Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week has the topic Non-Alive Animals. Of course, any representation of an animal has a real animal in mind as the artist creates it. But the rendition may be very close in appearance to the real animal, or it may be whimsical, or abstract. It all depends on the craftsman’s talent and point of view.
It was hard to choose photos for this post – so many to choose from! Everywhere I go, locally or abroad, there is animal art. Animals have been subjects for every kind of art imaginable for thousands of years…
Such as the first known painting in the world, a painting of Egyptian geese on papyrus at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo,
and the god Horus, usually represented as a hawk, at the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt.
Also at the Egyptian Museum is a throne of King Tutankhamun, whose tomb was not found until 1922, with most of its grave goods intact – it hadn’t been subjected to many tomb robberies!
The ancient Chinese civilization also had many animal representations, one of the most common being the guardian lion. This one is in front of a restaurant, House of Szechwan, in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Deriving from this Chinese custom, there are people today who have a pair of lions as lawn ornaments, like this one in Des Plaines. He might look more ferocious if freshly painted!
Here are another example of a Des Plaines lawn ornament, this cute little bird sitting on an orb.
There were many whimsical animals on display for sale or as decoration in the charming small town of Poulsbo, Washington, north of Tacoma.
In Evanston, Illinois, there is a little known museum called the American Toby Jug Museum, which we discovered during Chicago’s annual Open House in October. Toby Jugs are ceramic figures, usually depicting well known persons, but also animals. The history of the toby jug, or philpot, dates back to 18th century potters in Staffordshire, England and was popularized by colonists in the United States. The top of each toby jug has a spout for pouring, but nowadays, these figurines are primarily for ornamentation or collections.
After the wedding we attended near Poulsbo, Washington, we spent a day in Tacoma before returning to Seattle for our flight home. There is a beautiful Museum of Glass there, which has many objects designed by the famous Dale Chihuly, but there is also a fine collection of glass sculptures by other artists, such as this beautiful horse.
Horses are the subject of many works of art, including statues of famous heroes mounted on horses in many European cities, but I am only including two 2-dimensional renditions, one a drawing of a palomino I drew a few days ago, and another one at a short film display at the Ij (Eye) Museum in Amsterdam.
While in Amsterdam, we visited the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam, founded circa 1213 CE. Under the seats of the choir were unique carvings – some rather bawdy! – including this one of a pig.
Most people love animals, and there are many examples of whimsical animals to delight human sensibilities. In the gardens behind Melk Abbey in Austria are some cute creatures, mostly fantastical combinations of human and animal, but there was this turtle:
In Passau, Germany, which we had visited the previous day while on our Viking European cruise, while walking around town on our own, we came across a dachshund museum! Big and little dachshund statues were in front of it.
Who could resist being delighted by several painted cows in the town across from Mont St-Michel in France? Here is one of them, my personal favorite (I love that bright blue udder!).
Our daughter loves Hello Kitty, and for her bridal shower, Hello Kitty was the theme! I bought these as party favors.
Some animal sculptures are cute,
but some can be a bit intimidating!…
and some are reminders of favorite movies, such as this groundhog in Woodstock, Illinois, where Groundhog Day was filmed.
Amy of Lens-Artists invites us this week to show old and new with our photos and stories.
On our last trip to Brazil, we spent our first week staying with friends in the southern city of Curitiba, which has well over 1 million inhabitants. The city has grown a lot since I was last there in 1979! In this photo, the juxtaposition between old and new can be seen in the Centro Histórico (historical center), with Portuguese-style buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries dwarfed by modern skyscrapers.
We then spent about a week in São Paulo. Every Sunday, a major avenue, Avenida Paulista, is closed to motorized traffic; pedestrians and bicyclists have the street to themselves on that day. Being a major street, Avenida Paulista is lined with ultra modern architecture, but there are historical monuments there also, which visitors can explore. At the far end of this avenue is the Casa das Rosas, named for its rose gardens, a Victorian mansion that has become part of Brazil’s historic patrimony. Behind this partial view of the house, a glass blue skyscraper rises high.
In São Paulo’s downtown, old and new live side by side, above and below. These 19th century buildings, which can be admired for their colors nd wrought-iron balconies, now house modern stores on their lower levels.
Two years later, we were in Egypt, where we saw many monuments of its 3500 year old civilization. The Egyptians are both proud of their heritage and dependent economically on tourism. This modern apartment building is decorated with motifs of ancient Egypt.
While visiting the ancient pyramids in Giza, just outside the city of Cairo, we also took in a museum housing a restored ancient boat belonging to one of the first pharaohs. These boats were buried in pits next to the king’s tomb because the ancient Egyptians believed he would need his boat to travel to the afterworld. While the pyramids and the boat are ancient, the hexagonal Giza Solar Boat Museum which houses the ancient boat is quite modern looking on the outside, in contrast with the 3,500 year old pyramid behind it!
We visited the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled as pharaoh for nearly 20 years during Egypt’s 18th dynasty. I took this photo of my silly husband with his Nikon camera hanging down over his chest, posing with two Egyptian guards dressed in traditional garb in one of the temple’s sanctuaries.
Every one of the monuments was swarming with cellphone-toting tourists snapping photos.
South of Aswan is the city and monument of Abu Simbel, which is less touristy, because many people do not want to take the two-plus journey there to see the twin temples built by Ramses II. When the Aswan High Dam was built in the 1960s, it caused a lake to form south of the dam, which flooded previously inhabited areas. Because of its historical value, a huge effort was made, before the dam could be built, to remove the ancient monuments that would otherwise end up underwater. Ramses II’s temple and the smaller temple next to it he had built for his beloved wife Nefertari were divided painstakingly into sections and lifted 200 meters higher where a cliff had been carved out for its placement to look at much like the original location as possible. In the old position, Ramses II’s architects had cleverly created an inner chamber in which there were statues of the pharaoh and two gods, which received direct sunlight for 45 minutes on only two days of the year – his birthday and his coronation date – February 22 and October 22. One of the gods, Ptah, remained always in shadow, for he was the god of darkness. When the monuments were raised up to the higher cliff in the 1960s, the sun’s rays no longer illuminated the statues on those two dates, but close – they now shine upon the statues for fewer minutes on Feb. 21 and Oct. 21, only a day earlier.
Several of Egypt’s ancient monuments, including the temples at Abu Simbel, now have a special light show for tourists, which project colorful images onto the outer face of the monuments starting at twilight. As the images are shown, there is narration to accompany them in several languages that you listen to with an earbud attached to a small transmitter. New technology is juxtaposed with ancient buildings by using them as a “movie screen” for the images. During the projection of the images, it is difficult to make out the shapes and features of the statues behind them.
In Israel, where we traveled after our tour of Egypt, there are also many ancient places. Much of the original wall of Jerusalem and its gates still exists; millions of tourists and residents enter those gates on a daily basis. Here are some young Israelis dressed in their military uniforms about to enter this ancient gate.
In Gethsemane, there is a garden with ancient olive trees. One of them is exceptionally old – dating from the time of Jesus and is believed to possibly have been a young tree when he leaned against it to pray on the eve of his crucifixion. In order to protect it, a fence now surrounds it.
Finally, while on a boat tour of the canals and harbor of Amsterdam, I took this photo of Amsterdammers in a boat shaped like a Heineken barrel, about to pass under a medieval bridge.
Mind Over Memory has a weekly invitation for sculpture photos. Last year, when we got home from our trip to the Middle East, we visited the Egyptian exhibit at The Field Museum in Chicago. These are sculptures – or sculpted wooden mummy cases. Royalty in ancient Egypt would encase their mummified loved ones in several of these cases. The wooden ones might be painted, while others were made of bronze or glass.
Small sculptures of gods would also be buried in the tomb to offer protection in the afterlife.
Obelisks were built throughout ancient Egyptian history, but they became more common during the New Kingdom. The top of an obelisk is pyramid shaped and is called pyramidion, referring to the uppermost piece or capstone of an Egyptian obelisk.
For Becky’s April Squares with the subject top, here are some obelisk tops.
The tops of columns, called capitals, in ancient Egypt are spectacular in their variety and beauty. Sometimes, a column top could have the head of a god/goddess, such as this column depicting Hathor, at Hatshepsut’s palace, which contained a temple dedicated to this goddess. She was an important goddess, especially for women, being the goddess of fertility and motherhood. Note that her ears are shaped like a cow’s. Hathor was often depicted as a cow.
Most columns were lavishly carved and the capitals are of a few different types:
lotus bud (at Karnak, near Luxor)
This capital is one example of a bell shape, depicting palms or possibly open lotus flowers. (Temple of Khnum, Edfu) Notice that the colors it was originally painted are still visible.
Many of the bell shapes were elaborately decorated.
The next two photos are of the open palm type, both at Temple of Khnum.
The Temple of Khnum, where I took most of these photos, have a beautiful variety of capital types.
Posted for Becky’s April Squares with the topic of tops.
We disembarked our vessel, Aida, this morning and boarded a bus for a 2-hour + ride to the town of Abu Simbel, for which the temple was named. The landscape along this route is mostly desert.
The town of Abu Simbel is a good place to be introduced to Nubian culture. The Nubians who originally lived in this area were displaced in the 1960s by the building of the Aswan High Dam. Now this small town is growing again as people return to the area. I took these photos from the bus as we drove through the town.
Our destination was Abu Simbel Temple.
Ramses II (who reigned c. 1279-1213 BCE) had two massive temples built at Abu Simbel. The pharaoh was a bit of a narcissist and wanted to advertise to the Nubians that he was the god-king and ruler of this land. Nubia had been conquered by the Egyptians, which extended the Egyptian empire southward. Ramses II had his artisans carve the temples out of a rock cliff to display his might, which was an effective deterrent to Nubian rebellion.
Originally the two temples were at the bottom of the cliff into which they were carved. However, due to the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, which created Lake Nasser and flooded the surrounding area, they were moved 200 feet above the water level and 1/3 of a mile back from the lake shore. It is quite a walk, often uphill, from the parking lot to the site of the temples.
These two photos were taken from the pathway to the temples, the first a view of Lake Nasser, the second, two large rocks on which people had piled up small rocks. (I had seen these small stone piles before, on the trail from Machu Picchu, but here they were much more numerous and somewhat chaotic.)
In order to move the monuments higher up (because they would otherwise be completely submerged in the lake), a painstaking project funded by UNESCO was undertaken in which the temples were dismantled by cutting them into about 5,000 pieces, raised up using pulleys and reassembled 60 meters (about 200 feet) higher up. To do this, the upper cliff also had to be carved out in order for the temples to retain their original appearance and great effort was made to reconstruct the temples with the same orientation as the originals. All this was accomplished in the years 1964-1968, before the building of the High Dam was completed. (Other monuments that stood on islands in the Nile River were also disassembled and reassembled elsewhere, but Abu Simbel was by far the most enormous and ambitious undertaking.) Below are two photos of this massive project, taken from Google Images.
Rebuilding the Great Temple of Abu Simbel.
The first of the two temples, the Great Temple was dedicated to Ramses II as a god-king and to Ra-Harakhte, Amun-Ra and Ptah, major gods in the Egyptian pantheon. The second temple was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Nefertari, Ramses II’s wife and queen.
In front of the Great Temple are four seated colossi of Ramses II, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, which is most preserved in the far left statue. Around the legs of the statues are smaller figures of the pharaoh’s wives and children. Between the two pairs of statues, above the doorway, is a carved figure of Ra-Harakhte. Ra was portrayed as a falcon and shared characteristics with the sky god Horus. Sometimes these two gods were merged to form Ra-Harakhte: “Ra, who is the Horus of the Two Horizons.” Also, in the New Kingdom, the god Amun rose to prominence, so Ra and Amun were merged to form Amun-Ra.
The Great Temple is 98 feet (30 meters) high and 115 feet (35 meters) wide.
The doorway between the colossi leads to the first hall, which contains columns decorated with figures of Ramses II.
Inside this hall are carvings of events, particularly battle scenes, that happened during Ramses II’s reign. These photos are taken from the photo archive of Mohammed Fahey. (We were not allowed to take photos inside.)
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The second hall contains four square columns and is decorated with more benign scenes – Ramses II and Queen Nefertari making offerings to the gods, including the deified Ramses himself.
The sanctuary contains four statues of the gods to whom the temple is dedicated: Ptah, Amun-Ra, Ramses II, Ra-Horakhte, in that order from left to right.
An amazing story about these sanctuary statues is that the sun would enter this inner chamber at certain times of day and certain days of the year. On the left, Ptah, is always in darkness, because he is the god of the underworld. The sunlight would penetrate 180 feet (55 meters) into the inner sanctuary to illuminate the statues of Amun-Ra and Ramses II (the two middle figures) for 45 minutes on two important days of the year: February 22, the king’s birthday and October 22, the date of his coronation. This was further emphasis on his elevated status as a god-king.
When the monument was moved up the cliff in the 1960s, the light illuminating the statues changed – but not by much. It now shines on Ramses II for 25 minutes on February 21 and October 21, only one day off from the original dates!
Ramses II apparently loved his wife, Nefertari, so much that he had the Temple of Queen Nefertari built to honor her and the goddess Hathor. This marks only the second time in ancient Egypt that a pharaoh built a temple for his wife (the first was Akhenaten for Queen Nefertiti). Furthermore, it is the only time where her statue is the same size as that of the pharaoh, each standing 32 feet (10 meters) tall.
Like the Great Temple, Nefertari’s temple faces east. It is about 92 feet (28 meters) long and 40 feet (12 meters) high.
Four of the six statues are of Ramses II and two are of Nefertari. Smaller statues at their feet represent their children.
The temple doorway leads to a hall which contains six pillars with heads of the goddess Hathor.
The hall is decorated with scenes of the royal couple making offerings to or worshipping the gods. Behind that is the main sanctuary, where there is a niche with a statue of Hathor as a cow, protecting Ramses II and Nefertari.
We returned to Abu Simbel in the late afternoon, as the sun was setting, to see the Sound and Light Show. It is worthwhile seeing at least one of these during a visit to the major Egyptian monuments – there are also Sound & Light Shows at Karnak, Luxor Temple, Kom Ombo and others.
We were each given an audio translator to watch the show. However, among the English translators that were handed out was one in Spanish, which one of the men in the group, discovered when he turned his on. By the time he found this out, the show had started so there was no way to exchange it. Instead, I traded with him, since I knew I could understand the narration in Spanish.
If you wondered what those little boxes were in front of the temples, they are used to project the sound and light show, which starts after sunset.The narration tells the story of how the monument was moved higher up the cliff when the dam was being built and also speculates about the life of the ancient Egyptians who built these temples.
Lights illuminate the statues in front of both temples.
With accompanying music, colorful images are projected onto the front of the temples.
Kom Ombo Temple is probably my favorite of all the ancient Egyptian sites I saw on this trip. It has several interesting features that make it unique.
About 30 miles north of the city of Aswan, Kom Ombo is located in a region that has a large Nubian community that was resettled here after the construction of the Aswan High Dam, which flooded the area they had come from originally. I will write more about the Nubians in a future post.
The town of Kom Ombo has grown considerably in the last 35 years since its founding. It was an important town in ancient times because it was located at a convergence of trade routes to the Nile Valley, the Red Sea, and Nubia.The Temple of Kom Ombo is a double temple, to worship the gods Sobek (the crocodile god) and Horus (the falcon god). Both these gods were depicted, as Egyptian gods often were, as either an animal or a person with the animal’s head.
Kom Ombo Temple was built during the Ptolemaic era, between the 2nd century BCE and the 1st century CE. All the remains of the temple date to that period and later, although there has been evidence found of earlier structures, most notably an 18th Dynasty gateway.
The temple is called a “double temple” because it has two of almost everything, which allowed the priests to conduct equal worship rituals for two gods simultaneously. The southern part of the temple is dedicated to Sobek, the northern part to Horus. In addition, there is a small shrine dedicated to the goddess Hathor.
Crocodiles, sacred to Sobek, were worshipped here at Kom Ombo and were regarded as semi-divine. They were fed the finest foods, provided with golden earrings, and were even given manicures to gild their nails! Sacred crocodiles, when they were alive, were kept in the northwestern part of the temple. There is now a crocodile museum (included in the entrance ticket) adjacent to the temple where crocodile mummies and other artifacts are on display. We went there after our tour of the temple, but it was quite dark inside and we were not allowed to take photos anyway. However, here is one from a professional photographer.
The double entrance opens onto a large courtyard, the only shared space inside the temple’s boundaries. The entrance was oriented toward the river, facing roughly west.
There are two doorways from the courtyard to the outer hypostyle (columned) halls, inner hypostyle halls,
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a series of offering halls, and twin sanctuaries, for Horus on the left and Sobek on the right.
Mohamed showed us a calendar on the southwest wall of the Offering Hall, the first one we had seen.
Another interesting feature is on the back wall of the outer enclosure – carvings of surgical instruments. Surgical tools found at archaeological sites match those in these carvings – quite amazing!
Another common theme was food, either being offered to the gods by the pharaoh or depicted upon a table.
Some of the reliefs show deep carving, especially the largest figures which cover an entire wall. This is the foot of Horus…
…who is holding a staff and an ankh.
Behind him is a carving of Hathor, also holding a staff and an ankh.
Some of the feet show details of the toes, such as this one of Hathor’s foot – she has very long toes!
This temple was also known for being a place of healing. High up on a wall is a small doorway with a carved ear on either side. These “listening ears” are where people could go to tell the gods about their medical problems in hopes of healing.
Throughout the temple were reliefs amazing in their artistry and imagination.
This bas relief is an interesting one, containing several figures. In the center stands the king, surrounded by familiar gods. To the left are Hathor and Thoth (ibis-headed god); to the right are a lion and two images of Horus. The lion was a symbol of strength and mastery of the natural world when depicted alongside the king. This shows that the lion/pharaoh is the guardian of order, or Ma’at, which was an important concept for the ancient Egyptians. Some gods also assimilated leonine aspects, such as Horus.
Horus assimilated the god Tjel (a feline god), giving a lion image to a god almost always depicted as a falcon. That seems to be the symbolism of this remarkable image, which shows both the lion’s head and the falcon’s wings in motion. Right underneath the lion with wings is Horus in his true nature as a falcon.
The lion is often depicted as female, such as in this relief. This female feline goddess was eventually incorporated into a domestic cat goddess, Bastet.
Enjoy these additional photos of this fascinating and beautiful temple!!
Sources: Symbolism of the Lion in Ancient Egypt by Michael Fassbender The Temple of Kom Ombo on website Ancient Egypt Online. In this article,
Horus and Sobek are said to be in conflict, which is why the temple had to
separate them. I had not found this idea of conflict in any other source. Kom Ombo, Wikipedia. Fodor’s Egypt, 2009 edition
My own notes from information given to us by our guide
This afternoon we arrived at the narrowest stretch of the Nile, an area that the Egyptians called “Khenu” or the place of rowing. At Gebel Silsila, high sandstone cliffs come down close to the water’s edge.
The Temple of Horemheb is small and not well-known.
Nile cruise ships don’t stop here because they are too large to moor in this area.
The temple itself is not in great condition compared to others we had seen and would see over the next few days. It was interesting because of the different inscriptions, not just hieroglyphic writing, but also hieratic script, demotic writing of later times, with Greek influences, and Coptic script from early Christian times. Early Christians stopped here to shelter and escape persecution during the early years of Islamic reign in Egypt. They are likely the people who wrote some of the later-age inscriptions. For this reason, this site is of particular interest to epigraphic studies (study of inscriptions).
The temple dates from the end of ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, during the reign of Horemheb, who dedicated the temple to Sobek (the crocodile god), …
Amun (pictured below, distinguishable by his large feather headdress),
…and other gods, including Thoth.
Thoth, in ancient Egyptian belief, was born with immense knowledge, the most important of which was the power of words. Although he gave this knowledge to humans, he expected them to take it seriously. The main purpose of writing was not decorative or literary. It was to provide a means to bring into existence concepts and events. If something was written, it could be “made to happen” again and again.