heritage to foreign archaeologists and grave robbers. Even after Egypt's independence, laws such as the Antiquities Protection Act allowed foreign excavation missions to take fifty percent of the findings.

National treasures such as the Rosetta Stone, a key relic that helped linguists decipher the puzzle of ancient Egypt's numerous languages is still at the British Museum in London, while Nefertiti's head, one of Egypt's most prized artifacts, is on display in Berlin.

Via Medium.

There are many other relics that have been transferred from Egypt legally but never returned such as the statue of the architect of the Great Pyramid located in Germany and the statue of the Khafre Pyramid manager in the United States. According to Zahi Hawass, Egypt has legal ownership of these artifacts and should demand their immediate retrieval.

WE SAID THIS: We need to push more if we want all our stolen treasures to be returned.

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High-Tech 'Hoverboards' Helped Move a 13-Ton Egyptian Sphinx

Massive Sphinx of Ramses II Sees Daylight for First Time in Nearly 100 Years

Massive Sphinx of Ramses II Sees Daylight for First Time            in Nearly 100 Years
The red granite sphinx of Ramses II/Merneptah from Memphis, Egypt, was originally installed in the upper courtyard of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, circa 1915 to 1916.
Credit: Penn Museum Archives

An enormous stone sphinx representing the pharaoh Ramses II has spent nearly a century in the Egypt Gallery of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. But today (June 12) the sphinx was relocated in "a monumental move" that saw the colossal statue "floating" on so-called air dollies — a technology that uses high-powered air compression in a manner similar to hoverboards, museum representatives said in a statement.

The sphinx's new location is in the museum's main entrance hall, where daylight will bathe the ancient statue for the first time since it arrived at the museum nearly a century ago.

The sphinx is more than 3,000 years old and weighs nearly 13 tons (11.8 metric tons). So, although its new home is only 250 feet (76 meters) from the spot where it has rested since 1926, the move posed unique challenges, museum representatives reported. [Photos: The Ram-Headed Sphinx of Gebel el-Silsila]

With its lion's body and human head, the red-granite sphinx represents the divine power of Ramses II. Though the head of the sphinx is heavily eroded, the body was buried in sand for thousands of years, which preserved much of the statue's original detail, according to the statement.

The sphinx was excavated from the Temple of the God Ptah at Memphis, Egypt, as a joint project between the Egyptian Antiquities Service, the Egypt Exploration Fund and the British School of Archaeology, and it sailed to the U.S. in 1913.

A diagram shows the route that the sphinx traveled in              its move to the Penn Museum's main entrance hall.
A diagram shows the route that the sphinx traveled in its move to the Penn Museum's main entrance hall.
Credit: Courtesy of Penn Museum

How do you transport such an enormous object? Penn Museum staff first 3D-scanned the sphinx, to calculate its weight and density. Then, they collaborated with engineers to determine how to safely move it.

The team decided that, first, the sphinx would be lifted up by hydraulic gantries — a system for moving heavy loads. It would then be placed on four air dollies that would "float" the sphinx to nearby scaffolding, where hydraulic gantries would hoist the massive statue into position on a track, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Once on the track, the sphinx would be slowly and carefully nudged around a courtyard and through a window — with "inches to spare" — finally reaching its position in the museum's entry hall, according to the Inquirer. Video of the move, which was shared live on Facebook, demonstrated the painstaking slowness of the effort required to transport the hefty artifact.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

PhD candidate position in Egyptology, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium |

PhD candidate position in Egyptology

Updated: about 5 hours ago
Deadline: 15 Jul 2019

The Université Catholique de Louvainis offering a full-time PhD position in Egyptology to a highly motivated PhD-student, starting on October 1st, 2019, although a later start is possible depending on the curriculum of the candidate. This position will be fully funded by a UCLouvain tax-free Seefund FSR scholarship, which includes health care. It will be first awarded for a period of two years, with the possibility of an extension for two additional years if the evaluation of the mid-term report is positive. The PhD candidate will be housed in the Faculté de Philosophie, arts et lettres (FIAL) of the UCLouvain, and become a member of the Institut des civilisations, arts et lettres(INCAL). The dissertation will be written under the supervision of Prof. Benoît Lurson.


The PhD candidate will work on the correlation between the consanguineous matrimonial practices of the ancient Egyptian royal family and the endogamous matrimonial practices of the elites. Depending on the available documentation, the applicant will opt for the period of Egyptian history to be best considered, although this dissertation must concern the Pharaonic Period, the Graeco-Roman Period being excluded. Two axes of research are anticipated: (1) a sociological study of the potential role of such matrimonial practices for instating and reinforcing a closed class system; (2) a socio-political study of such matrimonial practices as constitutive of a governance system. The candidate will also be expected to propose and explore other axes of research.

In addition, the candidate will be encouraged to take part in international conferences, to give public lectures and offered the possibility to teach classes.

Expected profile of the applicants

Applicants must hold a master's degree in Egyptology before starting the PhD, but not necessarily before the deadline for applying (see below). They must demonstrate appropriate skills in Middle Egyptian and Late Egyptian, a sound expertise in theories and practices of Sociology and/or Anthropology, and a good knowledge of the ancient Egyptian state institutions.

Application and contact

To apply, applicants should submit in a single pdf file a motivation letter; a detailed curriculum vitae (including a list of publications, lectures, etc., if relevant); a sample of their academic work; a 750-word long text in which they will present personal preliminary thoughts on the topic; a copy of their academic degrees. Applications can be submitted in French, English or German. Questions and applications should be sent to Prof. Benoît Lurson ( ). The deadline for applying is July 15th, 2019. Short-listed applicants will be contacted for interviews to be held in August via Skype.

Similar Positions

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Here's all the tech involved as Penn Museum prepares to move its 25,000-pound Sphinx - Philly

Here's all the tech involved as Penn Museum prepares to move its 25,000-pound Sphinx

Air powered dollies will carry the Sphinx of Ramses II across the Mosaic Courtyard this week. 3D scanners, gantry cranes and an eight-person crew will help out, too.

A rendering of the sphinx in the Penn Museum's Main Entrance Hall.

(Courtesy image)

Penn Museum has never undertaken anything like this, said Chief Building Engineer Brian Houghton as he stood on the wooden walkway above the Mosaic Courtyard.

The museum is moving its 3,000-year-old Sphinx of Ramses II — ancient Egypt's third Pharaoh of the 19th dynasty — out of the Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery this week to its new permanent home in the Main Entrance Hall. The structure is the largest sphinx in the Western Hemisphere, at 25,000 pounds.

To make it happen, the museum had some construction to start: An L-shaped walkway about eight to 15 feet high and five feet wide was built in the courtyard to provide a route for the sphinx. Doorways and windows were removed to make an opening out of the Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery, onto the walkway and into the Main Entrance Hall, which opens on Nov. 16 after renovations.

About eight months ago, the museum decided to pursue moving the sphinx so it could be the centerpiece of the new entrance hall, Houghton said, and the project was approved two months later. Structural engineers determined the sphinx's route and sections of the floor that needed to be redesigned to handle the sphinx's weight.

On Monday, riggers used a gantry crane and chain falls to lift up the Sphinx from its platform and onto the floor. For the rigging and transport, the museum 3-D scanned the Sphinx to find out its height, weight, density and any cavities in the statue, Houghton said.

On Tuesday, the Sphinx was placed onto a scaffold with four air-powered dollies under each corner. Like a hoverboard, the Sphinx will float about three to four inches above the ground with the help of an air compressor generator pushing pressure into the dollies through four hoses.

An operator will control the generator while an eight-person crew tends to the hoses and pushes the Sphinx along until they make it into the Main Entrance Hall and chain the Sphinx up again to place it on the floor.

All this for a mere 250 feet of distance between the two spaces.

A view of the ramp where the sphinx will travel between its old and new home from above. (Courtesy photo)

Houghton said his main concern is avoiding any pinch points between the statue and the walkway's railing where someone could get their fingers caught.

"This thing can move," he said. "I mean, readily move. Somebody can put too much pressure on one side, the right side, or left side."

The museum is using winch cables to help keep the statue straight, he added.

The move is open to the public, and up to 25 visitors can watch from the museum's bridge overlooking the courtyard. There will also be time lapses of the move here and here.

The sphinx hasn't been exposed to natural light since it was moved to the Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery in 1926. For about four hours, more or less, it will catch some Philadelphia sun on the way to its new home.

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The Egyptian Book of the Dead eBook by John Romer - 9780141918150 | Rakuten Kobo

By Romer AND Budge, actually. Glenn

The Egyptian Book of the Dead


The Book of the Dead is a unique collection of funerary texts from a wide variety of sources, dating from the fifteenth to the fourth century BC. Consisting of spells, prayers and incantations, each section contains the words of power to overcome obstacles in the afterlife. The papyruses were often left in sarcophagi for the dead to use as passports on their journey from burial, and were full of advice about the ferrymen, gods and kings they would meet on the way. Offering valuable insights into ancient Egypt, The Book of the Dead has also inspired fascination with the occult and the afterlife in recent years.

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Ugly Object of the Month — June 2019 – The Kelsey Blog
On 06/04/2019 07:25 AM, leschram wrote:
Ugly Object of the Month — June 2019

By Caroline Roberts, Conservator

June's Ugly Object is a stela from Terenouthis, a Roman Egyptian city whose necropolis was excavated by the University in the mid-1930s. This might be a somewhat controversial pick for our blog roll, seeing as the stela is, in its way, actually quite beautiful. Finley Hooper, author of a catalog of stelae from Terenouthis, Funerary Stelae from Kom Abou Billou (Ann Arbor: Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 1961), calls it "one of the most pleasing in the entire group" of stelae discovered at the site. These are high marks given that more than two hundred of these objects exist!

Roman funerary stela
Limestone funerary stela with black, white, red, and pink pigment. Roman period (late 2nd–early 4th century CE), Terenouthis, Egypt. U-M Excavations, 1935. KM 21052.

I've looked at quite a few of these grave markers myself, and I'd have to agree that this one is special. The man and his architectural surrounds are carefully carved, as are the attending Anubis figures. There is a lot of pigment left on the surface, and the details captured in paint are quite interesting. There are flesh tones, a variety of surface details on the columns, and a fringed shroud that hangs over the figure's upraised arms. Hooper's translation of the stela's Greek inscription gives the name of the deceased (Nemesion) his age (about 24 years old) and his date of death (Hathur 6). Elements of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian religious practice converge in this stela, making it an important object of Roman Egyptian material culture. At the same time, it remains a very personal token of remembrance that makes me think about who this young man was and what life was like for him.

This stela will be on display in the Kelsey's temporary exhibit space as part of Ancient Color's extended run through July 28. Come and see it for yourself!

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Egypt Tries to Halt the Auction of a King Tut Sculpture Amid Accusations That It Could Have Been Looted | artnet News

Egypt Tries to Halt the Auction of a King Tut Sculpture Amid Accusations That It Could Have Been Looted

Egypt's most high-profile archaeologist wants the $5 million sculpture of the boy king to be repatriated.

The Egyptian brown quartzite head of the God Amen with          features of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. (around 1333-1323 B.C.)          Photo courtesy Christie's.
The Egyptian brown quartzite head of the God Amen with features of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. (around 1333-1323 B.C.) Photo courtesy Christie's.

The Egyptian embassy in London is in a race against time to try to stop the planned sale of a sculpture of Tutankhamen at Christie's after the country's most high-profile archaeologist claimed it was probably looted from the Karnak Temple. Egypt is reported to have requested the return of the 3,000-year-old sculpture estimated to be worth $5 million, which is due to be auctioned in three weeks' time.

Egyptian representatives in London have written to the UK government, UNESCO, and the auction house in a bid to stop the sale, according to AFP. The move comes after the archaeologist and Egypt's former minister of antiquities, Zahi Hawass, said that the 3,000-year-old sculpture was likely looted from the famous temple in Luxor. Hawass said: "I don't think Christie's have the papers to show it left Egypt legally; it's impossible." The archaeologist believes that Egypt has an "ethical right" to recover the head regardless of legal title.

Egypt has stepped up its efforts to retrieve artifacts that it believes were smuggled out of the country either recently or over the past few decades. The foreign ministry has also reportedly asked that all Egyptian items in Christie's auctions on July 3 and July 4 be removed from sale pending proof of "valid ownership certificates."

"I agree with Dr Zahi Hawass that the bust should be repatriated since it was looted," Ola El Aguizy, a professor at Cairo University's faculty of archaeology tells artnet News. "I also think that Christie's or any auction [house] should not allow the sale of any ancient Egyptian artifacts because it encourages illegal ownership of objects."

The auction house has robustly defended the sale, and its due diligence. A Christie's representative told artnet News: "It is hugely important to establish recent ownership and legal right to sell, which we have clearly done. We would not offer for sale any object where there was concern over ownership or export."

The Egyptian brown quartzite head of the God Amen with          features of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. (around 1333-1323 B.C.)          Photo courtesy Christie's.

The Egyptian brown quartzite head of the God Amen with features of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. (around 1333-1323 B.C.) Photo courtesy Christie's.

The sculpture is expected to reach more than £4 million ($5 million) when it hits the block as part of the auction house's "The Exceptional Sale" on July 4. The brown quartzite head, which shares the features of the famous boy pharaoh, is around 11 inches tall. A distinctive crown demarcates it as an icon of the Egyptian sun god Amen. It is going on sale as part of the Resandro Collection, a prominent private German collection of Egyptian art. The auction house brought in more than £3 million (around $4 million) when it sold part of the collection in 2016.

The Christie's press release for the object states that the head was acquired from a Munich-based dealer, Heinz Herzer, in 1985. Previously it was in the collection of an Austrian dealer, Joseph Messina, who bought it from Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis in around 1973-74. The release states that von Thurn und Taxis "reputedly had it in his collection by the 1960s."

Since the 1970 UNESCO convention against the illicit trade in antiquities, museums do not ordinarily acquire artifacts that cannot be shown to have been exported before that date. Egyptian law stipulates that any antiquities uncovered on Egyptian soil after 1983 are the legal property of the state, as is anything discovered before then unless legitimate legal title predating the 1983 law can be proven.

The Egyptian brown quartzite head of the God Amen with          features of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. (around 1333-1323 B.C.)          Photo courtesy Christie's.

The Egyptian brown quartzite head of the God Amen with features of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. (around 1333-1323 B.C.) Photo courtesy Christie's.

"There is a long-standing and legitimate market for works of art of the ancient world, in which Christie's has participated for generations," the auction house's representative says, adding: "Christie's strictly adheres to bilateral treaties and international laws with respect to cultural property and patrimony."

artnet News has reached out to the Egyptian ministries of culture and antiquities, as well as the Egyptian embassy in London for further comment, but has not heard back by press time.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

AWOL - The Ancient World Online: Open Access Journal;: The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund Newsletter
On 06/06/2019 11:52 AM, Chuck Jones wrote:
Open Access Journal;: The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund Newsletter The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund Newsletter

The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission is to support research and conservation on Egyptian history and culture. In particular, it seeks to record and publish sites and monuments at risk from agricultural and urban expansion, looting and vandalism and climate change.
This year, as a pilot for a series on the oral history of American Egyptology, we have been able to record a video oral history interview with David O'Connor, who is one of the country's leading archaeologists and gave a wonderful overview of his more than sixty years of working in Egypt.
We have also received permission to work at Deir el-Ballas, as the forward capital for the Theban kings during the Hyksos expulsion, Deir el-Ballas is of great archaeological and historical importance, but the site is at extreme risk from both looting and from the uncontrolled expansion of the neighboring modern town. Our fieldwork will dovetail with a grant we received from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications to prepare the results of the original expedition conducted at the site in 1900-1901 by George Andrew Reisner working for the Phoebe A. Hearst Expedition of the University of California.
The new expedition's work and the publication grant provides an opportunity to revisit and transmit the earlier work which has never seen the light of day. Despite its long neglect, Deir el-Ballas is a particularly important resource for information on the development of urbanism and the state in ancient Egypt at one of the most pivotal points in its history
From January 10th to the 25th 2017 we will conduct a survey to assess the condition of the site, and devise possible ways to protect and conserve it. In addition, we will continue our work with the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the Palace of Amenhotep III at Malqata, restoring the royal palace and surveying the site.
In addition, the Fund has underwritten the photographs and Illustrations for the forthcoming book by Peter Lacovara and Yvonne Markowitz on "Nubian Gold: Ancient Jewelry from Sudan and Egypt" to be published by the American University in Cairo Press.




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You can now buy Egyptian nationality for this much...
The New Arab Logo

You can now buy Egyptian                        nationality for this much... 

The New Arab

You can now buy Egyptian nationality for this much...

The economy of the Arab world's most populous country has suffered from political instability [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 June, 2019

Egypt's parliament has passed a controversial law allowing foreigners to buy Egyptian nationality if they pay tens of thousands of dollars.

Egypt's parliament has passed a controversial law allowing foreigners to buy Egyptian nationality if they pay tens of thousands of dollars.

A parliamentary committee on Sunday approved the law that lets foreigners become Egyptian citizens after depositing at least $418,000 in a local bank and handing it over to the government after five years.

"The amendment aims to grant citizenship in exchange for investments, which will have a positive impact towards achieving economic development," lawmaker Kamal Amer was quoted a saying by local media.

Lawmakers passed a draft bill of the law last year, sparking anger from some MPs.

Opposition lawmaker Haitham al-Hariri accused authorities at the time of permitting the "sale" the Egyptian nationality in a bid bring quick money into the country.

The economy of the Arab world's most populous country has suffered from political instability and security threats since the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time leader Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt has been looking to boost its finances and draw back foreign investment through a series of tough austerity measures tied to an IMF loan programme.

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The struggle to find silence in the ancient monastic world – and now - Alton Telegraph

The struggle to find silence in the ancient monastic world – and now


(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Kim Haines-Eitzen, Cornell University

(THE CONVERSATION) In our contemporary world, noise pollution has reached dangerous levels.

The World Health Organization has argued that "excessive noise" is a serious threat to human health. Studies have shown that excessive exposure to noise not only causes hearing loss but also leads to heart disease, poor sleep and hypertension.

In some parts of the world, a mysterious "droning sound," similar to a "a diesel engine idling nearby," has been described as "torture" for the small percent of the population that can hear it.

I'm a scholar of early Christianity and my research shows that monasticism developed in part because people were seeking the solace of quiet places.

But for them, like us, it was a struggle.

Ancient philosophers on noise

Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers frequently regarded noise as a serious distraction, one that challenged their ability to concentrate.

To give just one example: The Stoic philosopher Seneca described in great detail the noises coming from a bathhouse just below the room where he was writing, expressing his irritation at the distracting "babel" all around him. At the end of his letter, he says he has decided to withdraw to the country for quiet.

Noise and Christian monasticism

There were many reasons why Christian monasticism developed.

Ancient Christian writers, like John Cassian, claimed that the origins of monasticism lay in the examples set by the apostles of Jesus, who gave up everything to follow him.

Some modern scholars have argued that monasticism was a natural development following the early history of persecution of Christians, which shaped a view of suffering as a key way to show one's dedication to the faith.

While the origins of monasticism are not entirely clear, scholars do know that Christian monks drew upon philosophical views about noise and distraction and, in some cases, chose to leave the cacophony of urban life for the wilderness. Even when they stayed in cities or villages, writings from this time period show that they were seeking a life free from the distractions and burdens of society.

Take, for example, the story of Paul, a young Christian in third-century Egypt, identified by his biographer, Jerome, as "the first hermit."

Jerome says that Paul "amid thunders of persecution retired to a house at a considerable distance and in a more secluded spot."

The story of Antony, a contemporary of Paul's, is written by the Alexandrian bishop Athanasius, who describes how Antony was left burdened by caring for his sister after the death of his parents. Distracted by the crowds of neighbors demanding access to his parents' wealth and property he chose to leave his village and embark on a life as a hermit.

Noise in the desert

Noise came in many forms. In "The Life of Antony," for example, demons thunder, crash and hiss. Although the descriptions of such sounds might seem to be auditory hallucinations, the texts do regard them as real, not fictional.

Monastic rules and sayings instruct monks about the dangers of human speech, laughter, and even the noise of children in monasteries.

These texts emphasize the importance of silence in two forms: a quiet environment in which monks can concentrate and also refrain from too much speaking. Many of the sayings urge monks to "keep silent."

Seeking silence

But even as these stories suggest that Christian monks were choosing solitude by going into the desert, the same stories show that silence was not to be found even in the remotest desert wilds.

As the reputation of Antony and other monks from Egypt spread around the Mediterranean, the stories of Antony complain that "the desert has become a city."

Too many people, it seems, sought the wisdom of the hermits and created a distraction akin to city life by taking pilgrimages to see them.

The challenges of noise and distraction were, in fact, always part of the monastic life.

And so it remains to this day. One of the ways that monks and nuns have dealt with this challenge is by cultivating a sense of inner silence and inner stillness through practices like meditation, prayer and sitting in solitude.

In Greek, the language of the earliest Christian monastic texts, the word "hesychia" is used to describe the "interior stillness … that brings forth all the virtues" and over time it comes to be a central goal of Christian monasticism.

The ancient quest for silence can perhaps teach us how to respond to the challenges of our increasingly loud world and find our own silence.

[ Like what you've read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation's daily newsletter. ]

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here:

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Eagle News Online – Egypt through the eyes of L. Frank Baum

Egypt through the eyes of L. Frank Baum

Egypt through the eyes of L. Frank Baum

On June 4, Egyptologist and L. Frank Baum expert David Moyer traced Baum's journey up the Nile through a special photographic presentation at the Cazenovia Public Library.

By Kate Hill

Staff Writer

In 1906, Lyman Frank Baum, author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," and his wife Maud embarked on a six-week tour of Egypt.

This June, Egyptologist and Baum expert David Moyer followed their journey up the Nile through a special photographic presentation at the Cazenovia Public Library.

2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Baum's death.

Born in 1856 in Chittenango, the author is best known for his children's books, particularly "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and its 13 sequels. Additionally, Baum wrote a number of non-Oz fairy tales, several series for boys and girls, and three adult novels — one of which was set in Egypt.

"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" published with great success in 1900. Two years later the book was turned into a musical extravaganza, opening in Chicago then moving to New York and touring the country.

In 1906, the Baums used the profits from The Wizard of Oz to fund a "grand tour" of Egypt and Europe, organized by the Thomas Cook travel company — one of the first companies to offer tours of Egypt.

Baum captured the trip through photographs, while Maud documented their adventures through letters written home to family members.

Maud, who lived in Fayetteville until her marriage, was the daughter of noted feminist and suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage.

Baum privately published his wife's letters in a book titled "In Other Lands than Ours."

After learning that Baum's photographs survived in an album owned by the author's great grandson, Moyer began putting together a lecture around the historic images.

The resulting presentation, delivered on June 4, features Baum's 1906 photos side-by-side with Moyer's own photos of the same sites. Accompanying the images are excerpts from Maud's "often humorous and sometimes poetic" letters.

"My photos were taken long before I knew about the existence of Baum's," Moyer said. "When I first saw his photos, I knew right away that I could pretty much match most of them."

Moyer explained the similarity in the composition between both sets of images is due to the fact that both photographers had guides who told them exactly where to stand to best capture each site.

According to Moyer, the Baums embarked on their two-week trans-Atlantic journey on Jan. 27 from Hoboken, New Jersey.

Aboard the steam ship Princess Irene, they traveled past the Azores and on to Gibraltar. The group changed ships in the Bay of Naples and sailed past the island of Capri to Alexandria, Egypt, where they boarded a train to Cairo.

In one of her letters, Maud noted the noise and apparent chaos of the crowded Cairo station. She also commented on the people she encountered, including water carriers, flower boys, veiled women selling goods, and men in fez hats peddling souvenirs, fly whips, strawberries and bolts of oilcloth.

The Baums and their travel companions lodged at Shepheard's Hotel, the leading hotel in Cairo and one of the most celebrated hotels in the world at the time.

After exploring the "bewildering" streets of Cairo, the couple visited the new Egyptian Museum, which opened just four years prior to their arrival. Inside, the couple viewed the well-preserved mummies of Seti I and his son Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great) — often regarded as the most celebrated and powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

Accompanied by a dragoman, or guide, the Baums toured the mosques and ruins of Cairo and the surrounding area.

In her letters, Maud generally described the guides as pure Egyptians, good caregivers and proficient English speakers who were knowledgeable on 6,000 years of Egyptian history.

"You sometimes suspect that he is not quite accurate, but it will require a lot of study to prove it," she wrote. "If your dragoman differs from the guidebooks or the historians and the Egyptologists, you will find it most comfortable to believe that he is right and they are all wrong."

Baum took a number of photographs of the famed Giza Pyramids — the Great Pyramid (the Pyramid of Khufu), the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure — along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx.

Moyer shared Maud's account of her climb to the top of the 516-foot Great Pyramid with the assistance of three guides — two holding her hands and another boosting her up the 3 to 4 foot stone blocks from behind.

In addition to showing Baum's photos of his wife's ascent, Moyer also recounted his own failed attempt to reach the top of the pyramid.

The Baums departed Cairo aboard the steamer Rameses the Great and made their way up the Nile, stopping frequently to visit ancient Egyptian sites along the way.

The group climbed over the colossal statue of Ramesses II at Memphis; took in the impressive Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara; visited the tombs of Beni Hasan; and examined the Hathor Temple at the Dendera Temple Complex among many other stops.

While many of the photographs taken by Baum and Moyer at the various locations are strikingly similar, there are several notable exceptions, particularly those taken at sites that underwent restoration projects or archaeological excavation following the Baums' visit.

As Moyer shared the photos, he described each site using a combination of his own words and those written in Maud's letters.

"To those who have never been under the spell of the Nile country, I fear my descriptions of the many ancient temples may prove tedious," Maud wrote. "When you [are] done with Egypt, you [are] done with the most valuable records of the past, so each of the temples seems to be worthy of notice."

The Baums' Egyptian tour concluded back in Cairo, where they explored the markets, re-examined the artifacts at the Egyptian Museum, and revisited the pyramids by moonlight.

"We sat in the dessert sands for hours . . . lost in dreams of empires long since vanished and forgotten," wrote Maud. "Never in my life do I again expect to enjoy anything so much. Every moment was one of joy and I hated to have the voyage end. I shall never see another sunset to equal those until I return to Egypt and the Nile again."

--   Sent from my Linux system.