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Posts tagged ‘Egypt’

Egyptian Blue Faience

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are discussing Color!  Color has enchanted artists and art lovers for centuries and we’ve picked some exciting topics; you can find links below for the rest of the group’s posts.  I love bright colors, contrasting color, subtle transitions of color, and rich tones, but this month I want to talk about one particularly unique color which is intrinsically tied in my mind to entire collection of objects.  I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egyptian blue Faience.

Blue Hippopotamus at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, blue faience

The iconic Blue Hippopotamus at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most well-known blue faience pieces.  It was created in approximately 1981–1885 BCE in Middle Egypt.

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Ancient Jewelry I’d Like to Own

It always amazes me to see historic jewelry in museums.  I’ve just assumed items so valuable and fragile would not have survived the centuries, but then there they are, neatly lined up in the display cases.  Once again proving that everything old is new again, there’s a lot of ancient jewelry that I’d wear today.  Here are some of personal favorites!

Egyptian bead jewelry

Gorgeous Egyptian necklace from the Oriental Institute in Chicago.  (Photo: Daydream Tourist)

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Help Transcribe an Ancient Text Online

So, how is your Ancient Greek?

Greek papyrusIf you can recognize shapes, then you can help researchers transcribe 500,000 papyri fragments as part of the Ancient Lives Project.  In 1897, two British researchers began excavating the remnants of a Greco-Roman city in Egypt known as Oxrhynchus or ‘City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish’.  What resulted from the dig was a treasury of texts which have yet to be completely translated.

To expedite the process, the papyri have been scanned and are presented on-line so that the greater internet world can help transcribe the pieces.  Through an easy user interface, you are presented a fragment and need to identify letters with the help of an ancient alphabet at the bottom of the screen.  The Ancient Lives project is sponsored by several organizations: Oxford Papyrologists and Researchers, The Imaging Papyri Project, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project, the Egypt Exploration Society, Citizen Science Alliance, the University of Oxford and the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

I’ve done about a dozen fragments myself which was pretty cool.  How often does 5-10minutes of down time turn into an archaeological project?  Enjoy!

#1: The Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur

Hey what's this...

Why not start with one of the most famous ancient sites: the Pyramid Complex of Giza.  The “site” includes several monuments which trace the conceptual evolution of a divine shape now universally recognized as a pyramid but more importantly a visual record of engineering trial and error.  Chronologically, the first innovation can be seen in Djoser’s stacked mastabas or the Step Pyramid in Saqqara.  Previously, pharaohs were buried under large rectangular brick structures until architect, priest and generally creative guy Imhotep though stone would be better and that six progressively small mastabas would be an even better way to exalt the king.  30 years later, King Sneferu was determined to smooth the form a 17 miles south in Dashur.  I would imagine that the visual correlation of ascending to Ra the Sun God made for a strong theological rationale for the pyramid shape.  Sneferu’s reign created the so called Bent Pyramid which rises gradually then changes to a shallow angle of ascent about halfway up.  Presumably there was a problem baring the weight of the building and a more conservative angle was needed to complete it.  I can’t fault the builders at all for this awkward looking pyramid; these were constructed with only the most basic tools, fundamental building technology and the brute force of thousands.  Sneferu was finally successful and completed the Red Pyramid next door.  Finally, the pyramid everyone remembers is that of Sneferu’s son Khufu (2589-66BC) – The Great Pyramid.  Just outside the Cairo, it is constructed from 15 ton stone blocks and surrounded by temple complexes, minor pyramids to Queens, the Sphinx, and an impressive solar boat reconstructed painstakingly from over a thousand pieces.  Set behind Khufu’s pyramid is that of Khafre and Menkaure which get progressively smaller in size.  After this, kings no longer chose to construct pyramids which puts this incredible boom and bust of Old Kindom funerary building in only a ~164 year window.  While you can’t climb the pyramids like you use to do hundreds of years ago, it is still impressive sight and high on my To Do list!

 Getting there: Once in Cairo, taxi tours to Giza, Saqqara and Dashur can be arranged with most hotels.  It generally good advice to arrange the price ahead of time, find a driver who speaks English, and work out how long you want to tour around.  It’s very possible to see all three sites in one day.  Myself, if I’m going to Egypt it’s going to be for a while and I’m going to see more than just the Pyramids.  I’ve got my eyes on Gap Adventure’s Egyptian Archaeology Adventure and will tack on a few days in Alexandria.

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