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  •  Action Archaeologists! (13+ / 0-)

    One book about archaeology that I really liked was C.W. Ceram's Gods, Graves and Scholars, which recounts the lives and adventures of some of the early archaeologists.  

    He tells of Dominique-Vivant Denon, a diplomat who dabbled in illustration and writing erotic fictions and who was part of the small army of scientists Napoleon brought with him on his Egyptian campaign.  The illustrations Denon brought back did much to capture the imagination of Europe for things Egyptian.  As Ceram put it:  “Napoleon conquered Egypt with bayonets, and held it for one short year.  But Denon conquered the Land of the Pharaohs with his crayon and held it permanently."

    He also tells of the French scholar Champollion, who translated the Rosetta Stone.  Champollion knew several ancient languages fluently and for practice wrote journals in Coptic.  After his death, another scholar, finding these journals, mistook them for copies of an original Egyptian manuscript.

    And he tells of the oft-maligned Heinrich Schliemann, the wealthy amateur who set out to find the City of Troy with a shovel and a copy of the Iliad.  He really did find a treasure in ancient gold, but in doing so tore up the strata a couple layers up which probably represented the Troy of Homer, earning himself the undying ire of later generations of archaeologists.  And then he went to Crete and discovered another treasure along with the Labyrinth of King Minos.

    But your piece reminded me of this little anecdote Ceram tells in another place:

        On a sarcophagus kept in the Louvre in Paris is an Amor and Psyche group in which the right forearm of Armor is broken off, but with the right hand still caressing Psyche’s cheek.  Two French archaeologists published a work with an illustration in which this hand is shown as a beard.  Psyche with whiskers!

        Despite the patent absurdity of the drawing, another Frenchman, author of the Louvre catalogue, writes:  “The sculptor who worked on this sarcophagus did not understand the theme, for his Psyche, though dressed like a woman, wears a beard.


    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:32:19 PM PST

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