*** ancient civilizations -- Egyptomania


Figure 1.--We thought at first these boys were on a field trip, but based on how they were dressed, they may be with their parents, probably in the 1950s. They are visiting the Bolton Museum. The museum began with fossils being found by locals (1853). This was about the time Charles Darwin published 'Origin of the Species'. The museum developed as a general purpose museum and such museums often want to have a few Egyptian objects. And the Museum has a fine collection of Near Easternobjcts, mostly from various British expditions before Egypt began limiting the removal of objects from the country. The boys here are examining an Egyptian vase. Thev museum has an especially interestuing collectiion of gyptyian textiles incluing muimmy rapngs. Bolton was at the center iof thee Industruln Recilution cotton textile industry. Primary schools commonly introduce children to ancient history and commonly that begins with Egyptian history because there is so much than can interest the children. few people know a lot about ancient history, but everyone knows about the Nile River, mummies, and pyramids and most know about Pharaoh parting the Red Sea.

Until the 19th century, Christian Europe's interest in the ancient world was primarily limited to the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. Classical manuscripts had played an important role in impacting church thinking and in inspiring the Renaissance. Despite their importance, very little was known about ancient Hebrews outside of the Old Testament. This all changed dramatically in the early-19th century. Napoleon after some early successes inn southern France and Italy which rose to a position of leadership. It is at that point that he decided in of all things to launch a campaign in Egypt (1798-1801). The Suez canal did not yet exist, but a land transit system existed to connect with ships leading to India. Napoleon saw as a way to cut off Britain from India, but Lord Nelson and a British squadron was on his tail. Along with the military forces, Napoleon put together a scientific team, a novel inclusion for a military campaign. The team prepared a report--"Description de l'Égypte". Nelson destroyed his fleet, but Napoleon eluded Nelson and got back to France. After Napoleon escaped back to France, the British forced the French Army he left behind to surrender. The scientists had to give up all the antiquities they had discovered, including the Rosetta Stone. These antiquities became the foundation stones of several British museums. Even so, the French scientists published a report after they were repatriated back to France. Their findings and the antiquities the British seized inspired an interest in ancient Egypt throughout Europe now known as Egyptomania. Europeans, specially the British and French developed a fascination with anything related to Ancient Egypt--even the Hieroglyphics which could not yet be enciphered. It was the first ancient civilization outside of Greece and Rome in which Europeans took much interest. This was largely the result of the comprehensive scientific and historical description prepared by Napoleon's French scientists and other scholars. Ancient Egypt continued to fascinate in the 20th century, fueled by Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamen's intact tomb (1922). While a minor pharaoh, the artifacts found were breathtaking. Carter's find had a huge impact on the developing Art Deco style. The latest flash is the Netflix 'documentary' claiming that Cleopatra, the most famous woman from thee ancient world was African--meaning sub-Saharan African. It was an absurd claim and an awful movie. The Egyptian are even suing Netflix. It is interesting that out of all the many ancient civilizations that Egypt holds such a fascination with the popular mind. We even see Egyptian images on the back of the American one dollar bill. No one knows for sure just why, but there are many possible reasons. First are the pyramids continue to fascinate, the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world to survive. Second are all the archeological finds--the gold and precious artifacts. And of course the horrifying mummies. Just think about how the metal detector finds have gotten the English interested in the medieval Anglo-Saxons. Third are all the painted images from the tombs, bring ancient Egypt back to life in vivid color. No other ancient civilization has left us such dazzling visual display. Fourth are the important Biblical connections. Fifth are the mysterious hieroglyphics, the first of the ancient scripts to be deciphered. And much more exciting then cuneiform impressions on clay tablets.


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Created: 10:30 PM 2/25/2024
Last updated: 10:30 PM 2/25/2024