With the world's focus on civil unrest in Egypt, one aspect of the turmoil that will be of particular interest to TDG readers is the safety of the country's priceless antiquities and monuments. Unfortunately, news has emerged that the Cairo Museum has been broken into, and a number of treasures have been either looted or vandalised - including those of Tutankhamun.
Egyptologist Margaret Maitland has kept a close eye on video reports from Al Jazeera and with help from others has documented the possible damages and losses in a series of updates at The Eloquent Peasant. These include t̶h̶e̶ ̶m̶u̶m̶m̶i̶e̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶T̶u̶t̶'̶s̶ ̶g̶r̶e̶a̶t̶-̶g̶r̶a̶n̶d̶p̶a̶r̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶Y̶u̶y̶a̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶T̶j̶u̶y̶a̶ (not so, according to this update from Alan Boyle), a 4000-year-old wooden boat, a number of priceless statuettes of Tutankhamun, and also one of Tut's ceremonial fans.
The current 'Pharaoh' of Egyptian archaeology, Dr Zahi Hawass, has also posted a blog on his website with an update on the situation (via fax to Europe, as the internet has been shut down in Egypt), saying his "heart is broken" and his "blood is boiling." You can also find further information about the museum damage at MSNBC's Cosmic Log. Let's hope that the current reports give the full extent of the losses, and it's not discovered later that someone has filled their boots and things are being covered up.
Maitland notes that Wafaa el-Saddik, former director of the Egyptian Museum, has said in an interview that the looting of the museum was an inside job by guards and police. I've also seen rumours on Twitter that the vandalism was done by the Mubarek regime as propaganda against the protesters, but I have seen no actual evidence of that as yet. In more positive news, a number of reports have mentioned that young Egyptians are banding together to help protect various museums and monuments around the country that have not yet been given an official guard.
On a sidenote, one wonders what this damage will mean for the ongoing quest by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to repatriate archaeological treasures in museums around the world. It would be highly likely that these museums, obviously unwilling to let go of priceless Egyptian artefacts, will now put forward the defence that it's not safe to send them back to their country of origin. Although, to be fair, Berlin Museum - which currently holds the famous bust of Nefertiti - might be hard-pressed to use that argument in their favour...
Another question yet to be answered is what a change of government might mean for Zahi Hawass. Just over a year ago Dr Hawass was installed by President Mubarek as Vice Minister for Culture, in an apparent circumvention of his forced (mandatory) retirement as head of the SCA. He is also a noted sycophant to the current regime:
I would also like to say how grateful I am to President Mubarak. He is a unique man, who has given a lot to his country. He has been in public service for years and I have not once seen him make a decision just for himself. Everything he does, he does for Egypt. His wife, Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, I feel deserves a Nobel Prize for the work she has done for peace.
From comments I've seen, and emails I've received over the years, I think a substantial portion of the archaeological community wouldn't mind a sea change in Egyptian archaeology.
Update: For ongoing news, see the Egyptologists for Egypt Facebook page.
Previously on TDG:
This is wonderful: Visualising Giza is "an on-going project documenting Giza's inspiration to explorers, artists, engravers and photographers from 1400 to 1923". From the early fanciful drawings of 15th century explorers, to photos of swarms of infantryman covering Khufu's Pyramid and the Sphinx during the Great War, "Visualising Giza" is the motherlode of imagery when it comes to these famous Egyptian monuments. Here's one of my favourites - two ladies atop the Great Pyramid (at sunset) in 1920. They're looking suspiciously elegant after a 450 foot climb...
I've been lucky enough to visit the Giza Plateau (just the once), and I hope anyone that hasn't yet been gets the chance to do it at some point. Truly history on a grand scale (chronologically and physically):
View the whole collection at Visualising Giza. Thanks Paula.
Google has taken on plenty of ambitious projects over the past decade, perhaps none more so than Google Books: the internet giant has so far managed to scan more than 5 million books into digital format. This has - for obvious reasons - generated much controversy regarding copyright and other aspects. Though it has bewildered me for a number of years how most people haven't understood the positive side of this incredible undertaking - basically making the corpus of all printed literature keyword searchable! Forget the old days of searching your local library for a title using the Dewey Decimal system - you can now search a mega-libary instantaneously for a particular keyword anywhere within the book...and then buy or download the book immediately.
Anyhow, recently Google have made a new tool available to search the Google Books database - the Ngram Viewer - which allows tracking of the use of particular words throughout history in published material. It's quite a bit of fun to use, and rather illuminating as well in various ways. As a simple example, and one that I'm sure nobody would doubt too much - usage of the word "vampire" over the last few hundred years, leading up to the modern fixation with this horror archetype:
But it's interesting to find out that other terms were, surprisingly, not written about much until modern times (or perhaps, were discussed via different terminology). For example, "afterlife":
Another interesting exercise is to compare terms. Say for example that we wanted to see the most common spelling of the word describing the field of UFO studies, which tends to always end in disputes - ufology, UFOlogy, or Ufology. Google's Ngram Viewer shows that though it started out as "UFOlogy", since the 1970s "ufology" has become the most used term - though in recent years its usage has fallen off with the variant spellings closing the gap:
Lots of other fun to be had, so head on over and get to it - and report back on any intriguing results in the comments! Science vs religion is particularly illuminating - try plugging in other terms like "Great Pyramid", "Illuminati", and "LSD" to find intriguing spikes during certain decades which point to historical moments and discoveries. Remember to vary your time frames as needed, and be careful how you enter words as they are case sensitive.
Pyramids fascinate many readers of The Daily Grail - the more mysterious the better. As such, it's hard to beat the Pyramids of China, which - due to their location - have remained an enigma to Westerners, even in these modern days of instant, ubiquitous information via the Intarwebs. Nevertheless, there is some info out there - for example, here's some recent footage of some of the structures:
You can read more about these fascinating ancient constructions at World-Pyramids.com. Also, for the desktop explorers out there, you can find Google Earth co-ordinates to a number of them at Wikipedia.
The website of 'alternative history' author Zecharia Sitchin has posted a statement announcing his passing at the age of 90:
We regret to inform you that Zecharia Sitchin passed away on the morning of October 9th. A small, private family funeral was held the next day.
The family asks that you respect its privacy during this difficult time and refrain from contacting family members directly. Instead, to offer tributes to Mr. Sitchin or to contact those handling his affairs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to P.O. Box 577, New York, NY 10185.
We appreciate the support that you have given over the years. Please continue to monitor this website for further updates.
Sitchin had been busy earlier in the year promoting his latest book There Were Giants Upon the Earth, including an interview in June posted at Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log. In July Sitchin had posted a note on his site regarding a hospital visit due to "an acute abdominal problem", though he hoped to "return to full activity" after a short rest.
Zecharia Sitchin shot to fame (and notoriety amongst scientists) in the mid 1970s with his book The 12th Planet ('Book One of the Earth Chronicles'), in which he put forward the hypothesis that Sumerian civilisation was 'kick-started' by the Anunnaki, a race of extra-terrestrials from a 'lost' planet in our own Solar System (on an elliptical orbit) called Nibiru. He went on to write a large number of books exploring these ideas further.
Sitchin was part of the 'ancient astronaut' genre which exploded in the 1970s via the works of authors such as Erich von Däniken (Chariots of the Gods) and Robert Temple (The Sirius Mystery).
An awesome video-mapping show to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the construction of the Prague Astronomical Clock:
Definitely not "so anti-climactic"...
Uri Geller gets the Stephen Colbert treatment in the wake of news the famous spoon-bender is in search of lost Egyptian treasure on the Scottish island he bought a few years back:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Mysteries of the Ancient Unknown - King Tut's Penis Pt. 2|
Geller, King Tut, and Leslie Kean on UFOs - all in recent weeks. Is Colbert a Fortean? Or a skeptic? Who cares, it's all good fun.
Previously on TDG:
The New York Times reviews Chasing Mummies, the new reality TV show featuring the king of the pyramids, Dr Zahi Hawass - and for once, a story about the Big Z tells it like it is:
Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, seems to get his name in the papers and his face on television every time anyone sticks a shovel in the ground there.
The resulting fame — the man has become ubiquitous on history-heavy American cable channels — has apparently given Dr. Hawass, like many celebrities before him, the mistaken impression that any sort of personal behavior will be embraced by his adoring public, because he sure is obnoxious on “Chasing Mummies,” an annoying new show that begins Wednesday night on History.
[Michael A. Rappenglück] noticed a group of six spots painted above the back of one of the aurochs in a part of the cave known as the Hall of the Bulls. Charcoal freckles surround the creature’s eye, which Rappenglück thought could represent the eye of the Taurus constellation embedded in the Hyades cluster. Astronomical calculations of when the Hyades cluster would have been visible to Northern Hemisphere observers during the season depicted in the image match well with the date range given by carbon-14 dating of the charcoal traces. He added a fresh layer of interpretation to the images with his conclusion that the cyclical appearance and disappearance of the Pleiades provided a celestial clock, used alongside carved-bone lunar calendars by hunters of the Magdalenian period or just before.
...Neurophysiologists such as William Calvin have suggested that the human ability to target a moving animal with a thrown rock developed into or coincided with the cognitive capacity for long-term planning. If the Lascaux cave-painters really had a precise time-keeping system, then these people actually scheduled their hunting—thus employing foresight well beyond where their rough-hewn weapons would strike an animal of prey—much as their descendants eventually planned their agrarian affairs according to celestial cycles. The in-heat, rutting season of the Magdalenian aurochs may have coincided with a celestial cue, allowing ancient peoples to track the gestation of these animals as the bovine with six bright spots rose high in the spring sky.
This certainly isn't a new idea - Rappenglück's theory was headline news a decade ago. For some reason, archaeastronomy still seems to be often shunted into the corner when discussing the motivations of ancient people, with archaeologists favouring theories tightly bound to power structures or sexual symbolism. As such, I think that in many cases one of the more obvious (and near-permanent) inspirations for artwork and building - the sky - remains ignored.
Here's an interesting dialogue between authors Daniel Pinchbeck (Breaking Open the Head, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl) and Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods, Supernatural) on anomalous history, the prophecies of 2012, and the reclaiming of sovereignty over our own consciousness offered by the revival of shamanic techniques: "Retelling the Past, Reimagining the Future". A few things I'd take issue with (as you've probably noticed, I'm not much of a 2012 devotee), but a fascinating discussion all the same (almost 2 hours worth!), and plenty of jumping off points for further debate and research:
Here's the summary of the video:
Pinchbeck and Hancock discuss the implications of the Mayan Calendar "end-times" date 2012 which Hancock first drew to the attention of his readers in Fingerprints of the Gods published in 1995. Hancock's evidence for a great lost civilisation wiped out in a global cataclysm 12,500 years ago is explored in depth together with his suggestion that the survivors of that civilisation may have sought to pass down a message to the future and indeed specifically to us in the twenty-first century -- a warning that the next great lost civilisation may be our own. From the geology of the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Egypt to the mysteries of the Ark of the Covenant, from ancient maps showing the world as it looked during the last Ice Age to out-of-place artefacts indicative of high technology in ancient times, the discussion ranges widely across some of the most intriguing evidence for an immense forgotten episode in human history, and moves on to consider the spiritual crisis of the modern age. Could a new paradigm emerge from our present state of chaos? Hancock and Pinchbeck see hope in efforts by people all around the planet to reclaim sovereignty over their own consciousness, and identify a powerful role for shamanistic visionary plants such as Ayahuasca and Psilocybin in ushering in a gentler, less toxic, more nurturing state of mind.