Truthful Tuesday: Hobbies & Obsessions

Truthful Tuesday

Welcome to another edition of PCGuyIV’s Truthful Tuesday! Here is the question for this week:
With the exception of blogging (assuming it’s a hobby and not your profession), do you have any unique hobbies or pastimes?

UNIQUE?? Hmmm….I don’t think any of my hobbies are particularly unique. I like to write, draw, blog, read, garden…these are not exactly unique.

I thought of the collections I have. I do have several collections: cats (images, figurines, etc. – I always try to buy a cat sculpture when I travel), Mexican alebrijes (little figurines of animals, carved out of wood and intricately painted), creches (Nativity scenes – I have about eight of them so far, from different cultures), photo albums (I used to make them by hand, now I do it on Shutterfly – and for what? They take up room and when I die, no one will want them and they’ll get thrown away – but this year I love them because we can’t travel due to the coronavirus and it’s nice to look at the albums I worked so hard on when it’s cold and dreary – like today – I can “travel” back in time), “refrigerator” magnets (which are not on my refrigerator, they’re on my file cabinets – I buy magnets everywhere I travel), and it looks like I will soon have a collection of unique face masks!

A collection of some of my animal figurines

I decided to ask my husband, who always thinks of things I never come up with. He said, “You’ve become an ancient Egyptophile” which is true! We went to Egypt two years ago and since then I’ve developed an obsession with ancient Egypt. I made two photo albums on Shutterfly (because I had too many photos I wanted to include for only one), I have researched historical fiction about ancient Egypt and bought a lot of books from Amazon, as cheaply as possible, because most are no longer available at libraries. Libraries tend to cull books that were written over twenty years ago and not in demand any longer, unless they are classics. Apparently ancient Egypt was a fad in the 1990s, because nearly all the books I’ve gotten were written at that time, and most of the authors haven’t written anything new. (I vaguely remember my mother getting all excited about “King Tut” because items found in the tomb of Tutankhamun were in a traveling exhibit at museums around the world – perhaps that’s when it was.)

One of the thrones found in Tutankhamun’s tomb

I also subscribe to the online Ancient History Encyclopedia, where I look up things I want more background about, and I’ve even made lists of the pharaohs, women rulers in ancient Egypt, and timelines. Actually, I have recently become interested in ancient history in general, which I never studied in high school or college. The Egyptian civilization is the oldest of all of those long gone civilizations, and it lasted three thousand years, more than any other, I think. It is amazing that we have been able to learn so much about them. They left so many writings, monuments that contain writing, tombs that have been preserved for centuries. They were a proud, egocentric people, and did want to leave behind their life histories for posterity. We know quite a bit about their customs and culture, but of course there are many gaps and lots of speculation. Every so often, some archaeologist uncovers something new that sheds light on a missing piece. Tutankhamen, for example, was not an important or long-lived pharaoh. His reign started when he was 10 and he died at 19. He is so well-known to us because his was one of the very few tombs that was found intact due to its location underneath another tomb. There used to be a lot of speculation that “the boy king” was murdered, but in the 2000s, they did a DNA test on his mummy and found that he died of malaria. At least, that’s what our Egyptologist guide told us.

Statues of female pharaoh, Hatshepsut, at her mortuary temple. She ruled for 20 years, but preferred to be depicted as a man in her statuary.

I wonder if two millennia from now, what will be left over of our civilization that people in the future will be interested in? Everything nowadays is so fleeting, temporary – much of what we’ve written and done will be lost; we don’t build many monuments these days, and everything we buy is not made to last. If we don’t destroy the planet before then, perhaps someone in that far distant future will find elements of our cultures that they will try to piece together.

We have an expression when we want to say something is not a strict rule: “It’s not written in stone.” That describes our attitude today, I think! The ancients, however, DID write in stone! We have sent samples of our culture out into space for extraterrestrials to find. But who will find us? And will they want to?

I realize I’ve strayed far from the question, but it’s more of a justification for this obsessive “hobby.” I don’t know how long it will last, but it’s definitely Covid-19 driven! Lots of time to read and immerse myself in the lives of people – real and fictional – who lived along the Nile River several millennia ago! It makes the time we are stuck at home a lot more interesting.

Journey to Egypt, Part 5: Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

December 25, 2018

The Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo is a huge neoclassical building which is home to the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts.  The collection contains over 100,000 pieces, so it is said that if you spend just one minute on each piece, it would take over nine months to complete the tour!

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Main entrance to the museum. There are also some interesting artifacts in the gardens outside.

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Interesting tree in front of the museum

Because it is so large and overwhelming, the museum is best toured with a guide. Begin in the center of the ground floor below the atrium and rotunda. There are important and beautiful artifacts in this area.

Below is a statue of Khafre, builder of the 2nd Great Pyramid in Giza. He ruled during the Old Kingdom (25511-2528 BCE). When viewed from the side, one can see the god Horus, often depicted as a falcon, with his wings embracing the head of the king, offering his protection. The name of this statue is Khafre Enthroned.

One of the most beautiful – and among my favorites – statues is this depiction of the pharaoh Menkaure (from the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, builder of the third great pyramid at Giza), who is flanked by two goddesses: Hathor, on his right, and Anubis, on his left. These goddesses offer protection to the king and provide the authority for him to rule. Hathor is easily identifiable by her crown combining a sun disk with horns of a cow. She is the goddess of fertility, love and motherhood, and is the wife of Horus.
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Anubis, on Menakure’s left, is a god associated with a jackal. Although portrayed here as a woman, Anubis was generally considered to be male. He was the god of the dead, who made sure that the deceased was safely delivered to the afterlife.

Rahotep,  son of king Sneferu, was an Egyptian prince,  during the 4th Dynasty, who was married to Nofret. They had six children together. Rahotep’s statue has six columns of hieroglyphic text, indicating his titles and duties. Nofret’s has two columns of text. Her name appears at the bottom and means “beautiful woman.”

The limestone statue (photo below) depicting Seneb, a dwarf of prominence in the Old Kingdom (c. 2520) with his wife Senetites and their two children, indicates that he was an important official in the Egyptian royal kingdom. He was wealthy and owned thousands of cattle, twenty palaces and religious titles. His wife, Senetites, was a priestess of high rank. Quoting from the Wikipedia article about Seneb, Seneb is depicted with his wife and children in a painted sculpture from his tomb… It shows him sitting cross-legged on a block of stone with his wife embracing him and his children standing below him where the legs of a full-size person would ordinarily have been.
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Seneb’s tomb was found in the Western Cemetery (behind the Great Pyramid of Khufu and north of the second great pyramid of Khafre) at the Giza complex.

There is a small statuette of the king Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
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Statue of the Lector Priest, Kaaper, known as Sheikh-el-Belad; sycamore wood with eyes made from rock crystal rimmed with copper; found in mastaba (small tomb) at Saqqara; Old Kingdom, 5th Dynasty, c. 2494-2345 BCE.

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Limestone statuettes of children playing from an Old Kingdom tomb

The famous Meidan Geese of the Nile is the oldest known painting in the world, painted on papyrus using natural pigments, which never fade or dissolve on papyrus.
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Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II was the first king of the Middle Kingdom, beginning the 11th Dynasty (c. 2061-2040 BCE). Between the Old and New Kingdoms, there was an intermediary period in which Egypt was ruled by warring factions. Mentuhotep II ruled for 51 years and in his 39th year he reunified Egypt, thus becoming the first pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom.

This statue, of painted sandstone, shows Mentuhotep II seated with enlarged feet and legs. Mohamed told us this was done intentionally, indicating that he may have had elephantiasis. On his head he wears the red crown, which symbolizes control over Lower
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The New Kingdom is the most interesting to me, because there were several intriguing pharaohs; it was also the era of the most famous (to us): Tutankhamun.

One of the most interesting figures during the New Kingdom was Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled for about 20 years.

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Statue of Queen Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty, c. 1490-1470 BCE) as a sphinx. She ruled as regent to Thutmose III, who was only a baby when the previous king, Hatshepsut’s husband, died. Thus she continued to rule as queen, but did not step aside when Thutmose III was old enough to rule on his own. In her statuary, she began to be portrayed as a man, hence the beard on the sphinx’s chin.

Another fascinating pharaoh was Akhenaten, son of Amenhotep III and his main queen, Tiye. Akhenaten was married to the beautiful Nefertiti, with whom he had six daughters. In their portrayals on temple wall carvings, Akhenaten, Nefertiti and some of their daughters are shown worshipping Aten, depicted as a sun disk with rays descending toward Earth. Each ray had a hand at the end.

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This carving shows King Akhenaten (largest figure, in front) offering lotus flowers to Aten, the Sun. Nefertiti stands behind him, also offering flowers, and behind her are two of their daughters. The family grouping, including two or more daughters, appears in many of the surviving carvings and paintings of Akhenaten’s rule.

Akhenaten’s reign was controversial because he imposed a monotheistic religion in which Aten was the only god. Aten isn’t portrayed in human or animal form, like the other gods had been, but rather as a disk with rays flowing down. It was difficult and unfulfilling for ancient Egyptians to identify with such an impersonal god. After his death, Akhenaten was declared as a “heretic” and Egyptian society reverted back to the old gods. Most of his statues were destroyed and the carvings of him defaced.

Artistic trends during this period tended toward realism. Royal personages were portrayed as they actually looked, rather than the somewhat uniform ideal of previous rulers. Akhenaten himself had a rather unusual appearance – his face was long and thin and his hips and thighs wide, so it’s easy to identify him. Here are two portrayals:

 

 

The gold foils on Akhenaten’s coffin were found in the Valley of the Kings and restored on plexiglass.
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The Egyptian custom of mummifying the dead is well known.

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Mummified animals

The mummification process took about 70 days.  First the viscera would be extracted from the body (lungs, intestine, stomach and liver) and placed in separate jars, called canopic jars.
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These miniature anthropoid coffins may have held Tutankhamun’s viscera:
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The brain would also be removed by suction. The heart was left in the body because the ancient Egyptians believed that the heart was the center of knowledge.

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Mummified body in its coffin (Tutankhamen’s mummy is in his tomb at Valley of the Kings.)

The mummies were placed in contoured coffins like the one above, then placed further in a series of progressively larger coffins. (It reminded me of Russian nesting dolls.) Here are some of Tutankhamun’s elaborately painted coffins.

The final coffin, lavishly decorated and painted in bright colors, would look like this. (This is Tutankhamun’s.)
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Tutankhamun, “the boy-king” as he is known today, was most likely the son of Akhenaten with one of his lesser wives. He was given the name Tutankhaten, in honor of Aten, the god of his father’s religion; after his father’s death, he changed it to Tutankhamun, “Amun” being the sun god in the Egyptian pantheon.

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Statue of Tutankhamun – the black color of the skin was associated with the creator god Osiris.

For years, the cause of his death at age 19 or 20 was unknown, but there was a lot of speculation, including murder. However, recent advances in DNA technology have allowed Egyptologists to determine that the probable cause of death was malaria.

The exhibit of Tutankhamun’s mummy cases, sarcophagi and the riches found in his tomb were on display in a special exhibit on the second floor.

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Throne of Tutankhamun

Because he was so young when he died, Tutankhamun was not an important king and would have been worth only a brief mention in Egyptian history, but for the fact that his tomb was not found until 1922 by Howard Carter. Tomb raiders had taken the valuables out of almost every king’s tomb, but Tutankhamun’s tomb was largely untouched. This allowed Egyptologists to study the artifacts found in his tomb and determine what the tombs of other pharaohs would normally look like before tomb raiders got to them.

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Chariot found in Tutankhamun’s tomb

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The only thing we were not allowed to photograph is Tutankhamun’s death mask, which is in a special case with a guard making sure no one takes photos!  This is a stock photo of the mask.

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More artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb:

The coffins were then placed in a series of sarcophagi, each one larger than the previous. These are two sarcophagi from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

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Pictures and hieroglyphics carved on the side tell of the king and his achievements.

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Mohamed gave us free time to see more of the museum, but we were pretty “burned out” by then! Here are some things we looked at during our free time.

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Looking down from a 2nd floor viewpoint

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Colossi of Ramses II with probably his wife

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stone sarcophagus

Next: Visit to the Christian quarter and a Jewish synagogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CB&WPC: Old

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week is People or Objects Over 50.

Two years ago, we had several rooms in our house renovated. The walls had to be stripped of wallpaper.

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One of the things the painters uncovered was this old doorbell, installed in the 1940s or possibly earlier.
phone photos 216 (2)Since I am over 50 myself, so are many of the people in my life! The oldest was my mother, who died in 2014. This picture was taken on her 96th birthday.410 (3)
This is a selfie of me and my husband in Amsterdam, in Museum Square, earlier this year. We both had rather strange expressions on our faces!20180129_135904 (2)
We went to an art exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute recently, of ancient Chinese bronzes.  This ancient scroll from the Zhou Dynasty is a drawing of a bronze container.
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Chinese bronze bell
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All the people on our safari, except one, were older than 50. Here is our guide, David, telling us about some animal bones (which themselves are old, although I don’t know if they are over 50 years old!).
2-13 David with animal bones at Serengeti NP Visitors Center (3)

 

 

 

 

Walking Tour of Antigua, Guatemala

March 31, 2017

Antigua, Guatemala is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and walking through its old, sometimes crumbling, downtown is like being in an open air museum!

Our guide today was Dario, whose English was not as good as our previous guides in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but he was understandable. He told us he’d been a science teacher and so today we were his “students.” Our group was large and he had a lot of stories to tell us, so he would clap his hands to indicate he wanted us all to gather around him. He had given each of us a number, so he would call out the numbers and we were to reply with “a word, any word” to declare our presence. He also created imaginary “bridges” to get us to walk single file on the narrow sidewalks.

There were 37 of us on the tour, so we tried to keep up in order to not lose sight of
the rest of our group. We tried to keep the little flag with the number 12 on it in sight. We all wore lanyards with Dario Morán written on them. Whoever was at the front of the line had the benefit of Dario’s continuous narrative. Dale and I were never in the front, because we always got out of line to take pictures.

With all the walking and narration, Dario left us little time for bathroom breaks!

The old part of Antigua has many cobblestone streets and sidewalks. We walked along a street that took us to a wall in bad repair with indentations that apparently were bricked over windows of what had been an old hospital. Because it is privately owned, Dario said, the government can do nothing to restore it and apparently whoever owns it doesn’t care to pay for restoration, which is a pity – it could be made into an interesting museum open to all. Dario said there were other such privately-owned sites that would be better put to use as public patrimony.

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The sign at the entrance says that the convent is open Monday thru Sunday 9 am – 5 pm.

KODAK Digital Still CameraOur first major stop was a 1736 Capuchin convent, called Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, belonging to an order of Franciscan nuns. It has been partially restored and is open to the public. One interesting architectural innovation was the columns, which were wider at the bottom than at the top to create a sense of space.

 

This convent and church has several sections. One courtyard flanked by arched hallways had a number of carved stone slabs imprinted with religious or secular objects on display. Another area was a circular courtyard around which were small rooms with arched entryways and each equipped with its own “toilet” (a private area marked off with a hole to use for the purpose). A few of these rooms had wax figures of nuns who would go into these rooms for a private place to read or meditate.

The columns in this courtyard are wider at the bottom.

Stones with religious symbols on display

 

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The round courtyard with small rooms and passageways around it

 

Left: A wax figure of a nun in a private “room.” Right: passageway to another courtyard.

Some of the archways led to larger, more open rooms with windows onto other courtyards with trees and flowers.

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We gathered in a patio in front of the church entrance but did not go in – I’m not sure if it’s open to the public.

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We continued our walk down a cobblestone street with yellow arches over the street. Over one of these was a clock tower. Everywhere we walked, vendors followed us. A couple of young men, one with a Mohawk hairstyle played wooden flutes and tapped on hollow pieces to make percussion sounds. Women in traditional dress peddled their wares to anyone who paid even the slightest attention.

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Although many of the items were similar – beaded necklaces, fake jade pendants, beaded birds and earrings, woven cloths in various sizes, designs and colors – they were mostly quite nice and well made. They and we played the game of pretending the jade necklaces they were selling for $10 were “real” jade.

As I walked along one of the narrow sidewalks, I saw the woman in front of me negotiate with a vendor to buy three necklaces. I showed interest so she followed alongside me as I asked her about various necklaces. I spoke to her in Spanish. (She spoke enough English to sell stuff to tourists.) She wanted to sell me some that didn’t interest me; I wanted (fake) jade. As we walked along, she would show me some of her wares, then suddenly point down and tell me to be careful, there’s a pothole down there! This happened a couple of times. I was enjoying this, since I had had little opportunity to have a conversation in Spanish on this trip. I finally negotiated for 2 necklaces for $15. She wanted $20, and they were probably worth it, but I told her I needed $5 to tip the guide. She accepted this excuse and drew a five-dollar bill from a fold in her skirt, as change for my twenty dollar bill.

Many windows in town were draped with purple cloths, called cucuruchu (not to be confused with cucaracha, although tourists often did, Dario told us!), as preparation for Holy Week. We saw some of the statues that were being prepared for the Passion procession, a tradition here.

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We came to the Plaza Mayor, the main square, whose center featured a mermaid fountain – the mermaids had jets of water flowing from their breasts.KODAK Digital Still Camera

I saw a sign with the word sanitarios, but didn’t have the chance to follow up on that immediately without risking losing the group. Along one side of this plaza was the main cathedral, a pale yellow edifice decorated in Baroque style with white bas relief designs and statues. The symbols of Saint James (Santiago) were present in the design, including the shape of a shell. Dario pointed out one figure of a saint, high up over the main entrance, who was holding a black cross.

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The rest of the plaza had greenery flanking its walking paths and on the three sides not containing the cathedral were government buildings and arch covered walkways with rows of stores.

KODAK Digital Still CameraWe then walked to the ruin of a large church that seems to be in the (slow) process of restoration.

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After the ruin, we walked to the jade factory and museum Jade Maya, our last stop before lunch. Real jade was sold for high prices in high class shops like Jade Maya, which was a factory, museum and showroom where beautifully designed jewelry sold from $50 (for earrings) to over $500 (for stunningly crafted necklaces).  It was possible to get a cheap souvenir for $19, imprinted with the symbol of an animal which corresponded to your exact birthdate. The vendors looked up birthdates in a large book with small printing, containing every date for the last 100 years! The symbol for June 2, 1952 was “Iq” (pronounced “eek”) or colibrí (hummingbird). I bought the round pendant on a black lanyard and in the packaging was a card explaining the symbol’s significance.

 

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My real jade pendant

 

 

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Jade archaeological artifact at Jade Maya

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Courtyard at Jade Maya