When I visited the funerary temple of Seti I, I was enthusiastically welcomed by a guard who came running after me, shouting: ‘Doctor! Doctor! This form of address naturally, creates expectations and one feels compelled to pick up a few pot shards, look at the ubiquitous hieroglyphs and advance some interesting hypothesis. It is easy to indulge in all sorts of fantastic theories when inspecting these admirably formed hieroglyphs. Well, doctor, what do you make of these? Most of them can be read, but even so, a lot still have an uncertain provenance. Many times I have looked at scribbles that I clearly identified as penguins, golf clubs and so forth.
It is unfortunate that in their pursuit of baksheesh the caretakers are as blatantly inaccurate with their information as with their flattery. At the Tombs of the Nobles, a guard explained to me that all that, and here he made a sweeping gesture, was 500o years old. He was a mere 1500 years off…
At the Ramesseum I actually found what could be a bread mould, one of the many left over from countless offerings at funerary temples. Of course it is equally likely to be a part of a rubbish heap from Bedouins or other people that have at one time or another camped among these ruins in the last 200o years or so…
Photo I took in (one of) the Tombs of the Nobles. These portraits obviously depict prisoners. The one to the right has a distinctly South American appearance…
As a side note I should mention that in most tombs photography is forbidden, but as the guarding, or indeed the management, of the archaeological sites is a travesty, it is not discouraged in any way provided a little baksheesh is forwarded.
In my hotel I started dabbling a bit myself with post truth and alternative facts with what I would say tolerable success. It is here my object to use pseudo-Egyptology to upset some beliefs held by palaeobotany, a competing field:
Bananas were not introduced in Egypt until the 10th century AD or so. Curious fact: botanically, and indeed, surprisingly, bananas are categorised as berries…
On a more serious note: Wikipedia article on pseudoarchaeology:
In the early 1980s, Kenneth Feder conducted a survey of his archaeology students. On the 50-question survey, 10 questions had to do with archaeology and/or pseudoscience.[..] Questions also included issues such as: Tutankhamun’s tomb actually killed people upon discovery, [..]. As it turned out, some of the students Feder was teaching put some stake in the pseudoscience claims. 12% actually believed people on Howard Carter’s expedition were killed by an ancient Egyptian curse.
At the temple of Medinet Habu I meditated on the subject of pseudo-Egyptology. Looking out at the temple I was thinking that what if they had dug the last artefact from under the sand, when they had puzzled the last stone fragments together and had deciphered the last hieroglyph. Then we would hardly know anything more than we do know now, at least nothing important, nothing that will alter our general beliefs on the subject.
Pseudo Egyptology, however, even though much less likely to have any bearing to the truth whatsoever , has the advantage, that if it would be accidently true, then it would be spectacular. We would know about the gods, how they came from beyond the stars and if we can decipher their messages we would be able to send a spaceship.
And then we would wait.
Wait for a few thousand years for it to arrive.
But it would be all tremendously exciting in the meantime.
It’s the Illiterati, Sammy said later, they will take over the world.
What? I said.
The Illiterati, he said.
Illuminati, I said, you mean Illuminati
Yes, Illiterati, Sammy said, .. the people that try to cover up, you know, the secret knowledge, the energy and the pyramids, I am not saying…. but the Jews and the pentagon, it’s probably likely… the aliens, you know, unless… of course….
Sometimes it takes only minutes to change otherwise coherent people into raving madmen.
Sketch from a scene on a small gate in Medinet Habu where pharaoh Ramses III has a go at one of his adversaries who still seems to be hopeful of a more diplomatic course.