East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


A Christmas’ Eve adventure

It was a bit of Indiana Jones stuff, you see…
OK, let’s start from the beginning.
SFS_french_onion_soup-31Yesterday being Christmas’ Eve, my brother and I decided to treat ourselves with a hearty French onion soup. Nothing too complicated, but good and healthy, and unusual enough on our table that it feels like a festive dish.
We had the ingredients and the recipe down to pat, but we still faced a problem: finding two decent-sized bowls in which to cook the soup in the oven, and then serve it. So I started digging in the cupboards, looking for some fitting container.
No luck.
I moved to our father’s wine cellar, where we do not go normally now that our father’s not with us anymore, neither of us being a wine-drinker. Continue reading

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Francis Frith’s 3D Egypt

francisfrithMore synchronicity.
I’m following an online course – a MOOC – about Victoria-era stereographic photography.
As a geologist, I was introduced to the principles of stereographic photography as part of my job – it’s good for cartography and aerial imaging observation – and I decided to learn more about the history of this technology, and its artistic applications in the Victorian era.
And so I discovered Francis Frith. Continue reading

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The burial place of Osiris

The temple of Isis at Philae used to stand guard at the first cataract of the Nile.
With the construction of the Aswan Dam the area was flooded, and later the temple was moved to a new location.
The original Philae is mentioned by numerous ancient writers, including Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Ptolemy, Seneca, Pliny the Elder. It was, as the plural name indicates, the appellation of two small islands, and the reputed burial place – one of the burial places – of Osiris, and only priests were allowed to live there.

And right now we can take a look at the temple and surrounding buildings in this fine animation.

The approach by water is quite the most beautiful. Seen from the level of a small boat, the island, with its palms, its colonnades, its pylons, seems to rise out of the river like a mirage. Piled rocks frame it on either side, and the purple mountains close up the distance. As the boat glides nearer between glistening boulders, those sculptured towers rise higher and even higher against the sky. They show no sign of ruin or age. All looks solid, stately, perfect. One forgets for the moment that anything is changed. If a sound of antique chanting were to be borne along the quiet air–if a procession of white-robed priests bearing aloft the veiled ark of the God, were to come sweeping round between the palms and pylons–we should not think it strange.
(Amelia Edwards – 1873-1874)

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Karavansara Free Library: Georg Ebers

4f33d756b86612f6bf4e199cca2a532b--literatureYou have to admit the idea had potential: popularize the subjects of Egyptology and Ancient History by writing historical romances.
And so Egyptologist Georg Moritz Ebers, a German that had pursued a legal career before he moved on to Egyptology, becoming teacher of Egyptian language in 1868 in Jena, decided to pursue a parallel career as a novelist.

The guy was a legit Egyptologist, and today is mostly known for the Ebers Papyrus, a medical text from 1550 BC, in the form of a scroll containing 700 magical spells and practical remedies.
Ebers had not actually “discovered” the papyrus – he had just purchased it from Edwin Smith, an American from Orlando, Florida, that lived in Egypt and acquired various documents from sources unknown.
This is not actually strange – a lot of Egyptian antiques were not discovered, but bought by Europeans and Americans from various purveyors of ancient goods. Continue reading

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Cursed by the pharaohs

md22104412845I tried.
No really, I tried.
I took the afternoon off, a nice bowl of tea, and I attacked Curse of the Pharaohs, the book about Tutankhamen’s curse I had found at a free giveaway a few months back – you’ll remember I posted about it.

Considering I am currently sketching an Egypt-related project – plus of course the Aculeo & Amunet and Contubernium stories, and the idea of re-playing Masks of Nyarlathotep… all this considered, a nice afternoon reading about Egyptian curses looked like a nice way to have fun and do research at the same time.

But what the heck… Continue reading