Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cairo International Airport

"What do you mean, I cannot bring antiquities on the plane?  These were all legally acquired."

Airport Security: "Sir, we cannot allow the unauthorized transportation of cultural property without the express permission from the Egyptian government.  I will have to confiscate any antiquities that you have in your possession.  Please show me some identification."

Polly: "For Amen's sake, Rich, you can't seem to go anywhere without getting yourself into trouble.  You better figure out a way to talk us out of this.  Our tickets to Jordan are non-refundable."

Airport Security: Did that cat just talk?

"You overpaid, totalitarian Nazis!  I found this genuine mummy hand myself and I absolutely cannot part with it!  How am I to continue my research into the-"

Polly: "Maybe don't bring up Nazis, Heiny."

"Do not interrupt me, Polly.  You might distract this dictatorial blockhead.  If he loses his train of thought, he will never find it again."

Airport Security: "Not only are you removing important archeological material from its provenance, but you are attempting to smuggle human remains out of the country.  Where did you find this hand, exactly?"

"That is exactly what I am attempting to explain to you.  This is not a human hand.  I found this attached to the dessicated corpse of an alien being."

Airport Security: "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?  Did you say 'alien'?"

"Oh, and he is hard of hearing, too.  Listen, I do not have the time or the crayons to explain this to you.  Ramses II's corpse is not as it seems, this is the evidence, and I need to get to my gate before the flight leaves."

Airport Security: "You stole Ramses II's hand?!?!  How did you even manage to do that?  I'm going to have to call the police."

*slaps the officer with the dessicated hand*  "I resent your accusations of theft and smuggling.  I am an extremely ethical, globally-recognized professional archaeologist, and my companion here is none other than King Priam himself!  What would it do to either of our reputations to engage in corrupt behavior?"

Airport Security: "I do NOT get paid enough for this.  Get away from me.  You, the talking cat, and your corpse hand.  I didn't see anything."

"I knew you would come to see reason.  I am eager to bring this hand back to the lab for analysis.  Finally I can prove the presence of shapeshifting reptilian beings in the Egyptian royal lineage.  Now, let us hurry to the gate, Polly.  This ridiculous matter has delayed us greatly."

Airport Security:  "I quit.  I.QUIT."

Polly:  We have a laboratory?

"A laboratory, a garden shed.  Call it what you will."  *swings the hand around wildly*

Polly: "Ugh, put that gross thing away."

"This 'gross thing' is going to make us both very, very rich men."

Polly: "Well, then.  By all means, swing it around as much as you like but, if it touches me, I'm gonna poop in your hat."

"Fair enough, Polly.  Fair enough."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Khepri and His Responsibilities (Part 1)

"Amazing, Heiny!  Look at how, well, colossal those Colossi are!"

"The Colossi are aptly named.  I especially appreciate the reference to Troy, even if it suggests some Euro-centrism on the part of the those who named them."

"That's actually a really profound and mature thing for you to say."

"Obviously we should give them good, strong German names.  A strong name for a strong monument.  Perhaps something like, Jörg for that one on the east, and Jürgen for the other."

"Uh.  Ugh.  Never mind.  So, these are the statues that were supposed to sing?"  Polly turned to get a better look, shielding his eyes against the sun with one of his paws.

"Ja.  That one, over there."

Polly walked closer, with Heinrich following close behind.  The feline stopped abruptly, peering into the cracks between the stones.

"Erm, I think I hear talking coming from that Colossi."

Heinrich scoffed.  "Impossible.  The 'song' reported by ancient tourists was only the hollow voice of the wind blowing through the gaps in the rock.  Even if those claims are true, there is certainly no precedent for hearing voices."

"Seriously, Heiny.  Shut up and listen."

Heinrich bent down and placed his ear to the place indicated by his companion.  His eyes widened.  He could, in fact, hear a tiny voice coming from the statue.  It currently seemed to be engaged in an intense debate with itself.

"You are right.  It is a little squeakier than I would have anticipated."

"What's it sayin'?"

"It seems to be demanding a pay raise."

Suddenly, Heinrich's head snapped back, as if he had been struck.

"OY!  Didn't your mother ever tell you not to eavesdrop on people?"

Polly balked.  "Um, sorry Mr. Jörg.  We didn' mean ta pry into your statue business."

The high-pitched voice seemed to increase in pitch.  "Who is Jörg?!  Does he owe me money?  My name is Khepri, and I'd appreciate it if you'd watch your feet.  You're about two inches away from stepping on me."

To be continued.

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

Polly and I decided that the best way to tour--ahem, EXPLORE Egypt would be to follow the Nile.  The obvious next step was to charter a cruise.

I ain't that fond of boats, or the Nile, or crocodiles, but neither Rich nor I have valid driver's licenses, and for some reason, the taxi cab companies in Egypt put us on a blacklist.

It was curious.  I did call several taxi service companies and asked why they would do such a thing, but they refused to comment on the matter.  In fact, the most I got out of them was something about finding hairballs on the seats.  You would not happen to know anything about this, Herr Polly?

Uh, no.  Of course not.  

As I suspected.  This is obviously another conspiracy by some mysterious organization, trying to throw us off their trail.

Mhm.  Yep.  That is exactly what happened.  

The cruise was an educational experience, particularly for my companion.  We began in Cairo and will continue upstream, all the way to the farthest edge of the Ancient Egyptian empire in the south.  Some of the notable monuments to alien ingenuity included in the tour package guided expedition include the Dendera Temple, the Colossi on Memnon in the Theban Necropolis, Luxor, Kom Ombo, and Abu Simbel at its new location (the entire complex was moved in 1968 owing to the flooding caused by the Aswan Dam).

Don't forget about the Esna Lock!

What did you think of the sites that we have seen so far?

Temple of Hathor:

Hmm, well the Temple was pretty neat.  Everything there is so well-preserved, although the ceiling is super dirty.  The ancient Egyptians sure know how to execute a paint job, unlike you.

The ceiling is blackened owing to smoke from fires long ago.  And what are you implying about my artistic abilities?

I don't understand why the goddess of beauty is a cow.  Bastet--now THAT'S a looker.  

The cow is sacred in many cultures, Polly.  In fact, one of Hera's epithets was "Cow-Eyed Goddess," and in India, cows are especially revered.

Did you see that one relief?  Were those really images of ancient light bulbs?

The Dendera Light?  Oh, do not be silly.  That is just a kooky fringe theory.  Clearly the relief depicts aspects of Egyptian mythology, not ancient light bulb technology. 

The Dendera Light

Wow, really Heiny?  That be surprisingly lucid.

I was being facetious.  OF COURSE those are light bulbs.  Just, just look at them!  They are lamps and even have filaments inside!  I hast never seen a more light bulby-looking light bulb in all of my years as an academic.  Anyone who suggests anything else is just trying to suppress the knowledge of the ancients, probably for some nefarious purpose.

I guess I'll take your word for it.

The Colossi:

How come the famous singing statues at don't actually sing?

The Colossi of Memnon, which are actually statues of Amenhotep III, are very, very old.  They were built in 1350 B.C.  In In 27 B.C., they survived an earthquake, which apparently damaged the eastern statue.  When the wind would blow through it, some bystanders would claim that they heard the sound, particularly at dawn (hence the name, ad Memnon means "Ruler of the Dawn").  The statues were repaired at some point in the past, and no one has heard a peep from them since.

 No one?

Well, except for the two of us, but there was a perfectly logical explanation for that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

I'm not having fun.

H-dawg and I hitched a trip to Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut today early in the A.M.  Obviously, we stopped for breakfast beforehand (mmm, that restaurant had a delicious potted plant on their table), then were sent out to some patch of dirt in the middle of Nowheresville, Egypt, to be "borne aloft," as my man Heiny put it.  Well, I like heights, so I figured, why the hell not?  Plus the Muhammad's Budget Hot Air Balloon Travel and Mail Order Bride Company even gave us free t-shirts with their logo on them. 

The morning was pretty cold for Egypt, and I decided shortly before getting into the wicker basket that maybe heights this high might not agree with the big breakfast I just ate.  I knew I should have avoided raw vegetables but, man, that plant was just sitting there on the table, glistening and begging for a nibble.  My anxieties were NOT allayed when I noticed just how budget this budget hot air balloon was.  I swear the thing was held together with adhesive bandages and a prayer to Allah.  Plus, I might have used the wicker basket as a scratching post while no one was looking, and MAY have torn a giant hole in the bottom.  I steadfastly refused to get on this death trap, but Heiny picked me up and tossed me in.  Before I knew it, the scruffy-looking balloonist had stoked the flame and sent us soaring.

I didn't get much of a look at the temple, to be honest.  I was too fascinated by the birds fluttering down below.  We got a pretty good look at Cairo's rooftops and backyards, and many a cat was seen.  I waved at them, but the simpletons didn't even seem to notice we were there. 

When we were at maximum altitude, Heiny slipped and almost fell out of the hole I MIGHT have made.  Hah, he deserved it for switching my cola out for diet last night.  He didn't think I'd notice, but I can taste the difference, even if I don't have sweet receptors on my scratchy little tongue.

The descent began as the sun heated up the atmosphere, meaning the air in the balloon wasn't as hot relative to the air surrounding it.  We floated down slowly, slowly....

"Hey, didn't we just pass the landing point?  I thought we were supposed to end up in that field."

Muhammad shrugged.  "Impossible to steer balloon.  No worries.  We come down somewhere, eventually."

"Somewhere, eventually" turned out to be the middle of the Nile.  I clawed my way up onto Heiny's hat as the basket fell into the water with a huge splash.  We were all soaked, and I was more than a little vexed, especially considering that there were probably more tapeworm eggs than water molecules in that particular stretch of brown sludge.  By the time we swam to shore, it was eight in the morning and I was already "funned out" for the day.

I'm never getting on one of those things again.  Heinrich is still licking the mud out of my coat.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Camera

Success!  Polly employed his "ub3r 1337 h4x" (what is that supposed to mean?) and got us a state of the art DSLR, the Nixon D3000 REBEL P Zoom FPS Self-Flushing Camera and Back Scratching Device,or the NRPZFPSSFCBS, for short.  This camera has it all, and then some!  So many uses!  Beispielsweise, it can take pictures, and I used it to scratch the rash on my hindquarters.  Sehr gut.

Hey Polly?

Polly: You want to know how I managed to swing this sweet gnu camera?

Indeed; I do.

Polly:  I got a credit card approval letter yesterday by courier.  These "Nigerian Xpress" guys can find anyone anywhere!  10,000 dollar limit, bitchazzzz. Check it, I also bought these postcards to send to all my wives back home.

I wasn't aware you were married.

Polly: A kingly stud like me?  Of course I am.  I have like, 400 chicks.  There are a lot of Priam's descendants wandering around downtown Istanbul.  Hey, weren't you marr-?

*Ahem*  A credit card, then?  How do you intend to pay all of this back? 

Polly: Trust me, bro.  I'm good for it.  I'll just use my treasure to cover the bills.  Let me tell you, when we find my stash, we are gonna be ROLLIN' in it.  I'll get you that diamond grill you always wanted.

What a kind sentiment, Polly. 

Polly: Bros before hoes, man.

"A noble love which attaches to a youthful [male] spirit issues in excellence upon the path of friendship."*

Polly: Close enough.  Right, so what's next on the bucket list?

I thought we might book a hot air balloon ride for tomorrow morning.  We will be able to see the Djeser-Djeseru and the Nile from there.

Polly: Fine with me.  I don't mind seeing the Nile from above.  I just hope we don't land in it.


*Plutarch, Dialog on Love

Monday, August 8, 2011

Saqqara

Well, this is unfortunate.  I seem to have misplaced my camera on the way to Saqqara, location of the Step Pyramid of Djoser (designed by the renowned Imhotep himself).  I vaguely recall last seeing the device in the men's bathroom of the restaurant where we went for lunch.  While conducting my business, I may have accidentally kicked it under the gap between my stall and the one next to me while it was set on an automatic timer.  I have no idea what happened to it after that, but I did notice that the toilet in that stall was stopped up and the water in the bowl overflowing.  

I feel really terrible about this, dear readers.  Luckily for you, Polly volunteered to use his expert artistic skills to reconstruct the scene for posterity.   He is such a stand-up guy.


"Why are you taller than me, Polly?"

Yet, I think I ought to purchase a replacement camera at the first opportunity.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How Centuries of Uncritical Analysis has Affected Public Perception of Ancient Egyptians

As I'm learning, upon my return to doing archaeology full-time, the trends have shifted since I've been away.  Of particular interest to me is history, as it is tangentially related to my own specialty.  One of the most striking features of the "New History" that's popular in academia these days is revisionism.  I recently attended an academic conference on Sapphic poetry, where the first thing one speaker said upon introducing herself was not, as I was expecting, "Ehemann, I brought you your lunch," but rather, "I am a revisionist historian".  Revisionist, in the sense that researchers must constantly challenge established interpretations of historical events, to the point where it seems the truth matters less than the academic exercise.  I have also noticed a proliferation of papers that deals with only the historiography of a particular topic, not even the topic itself!

Of course, I understand the criticism.  "Old" history was little more than a collection of allegorical narratives constructed, often, for the benefit of a patron.  Still, I wonder if historians are not trying to shoehorn a fundamentally biased field into the sciences.  Disingenuously referring to history as a social "science" not only undermines the actual scientific process (with its rigorous methodology), but also seems counter-productive.  What is wrong with treating history as a literary art form?  The past, barring the invention of some sort of time machine, is forever unknowable; historians merely offer their best guess.  Oh, but of course, that wouldn't appease the suits intent on enforcing their multicultural agenda by infiltrating every academic discipline, now would it?  Same process, really; new patron.

My point is, tallying and crunching a few numbers from some old census record, then telling me what those numbers imply about male bias, does not make your field of study a science.  Leave the science to us archaeologists, with our forensic anthropology, high-resolution satellite images, and trowels.  Archaeology is no longer the handmaiden to history.  Jealous, perhaps?

Roguish and trend-bucking as I may be, I am perfectly capable of reading the writing on the wall.  Literally and figuratively.  I will never be published again unless I am willing to hop upon the fahrender Wagen; so, hop upon it I shall.  As such, I have produced a new paper on an old topic, the Egyptian civilization, in line with current new history thinking.  I cannot reproduce it for you here, as academic journals have strict copyright policies,  but I can give you, my dear readers, a summary of my ideas.

Viewing Egypt in light of revisionism, I would like to propose the following random ideas* theories:

1. Since 1822, when Jean-François Champollion announced the decipherment of the Egyptian texts on the Rosetta Stone, Egyptologists have been reading hieroglyphs in the wrong direction.  That is, one ought to read them diagonally.  In cases where the text appears as a single row or column, one should only read every other glyph, as the others serve merely as "spacers".  As the texts are now incomprehensible, according to my interpretation, I can only conclude that the Egyptians were actually illiterate morons scribbling nonsense on the walls like children.

2. The development of mummification suffered more set-backs than previously known.  It is apparent that the first mummies were of natural origin, as the climate dessicated bodies buried out in the desert.  When Egyptians attempted to replicate this process artificially, they tried various methods of extracting moisture and halting decomposition.  Extracting the internal organs was crucial, but before they finally mastered the process, the embalmers attempted several variations, including: 
- Leaving the organs in intact
- Removing all the organs, then stuffing them back into the corpse, leading to rot.
- Removing the organs by squeezing the body under a heavy weight, and collecting them as they squeezed out of some orifice like toothpaste.
- Removing the organs while the individual was still alive, starting with the brain-hook (pardon the technical jargon).

I also suspect that the first person to wrap a mummy in bandages did not do so to preserve the body, but rather had witnessed the benefit of wrapping a wound in linen, and was attempting to replicate this effect in order to cure the ultimate wound: being dead.

3. After Imhotep's initial success with the stepped pyramid (inspired by the mastaba), other architects attempted to develop their own version of the pyramid, all of which failed.  We all know of the Bent Pyramid, but what of the Oblong Pyramid?  The Egg-Shaped Pyramid?  What of the first pyramid that was actually pyramidal in shape, but built up-side down?  Why don't we see these in the archaeological record?  I postulate that it is not because they are not (and never were) there, but rather because the Egyptian government hides them to conceal their national shame.




* Oh, was that an unfair attack on a strawman?  Du kannst mich mal.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More from Giza

After meeting Frank again at Giza, Polly and I spent the last two days trying to hunt the smarmy Limey down.  Unfortunately, we have little to show for our efforts. I must concede defeat this time.  I pray upon the ankh-giving solar disk that neither Polly nor I will ever have to cross paths with that pompous macaroni and his slanderous accusations again.  Da kommt einem der Kaffee hoch!

Some of what we saw at the Giza Necropolis:

The Great Sphinx



Well, look at that.  They finally dug out أبو الهول‎.  The last time I saw this particular monumental sculpture, it was mostly buried in the sand.  Probably constructed during the reign of Khafra (ca. 2558–2532 B.C.) from a natural geological formation, the mysterious structure has fascinated visitors since Classical antiquity.  Visible between its front paws is the famous Dream Stele erected by Thutmose IV (1401 B.C.), which reads:

"Now the statue of the very great Khepri rested in this place, great of fame, sacred of respect, the shade of Ra resting on him. Memphis and every city on its two sides came to him, their arms in adoration to his face, bearing great offerings for his Ka. One of these days it happened that prince Thutmose came travelling at the time of midday. He rested in the shadow of this great god. [Sleep and ] dream [took possession of him] at the moment the sun was at zenith. Then he found the majesty of this noble god speaking from his own mouth like a father speaks to his son, and saying: "Look at me, observe me, my son Thutmose. I am you father Horemakhet-Khepri-Ra-Atum. I shall give to you the kingship [upon the land before the living]....[Behold, my condition is like one in illness], all [ my limbs being ruined]. The sand of the desert, upon which I used to be, (now) confronts me; and it is in order to cause that you do what is in my heart that I have waited."

(From Shaw, 2000, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Ian Shaw, Ed., Oxford University Press 2000.)

The Khufu Ship

A funeral barge fit for a king











Dating to about 2500 B.C., this solar barge may have served as transport for the mummified body of the Pharaoh Khufu.  Kamal el-Mallakh discovered the 43.6 m by 5.9 m boat in 1954, which owes its excellent preservation to having been sealed in a pit of bedrock.  The museum currently housing the barge opened in 1982.

Pyramid of Khafre

Looking up I saw a horizon of Stone










Personally, of all the pyramids at Giza, I am most fond of this one.  The Pharaoh Khafre wanted a tomb as glorious as that of Khufu but, for reasons of respect, could not make his grander than Khufu's.  Therefore, Khafre had his tomb built on higher ground, giving the impression that his was taller.  This is what we Germans like to call, "Gewinnen auf einer Technik."  At the summit of this mountain of stone, some of the original limestone casing remains intact, most having been stolen and recycled for other building projects long ago.  Polly and I did manage to take a gander inside, but we did not stay long.  The burial chamber is undecorated and uncomfortably hot, owing to the body heat and moisture from the constant stream of visitors.  My expert academic expertise leads me to suspect that the ancient Egyptians may have skimped on designing a suitable ventilation system owing to the funerary nature of the structure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Encounter at Giza (Part 3)


"Stole Troy?"  Polly scoffed.  "How can anyone steal a city?"

"You would be surprised at the sort of debauched 'archaeological' practices Hiney has engaged in over the years.  Troy was my discovery, but he took the credit.  Then he smuggled Priam's treasure out of the country—the pieces he didn't forge, that is."

"Stop calling me 'Hiney'!  You may have told me, in rather general terms, where you suspected Troy was, but I'm the one that-" 

"That wasn't my treasure," interrupted the feline indignantly.  "Mine was way better than that.  I know because I'm the reincarnation of King Priam."

"One is the company he keeps, it seems.  The cat is just as insane as his rather rotund German friend,"  Frank said to no one in particular as he took out his pocket watch and gave it a hard stare.  "I do not have time for this nonsense.  Unlike you unprofessional, uncouth 'treasure hunters', I have actual work to do."

Buppa handed him a rolled-up sheet of parchment.

"Right.  I shall take my leave now.  Farewell, plebes."  Frank turned on his heel and sauntered off arrogantly, his Gurkha following closely behind.  

I turned back to Polly.  "I want to know what that foppish dandy is up to.  That scroll he held looked suspiciously like a treasure map."

"Rich, did you really do those things that he accused you of doing?"

"What?  No.  Well, yes.  But, you see, Frank had been digging in Hisarlik for ages as sort of a hobby.  He only owned the eastern half, though;  the Ottoman government owned the rest.  When I excavated the mound, I found remarkable artifacts—he didn't, so of course I was the one that made it into the press releases.  That's hardly stealing creditI have no control over what the media does."

"What about the smuggling?  And the forgery?"

"Why shouldn't I have kept the treasure?  I found it.  The original owner is too dead to care what happened to it.  If the Turkish government wanted access to the cache, they should have put in the effort to dig it up themselves.  I don't work for free, you know.  I was considering making copies to take out of the country instead, but eventually I decided that the academic community and the world ought to see the originals."

Polly's eye widened.  "Your arguments are uncharacteristically coherent today.  For once, I actually agree with you."

"So, you'll continue to accompany me on my travels?"

"Of course.  What do I care about the trifling affairs of humanity?  All I want is as much free food I can cram into my face, and to puke up a few hairballs on the floor of your tent."

"You are a true friend, Polly.  Come.  Let's get some beers and then make haste to the solar boat museum.  I've always wanted to strap myself to the bow of a ship and pretend to be one of those mermaid figureheads.  Here, take the camera."

"And now you've lost me again.  How have you not been arrested?"

"Achtung, fertig, los!"

The Encounter at Giza (Part 2)

"Ich kann nicht glauben, dass es Sie ist!"

"I would appreciate it if you would stop brandishing that trowel at me, plebeian," Frank sneered.  He took a sip of his champagne and scowled.  "Or do you wish 'that [your] sword may pierce the shirt of Hector about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite the dust as they fall dying round him?'"

"Old man, you talk idly, as in time of peace, while war is at hand."

"War with you, Hiney?  I haven't the time to waste on fools, nor the inclination."

Suddenly, Polly yelped.  "Oh dear Apollo, what is that thing next to you?" he yelled, noticing at the small, uniformed figure standing next to Frank.  The creature was carrying a heavy backpack and bounced up and down slightly on its two spindly legs. 

"That 'thing,' as you so crudely put it, is my Gurhka boy, Buppa Rawal.  I found him under a pile of yak hides in Sri Lanka and he has since has taken to following me about.  I allow him to carry my meager belongings."

"B-b-but," Polly stuttered, "it's green."

I smiled comfortingly at my business partner.  "Of course he is, Polly.  That's the sort of uniform Gurkhas wear."

"NoI mean—jus' look at him!  Those eyes...that nose!  That thing isn't human!"

Buppa gurgled.

"Of course he's human, he's just Nepalese." I said, placing a hand on the child's shoulder.  "Now stop picking on the poor lad." 

Buppa mumbled something but, not being familiar with Nepali, I couldn't discern the meaning.

"स्लीप लिघ्त्ली एअर्थ्लिन्ग्स, फोर यौर तिमे ओफ रेच्कोनिंग इस अट हँद.  सून थे विल कमे.  यौ विल बे द फिर्स्त तो गो, फेलिने.  इ विल फले यौर हिडे एंड वेअर इत अस अ दिस्गुइसे."

Frank shook his head.  "Silence, Buppa.  'Hero though you be, you should not speak thus; taunting speeches, my good friend, will not make the Trojans draw away from the dead body; some of them must go under ground first; blows for battle, and words for council; fight, therefore, and say nothing.'"

"Why are you here, Frank?" I asked.  "I hope it isn't to look for anything of cultural significance, because you'll never find it even if you're standing right on top of it."

"Better to take time and care in discovering something, than to plow right through it when you do," he shot back.

We glowered at one another.

Polly broke the silence, "So, I take it you two have a history?"

"Oh, nothing much, Cat," my arch-nemesis responded.  "You are merely traveling with the man that stole Troy."

To be continued.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Encounter at Giza (Part 1)

I trust the next stop in our travels needs no formal introduction.  The Pyramids of Giza are as recognizable around the world now as they were as when Herodotus wrote of them in the fifth century B.C.  The Egyptians established the Giza Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile, where the sun sets, as they were prone to do with sites of a funerary nature.  The plateau houses the following:

- Three pyramid complexes (that of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure)
- The Great Sphinx
- Workers' village (Rather than employ slaves, as Biblical literalism would suggest, most construction in Egypt was carried out through the employ of a labor tax.)
- Industrial site
- Cemeteries
- The Solar Boat museum

We arrived from Cairo early in the day, before the tourists filled up the place.  At that moment, only a few visitors had begun trickling in.

"This is it, Polly," I said, stretching my arms out to embrace the view in front of me.  "The pyramids themselves were looted long ago, but perhaps nearby is the finest haul of gold Egyptology has ever produced.  Think of Howard Carter—that could be us."

"If there's treasure around here here, I'll smell it!" Polly replied enthusiastically.

Before we could proceed any further, I sensed something sinister, as if the Evil Eye had set its gaze upon me.

"You shant find any gold here, Heinrich."  From behind, a distinctly English voice uttered my name with obvious contempt, as if it physically pained its owner to speak it.  "By now, this place has certainly been picked clean by such unsavory sorts as yourself."

That last statement was accompanied by a spray of spittle upon the back of my neck.  I quickly turned around, only to find myself nose-to-nose with none other than former British consular agent and amateur archaeologist, Frank Calvert.

"Nien, it can't be!" I cried.  "You're supposed to be dead!"

"The same could be said for you, Hiney....


How did he get here???
 ...Finally, after all these years, we meet again."

To be continued.

Back the Way We Came

Alexandria was brilliant, but neither Polly nor I expected to find any valuable treasure archaeological finds there, at least not without diving into sea.  I did suggest Polly and I use an overturned trash bin I found as a diving bell, but he flatly refused to enter the water under any circumstances.  I cannot say I blame himhades, I haven't bathed in two weeks, myself.

Thus, we mounted the camel and headed southerly.  The beast was ornery, as Camelidae often are, and made it a point to spit and nip at us whenever he had the chance.  He also seemed reluctant to eat the sandwich I offered it.  Come to think of it, what sort of animal meat went into that?

No matter.  The camel was returned safe and sound, and I got my trowel back.  Although, I think the trowel lost some weight.  Ali the Camel Merchant must not have been feeding it properly.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

You won't believe this but right now I'm composing this diary entry from the interior of the new Library of Alexandria.  Built in 2002 as a kind of homage to the original, this institution is state-of-the-art and is designed with a sleek, modern look, vaguely resembling the interior of an alien spacecraft I saw back in '98.

*shudder*

I would rather not think about that particular incident again.

Nevertheless, the Egyptian government built this library with the hopes that it would one day become a world-renowned repository of human knowledge, although the Pleiadians suggest that emotions and vibrations are more important than logic and reason, and they have the ability to travel the five-hundred light years to our planet.  Not to mention how everything one needs to know (and then some) can be researched on the net.  That's how I learned of the Pleiadians.  The reptilians, on the other hand...I already knew.  Biblically.

I was hoping to get Polly's reaction to the library, but it seems that he has discovered something called a "muhmorpuhga," and refuses to pry his eyes away from the computer next to me.

Polly: It's a browser-based MMORPG called Runescape.  I'm already level fifteen and filthy, stinkin' rich.  There are so many cats in Gielinor, and some of them are purple!  Now if only I could get the Amulet of Catspeak from the Sphinx in Sophanem and start the quest to find Bob's lover....

Intriguing.  I figured Polly could already speak cat.  Polly, you do realize we are going to see the Sphinx in a couple days, don't you?

Polly:  Shut up.  I'm catassing this until I hit ninety-nine fishing.

Quitbay Citadel
I suppose I'll leave him here while I go inspect the remains of the Pharos Lighthouse.  Although the earthquake destroyed it completely, in 1477 Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa'it Bay established the Citadel of Qaitbay on the exact location on the coast of the Mediterranean where the lighthouse once stood, most likely from the same stone blocks that remained after the earthquake.  

If only my trowel were here to see it with me.  Ah well, die Einsamkeit ist die Schule der Weisheit.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Road Goes Ever On



By Marten Heemskerk
This morn I awoke to a delightful discovery: I was no longer laid under by illness. "Hence," said I, "we shall journey thither, to mighty Alexandria!"  Polly and I immediately dismantled our lodging and left to seek suitable transportation.  We eventually located a camel merchant who agreed to loan us one of his mounts for the next few days, providing we agreed to leave my precious trowel behind as collateral.  I am not too proud a man to admit that I shed a few tears during our painful farewell.  Polly did not seem pleased with this arrangement, however, and kept yowling that he wanted his own camel—one with less body odor.

"Nonsense!" I replied.  "This is the smell of adventure!"

--

The city of Alexandria was rendered celebrated owing to its possession of a wonder of the ancient world—a magnificent lighthouse beyond compare. The rest of the wonders are were as follows:

I: Great Pyramid of Egypt
Constructed: 2584-2561 B.C.
Destroyed: Still Extant
Location: Giza Plateau, Egypt

II: Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Constructed: ca. 600 B.C.
Destroyed:  After 100 B.C., by earthquake
Location: Al Hillah, Iraq

III: Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Constructed: 466-456 B.C. (Temple); 435 B.C. (Statue)
Destroyed:  5th-6th centuries, by fire
Location: Olympia, Greece

IV: Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Constructed: ca. 550 B.C.
Destroyed:  356 B.C. (Herostratus, arson); again in 262 (Goths)
Location: Izmir Province, Turkey

V: Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Constructed: 351 B.C.
Destroyed: Before 1494, by flood, earthquake, and crusaders
Location: Bodrum, Turkey

VI: Colossus of Rhodes
Constructed: 292-280 B.C.
Destroyed:  226 B.C., earthquake
Location: Rhodes, Greece

VII: Lighthouse of Alexandria
Constructed: ca. 280 B.C.
Destroyed:  1303-1480, earthquake
Location: Alexandria, Egypt

* This list is the generally accepted version compiled by Antipater of Sidon in ca. 140 B.C.

Of the seven, only one of these marvels has survived into modernity, the rest having been destroyed by earthquake and fire.  Fire also consumed the renowned Library of Alexandria, another magnificent achievement of the ancient world.  Soon, we shall see what became of both the lighthouse and the library, for their stories have not yet ended.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Polly's Day

What's up?  I thought I'd write the blog entry fer today.  You see, us treasure hunters are still in Cairo.  Rich came down with a case of Tutankhamen's Revenge, so he's a little preoccupied at the moment.  I guess it's too much to always expect to be on schedule when you travel.  Once Rich decides to stop making hourly offerings to the porcelain god, we'll be on our way to Alexandria.

I really dig this place.  It's nice and warm, just like back home.

I went to the market today.  I bought a delicious fish.  All for me.  I ain't givin' any to Rich because he'd just waste it.  Well, I guess he can have the head if he really wants it, but I'm eating the rest.  


Fishy goodness will be mine

No one has treated me like royalty so far.  I thought Egyptians were into cat-worship.  Only a few dozen people stopped to tell me how cute I am.  Maybe it's this stupid hat Rich made me wear.  I already ditched the bow tie.

I'm gonna go the Cairo Tower now.  My nails need a good sharpen and I bet it makes an awesome scratching post.
- Polyphemus, otherwise known as King Priam of Troy

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cairo, Egypt

Ah, how I yearn for simpler times.

The flight from Istanbul to Cairo took only seven hours, including the layover in Beirut, but something about taking a plane instead of journeying overland or by sea makes the process of discovery rather drab and tedious.  Additionally, after Polly sold the damaged watch I found to an unsympathetic jeweler, we only had enough lira for one ticket, meaning that one of us would be traveling as cargo.   My companion and I drew lots and, consequently, the tent and I shared a 56cm x 45cm x 25cm duffle bag for the entire voyage.  Those baggage handlers certainly have no idea how to treat a lady.

Cairo is a lot different from how I remember it.  The city has expanded significantly, and now holds the distinction of being the largest city in the Muslim world.  The residential architecture is sloppy, and mostly constructed with undecorated sand-colored bricks.   The brown is occasionally broken up by a few out-of-place patches of green and blue, and an immense cloud of smog hangs eternally over the valley in which Cairo lies.  The heat is intense, but once we ducked into the shade and set up our temporary residence, we felt quite cool.  Polly seems quite taken with the place and spent much of the morning napping in a patch of sunlight.

Fortunately for me, Internet cafes abound.  I am currently using something called “Google Maps” to chart our course to the famed city of Alexandria.  From there we will move back into the Nile delta, then to the Giza Plateau, and follow the river upstream all the way to Abu Simbel, which demarcated the southernmost expansion of the Egyptian Empire into Kush.

Alas, my time on this machine has expired, and Polly is growing impatient.  He keeps telling me not to use something called the “hunt-and-peck method” to type, “especially not with your bloody trowel, you ridiculous, anachronistic buffoon,” but I haven’t the faintest idea what he means.  Perhaps he is hungry.

Ta ta for now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Travel Day! We are going to Egypt

No official post today, as Polly and I will be spending most of our time in an airplane.  Instead, please gaze upon the following picture of the stately Seated Goddess Figurine from Catalhoyuk (ca. 6000 B.C.), currently located in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Financial Concerns

So yesterday afternoon Polly and I exited the tent I pitched in the shadow of an old Byzantine wall with the intent to acquire sustenance.  I pawned off the last of my marble noses for a half-pound of baklava and a sack of raw fish heads, the latter of which I found particularly satisfying to the pallet.  I made the astute observation that our funds had become dangerously low, and subsequently suggested that we ought to find an immediate remedy for this economic malady.

Polly:  Allow me to interject for a moment.  No, get off me!  It's my turn at the computer!

*ahem* 

I'd just like to say that I'm the one that had to point out our shortage of cold, hard cash.  You couldn't recognize a problem if it took off its pants and danced naked in front of you.  How have you gotten by all this time living in your bizarro, pseudo-intellectual la-la land?

Wunderbar, Polly!  Perhaps we could become street performers.  I've always thought busking had a certain anthropological appeal.

Polly:  Put your trousers back on.  There's no one on the planet that would pay to see that.  Although, I suspect someone might pay NOT to. 

That aside, Polly and I have been at a loss for what do do since yesterday.  If only we had a wealthy patron to fund our treasure-hunting expedition.

Polly:  What happened to all the cash in your retirement fund?

Most of my assets are tied up in real estate.  Er...and I also had some tax difficulties with the Greek government.

Polly:  Tax problems in Greece?  *There's* a surprise.  Fat lot of good your real estate investment does us.  Something smells funny in here, though.  Go give that bag of fish heads a once over, would ya? 

Oh, fascinating!  Explorer Polyphemus, I would like your professional opinion on my most recent archaeological find.  My trowel and I excavated a strange object from the jaws of one of these mackerel craniums.

Polly:  "Archaeological find"?  That's a Pezzo Troppo Costoso di Schifezza, you idiotone of the most expensive Italian watches on the market!  That fish must have tried to eat it.  This watch retails for over three-hundred thousand Turkish lira!  Looks a little waterlogged, though.

Homer has seen fit to smile upon me once again.  So, where shall we reconnoitre next, fellow adventurer?  Perhaps re-investigate Troy for Priam's trove?

Polly:  Well, now that we've got dinero to burn, I've always sort of wanted to travel the world.  And erm, I seem to be having a little trouble remembering where exactly I was buried at the moment.  It's right on the tip of my tongue....

No matter, my good man.  Where does your treasure-sniffing nose lead you?

Polly:  I hear they treat cats like royalty in Egypt....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sancta Sophia and the New Business Partner (Part 2)

I chuckled.  "I'm not sure if I believe you, Cat."

"I'll prove it to you!  I know things about King Priam that no one else does, like where my treasure is buried."

"Oh that?  I, world-famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, located Priam's cache a long time ago."

The cat looked me up and down.  "That's impossible.  What did you find?"

"Wonderful things," I replied.  "A copper shield, a copper cauldron, a copper vase...."

"Stop right there.  That is not my treasure."

"What about the gold diadems?  The rings?  The buttons?"

"Buttons?  Just who do you think I am?  I don't know what sort of archaeologist you are, but that 'treasure' you found sounds like a load of rubbish to me.  I, on the other hand, have a nose for discovery.  I could sniff out buried treasure a mile away."

I pointed my trowel directly at ex-King Priam.  "Then let us venture forth, Feline, and we shall uncover the greatest wonders ever known to man!" 

"Wait a minute, who ever said I wanted to go with you?  Besides, my owners would be ornery if I suddenly disappeared.  I'm everything to them."

Meanwhile, as the cat spoke, I purchased a kebab from a passing vendor.  Our transaction completed, the man rolled away his chart chanting, "Fresh kebabs!" in Arabic.

"If you accompany me, I will share this kebab with you."

The cat's one-eye widened and a drop of saliva dribbled down his chin.  "Fine!" he said.  "I'll help you look for treasure, but only if you're willing to split our profits 50-50."

"70-30, and I'll buy your meals," I offered, placing a particularly juicy slice of meat in front of my new business partner, who promptly devoured it.

"We have a deal, Human." 

"Hm," I pondered aloud.  "You're going to need a better name than Cat, and I'm still not sure if I believe your story about being the former king of Troy.  I think I shall refer to you as...Polyphemus, because of that missing eye of yours."

"That's not funny."

I managed to convince him to go along with the new name, arguing that our travels might be hindered should the paparazzi catch wind of an itinerant king.  From thereafter, I addressed the cat as Polyphemus, or Polly.  Although I asked him how he lost his left eye, he refused to discuss the matter and promptly changed the subject.  The next order of business I had to address was his attire.  I could not allow a respectable gentleman to parade through Istanbul entirely unclothed. 

Polly: "Hey Rich, why do you have a spare safari hat and bow-tie with you, anyway?"
Quite satisfactory.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sancta Sophia and the New Business Partner (Part 1)

Having had enough of modernity, my agenda today included a formal inspection of the Hagia Sophia—the famed Byzantine church-turned-mosque-turned-museum known for the innovative architectural feature known as a dome.  Construction of the cathedral, which occurred between 532 and 537, was ordered by the illustrious Emperor Justinian and overseen by Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles.  I wanted to see for myself the quality of its upkeep at the hands of the Turkish government.

To my horror, I noticed a distinct lack of interest in conserving the one-of-a-kind mosaics (such as the Δέησις mosaic from 1261) in the Hagia Sophia.  Thus, I voluntarily searched all throughout Istanbul for art conservation supplies, finally locating them at a nearby hardware store.  (Which reminds me, I must see if the Turkish government will reimburse me, since I had no choice but to pay out-of-pocket on such short notice).  I utilized my knowledge of thirteenth century Christian iconography to meticulously return the piece to its former glory.  I'll allow my restoration efforts to speak for themselves:

A freshly-restored Deësis mosaic
Truly stunning beyond mere words.

As I exited the building, leaving behind shrieks of delight (fellow visitors having finally encountered my noble effort to preserve such an amazing monument to human ingenuity), a member of the Rodentia order happened to cross my path.  I bravely let our a war cry and pursued the filthy vermin.  At last, I had the creature trapped in a corner.  Down upon its vile cranium fell the mighty trowel!

"You know," came a high-pitched voice from nearby, "that was an Asia Minor spiny mouse, a highly endangered species."

I looked about for the source of the voice, whereupon a ragged, one-eyed cat sauntered into view.  It proceeded to consume my quarry until only its thin tail hung from the cat's mouth.  The feline slurped up the tail as one would a spaghetti noodle.

The mysterious one-eyed cat
"Then I have indeed done the nation of Turkey a great service," I answered.  "Thanks to my efforts, there is one less plague-bringing mouse to continue the species."

"I think you've missed the point," said the cat.

"Indeed!  I have yet to inquire as to your name."

"I don't have one, as far as I know.  I'm sort of the information center's unofficial pet, but they've never bothered to call me anything other than 'cat.'  Its quite disrespectful to act that way around nobility.  I wouldn't even come here if it weren't for the free food."

"Nobility?"  I raised an eyebrow incredulously.

"I'm the reincarnation of King Priam of Troy"....

To be continued.

Friday, July 22, 2011

İstanbul Boğazı

My word, how I do love travel by ferry!  The smell of salt in the air, the gentle sea spray, the chemical pollution from heavy international shipping traffic.  The oysters here taste of man's progress.  The best part is, in the three hours it took for me to complete the day tour, I only vomited for approximately forty percent of it (a consequence of a disordered inner ear ravaged by past infections).  I suppose dining lightly before I left port was the intelligent thing to do after all, because I certainly became intimately reacquainted with the plate of lamb kebabs I had for breakfast, ho ho ho!

My apologies to the young lady seated behind me during my last attempt to empty any remaining stomach contentsmy fluid dynamics calculations did not take into account sudden gusts of wind.  Quite fortunately, by then most of the semi-solid matter had already exited my digestive system, so the liquid that came flying back through the window consisted only of stomach acid and bile.  I'm certain that will wash right out, Miss.

I am about to head back out into Constantinople for supper.  Oh!  I almost forgot my lucky trowel.  How would I eat without this most essential of utensils?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Atta Boy!

Holy Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

I have never witnessed this degree of hero-worship before, barring the shrine to Homer I put together in the closet of my residence in Athens.  I hope the Negress I hired to maintain it, before I departed on that very important "business trip" in 1890, hasn't been shirking her responsibilities.  Someone has to keep the candles lit and the altar coated in the fresh blood of animal sacrifices.

You see, today I had the foreign notion to tour Turkey's capital city, Ankara.  (As a general principle, I rarely "tour" cities—I discover them).  Anyway, I took a gander at all the monuments: the Column of Julianus, the ancient hippodrome, and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, then finished off the day by paying my respects at the tomb of the leader of the Turkish nationalist movement:

I sense nothing unusual about this photograph

Someone pays for this
While I cannot say that I am altogether fond of the mausoleum's gesamterscheinung—I would have preferred more Greek and Trojan, and less Seljuq and Ottoman, influence—the sheer herrlichkeit of Atatürk's Anıtkabir is something that rivals any modern architecture I've seen thus far.  Why, they've even preserved this man's strange Motorwagen, personal items, and the lifelike taxidermic corpse his pet canine.  I was utterly convinced the dog was still lebendig, until I attempted to pat the unfortunate creature on the head and it toppled over, stone dead.

Now there's a design I can get behind
The shock I received from my encounter with the stuffed dog was nothing compared to that which I received from Atatürk himself.  I was innocently peering into a monitor display hooked up to a live video-feed of the inner sanctum, when I swear upon the first dactylic hexameter of the Song of Ilium, I saw the man open his sarcophagi and peer out.  Such post-mortem public appearances must occur regularly, for why else would the interior of a tomb require real-time video streaming?  When I asked one of the caretakers about this, however, he simply glared and asked me to move along.

Truthfully, as much as I am fond of the Anatolian peninsula, I am growing slightly erschöpft with the less-than-polite treatment I've been encountering since I arrived.  I can only assume that the current geopolitical conditions, particularly the rampant anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, are responsible for my numerous misfortunes.  Thus, I have decided that I will soon cross the Bosphorus and enter the region of Turkey that is adjunct to Europe proper.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Opposing the Liberal Agenda

Ephesus
Drat.  You can add Pergamon and Ephesus to the places I've been banned from frequenting.  How was I supposed to know it's verboten to employ the use of my trowel to chisel off-, er borrow, a marble sample from a few of the less-guarded statues?  And then try to sell it back to the Turks?  Eleven times.  No one understands how costly it is to fund my expeditions.  It is quite clear to me that these undereducated, anti-intellectual proletarians can't quite grasp the fact that I'm engaged in the noble pursuit of enriching mankind.  What's the "donation" of a few sculpted noses and severed manparts when there's the education of an entire planet at stake?  At least I had the satisfaction of absconding with a small collection of the tasteful specimens I acquired at Ephesus, owing (as usual) to my quick thinking.  Thank the amply-bosomed Artemus that none of the guards thought to perform a cavity search.

Speaking of Pergamon, some of you may have encountered its supposed "Hellenistic theatre" in your art history textbooks.  As usual, my libertine colleagues have once again applied their pedantic, cultural Marxist, and completely unfounded opinions to an ancient and unrelatable culture.  Simply because much of the European tradition arose from a watered-down, reinterpreted Renaissance perception of the Classical Period, this does not necessarily imply that the ancient Grecian people were "western" as we understand the term. Unlike the pedagogues you've learned your art history from, I view the ancients as they actually lived, not through the filter of liberal modern and post-modern conceptions—multiculturalism, feminism, social and racial equality, homosexuality, communism, affordable healthcare, religious toleration, Zionism, pacifism, or any such nonsense.  As such, I am the true liberal.  That is, liberated from the constraints of the misguided ideological agenda currently advocated in most institutions of higher learning.

Pergamon's "Theatre"

One such fallacy is that, simply because a structure coincidentally "resembles" contemporary architecture, the ancient structure must then therefore serve the same purpose as its modern counterpart.  This construction is so obviously not a theatre that I am overcome with the utmost exasperation that I should even have to point this out.  Look at that image anew, with untainted eyes, and ask yourselves the following questions:

1. Why would the enlightened denizens of Pergamon build a theatre that stupid-looking?
2. Why would anyone with half a brain in their skulls build a theatre that stupid-looking?
3. What sort of illegal substance would Eumenes II have to smoke before he approved such a project?

With my heightened powers of reasoning, I can only conclude the lack of city planning, and understanding of acoustics/safety hazards/aesthetics, that building a theatre in the side of a steep cliff would imply makes the notion that this is indeed a theatre quite ridiculous.  There isn't even a stage!  Sure, some claim that "post holes" at the bottom of the "seating area" suggest the use of a wooden stage, but this theory sounds needlessly complex, and I'm a firm believer in Occam's razor.  Ergo, I propose that the ruins you see before you actually functioned as a launchpad for alien spacecraft.  This explanation is much simpler AND explains why Pergamonians would invest such a great deal of time and energy executing a suboptimal design—suboptimal for a theatre, perhaps, but ideal for the take-off of extraterrestrial transport.  Aliens, with the aid of local townsfolk, hauled starships onto the base of the cliff, with support structures for the craft fitting into those "post holes".  I imagined that the stair-like nature of the ramp would have made for a bumpy ride, but who am I to question the insight of the Ascended Ones?  Our conceptions of friction may not be applicable to the crystalline incarnations of inter-dimensional light beings.

Since the study of alien life became an accepted scientific field of study in the 1940s (an interesting fact I learned from the internet), ufologists have used the presence of extraterrestrials to explain technological advancement in cultures whose people are regarded as untermenschen by Caucasians, particularly those of negroidian or indigenous (Maya, Inca, Egyptian) origin, but never that of the superior Western cultures.  Aliens seem to have visited inferior races to help them progress in ways they couldn't have possibly done so on their own.  Oddly enough, the moment I realized Anatolian Greeks weren't ethnically pure, I found myself explaining everything with U.F.O.s.  

The scholarly advancement that has occurred since 1890 is truly remarkable.  I never could have imagined that we'd make contact with creatures from other words, then film these encounters and upload them to YouTube.  As far as my theory on the launchpad goes, I fully intend to publish a paper on my findings in the near future.  I expect it will breeze right through peer-review.


Namaste, Love and Light be upon you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Roman Baths

Once I heard Pamukkale was the filming location for the scenes about Calypso's island in the 1997 version of The Odyssey (omg!), I knew I just had to see it for myself.  So, I stopped by Hierapolis today for a quick dip in the mineral pools to soothe my tired muscles and paid a little boy twenty Turkish lira to take this picture of me.  I wish I could show you the photographs he took after I removed that constricting bathing suit, but the two rangers who ever so RUDELY dragged me out of the pools and kicked me out of the site deleted them for some reason.


I think I could use a tan.  An all-over tan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cappadocia, Turkey

I seem to be on a horse-bender lately.  Since I'm already in Turkey, I thought I'd take a break from digging up previously-undisturbed sections of Troy and pay a visit to Cappadocia ("the land of the beautiful horses").  I'd heard good things about the place.  I was mildly intoxicated at the time, but I vaguely recalled hearing that the entire region was inhabited by fairies of the lonely bachelor variety, إن شاء الله.  These reports piqued my scientific curiosity, so I made off (quite heterosexually, mind you), armed with my safari hat, favorite trowel, and a Wagnerian tune in my heart.

Well, you can imagine my disappointment when, upon my arrival to the Nevşehir Province, I discovered that the description of lonely fairies hadn't been entirely legitimate.  That's what you get for obtaining your information from locals who don't know the first thing about the rigorous methodical standards we archaeologists must adhere to.

Standing tall
Apparently, the fairies in question are actually natural geologic formations referred to as "fairy chimneys," or "hoodoos".  They are tall, thin shafts of sedimentary rock that protrude upwards, resembling a pole or a column.  The main body of the formation is topped by these "heads"a firmer stone that protects the rest of the structure from the elements.  Alongside these are many spires, which start off thick around the base and taper into the sky.  I took numerous photographs for my "special folder".

Into these structures residents of Cappodocia carved their monastic dwellings (I suppose this is where that Mohammedan got "lonely bachelor" from).  Several underground cities also exist, where members of the then-heretical Christian cult hid from prosecution.  It is here where, within ten minutes of my arrival, I made a remarkable discovery, which I just know is going to titillate my colleagues!  With the aid of a mysterious "guide" holding a microphone and her assistants (mostly elderly men and women, oddly enough), I climbed until I couldn't go any further.  Luckily, by then we had reached our destination. Upon entering one of the larger rock faces and shoving aside a small crowd of children that had gathered thereprobably to catch a fleeting glimpse of the famed explorer that is Heinrich Schliemann (sorry children, I expect you wanted my autograph, but I simply hadn't the time in the midst of my discovery)—and lo!  An entire monastery carved into the hills and decorated with frescoes dating back to the Byzantine era!  

Most of the art was of a religious nature, including one depicting Saint Onophrius, a virgin female miraculously transformed into a man and depicted with a long beard and breasts.  I again found myself strangely intrigued.  Scientifically.

The frescoes were quite a find, indeed.  I think now you can see how I received my illustrious reputation.  In my excitement, I may have accidentally sent an elderly gentleman colliding into one of the delicate, expertly-painted icons of Christ and rubbed out a good half of the image, but I made sure to repair the minor damage to the piece with the permanent marker I always keep in my front pocket (for those occasions where I'd need to sign a head shot of myself).  Why, I think my addition of a handlebar mustache and devil horns actually improved the value of the piece!

 
My inSPIREation

The whimsey of the fairy towers inspired me to compose a poem.  I'm something of a renaissance man, you see.  I call it: Pointy Rocks.

كابادوكيا ذات ابراج عالية.
الجمال الطبيعي من هذه الارض لممثلي مشابهة يتم مواجهتها.
وأتمنى أن يقوم شخص بناء تمثال بي.
أما تمثال على طول الجبال.

Translation, for you simpletons who aren't fluent in as many languages as I am (fourteen):

Cappadocia with towers so high.
The natural beauty of this land is comparable to my handsome face.
I wish someone would build a statue of me.
A statue as tall as a mountain.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse
Some of you think you know the storyOdysseus convinces his men to dismantle their ships and build a wooden horse, some of his men (50, 40, 23, whatever) hide inside the Δούρειος Ἵππος while one man remains outside, the horse is offered to the Trojans who, despite the warnings of Helen of Troy and Laocoön (Φοβού τους Δαναούς και δώρας φέρονταις), let the horse into the city.  The Trojans proceed to throw a huge party and get totally wasted, then that night the soldiers within the horse slay everyone in the city.  While I am not certain of the veracity of this particular account, I have recently uncovered evidence during my most recent trip to Turkey that corresponds to a fragmentary document, written by the little-known Greek historian Batalos of Kariolis, of the first attempt at a stealth Greek invasion of Troy.

Yes, that's right.  There was a Trojan Horse before the one you've read about in Virgil's Aeneid, except it wasn't really a horse.  More like a two-man quadsuit made out of a ship's sail and the remnants of Friday's Equus ferus roast.

Right now you'll probably be wondering about my sources.  I know it sounds slightly far-fetched, but I can assure you that this account is absolutely true.  I can't show you Batalos' document, though.  You see, the National Archives have a no smoking policy, but I desperately needed a dose of vitamin N and lit my pipe.  So, to make a long story short, the document no longer exists.  On the plus side, I can assure you that my interpretation of the text is entirely accurate, though admittedly I had to read the flaming scroll in the thirty seconds it took for it to turn into charcoal.

Here is the part of the account I managed to transcribe:

Yea verily, did the men under the leadership of... M[alaka]....
fashioned a horse... the weather-beaten sails of their glorious...
ships....
Steed... ate supper....remnants.


Of course, much of the original text is missing, but I am confident I can fill in the gaps using my expert understanding of the Greek language, awesome intellect, and a few premium beers.  The verse is obviously referring to a previous attempt to sneak into Troy using the clever disguise of a fursuit.

I can see it now.  Malaka and a brave companion discussing who shall occupy the hindquarters of the simulated beast.  Perhaps they engaged in some nude wrestling to decide before climbing into the costume (with Malaka occupying the front-half), still nude and dripping with sweat....

*ahem*  Where was I?  Ah, of course.

Ruins of Troy
This attempt must have failed, since we don't hear about Malaka or his infamous fursona again.  I suspect TH1 (archaeologist-speak for Trojan Horse #1) was allowed into the city, but the occupants promptly discovered when a good-natured stable-boy attempted to house TH1 with a stallion in heat.  The plan being an apparent failure, Malaka would have fallen upon his sword and his companion promptly executed for defiling a prized animal.


This is the sort of history they don't teach you in college, kinder.