If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Bell Tolls for Thebes

The Bell Tolls for Thebes 

Will one of the world’s most treasured cultural destinations fall prey to its own success?

Throngs of tourists walk along the avenue of the sphinxes at Karnak Temple. Unmanaged tourism, agriculture, and public works projects are putting the area’s countless archaeological sites in jeopardy. (Steve F-E-Cameron/Creative Commons)

Often considered the world’s largest open-air museum, Thebes ranks among humanity’s richest and most important archaeological destinations. The area’s allure comes from its extraordinary wall paintings, colossal statues of gods and once-mighty pharaohs, and the imposing edifices of the Karnak
and Luxor temples.

Among the sites flanking a four-mile stretch of the Nile are the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, the final resting places of Egypt’s New Kingdom rulers (ca. 1540–1075 B.C.); the Colossi of Memnon; vestiges of the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III; the village of Deir al-Medinah, home of the artisans who created so many of the region’s tombs and monuments; and thousands of lesser-known temples, tombs, and shrines.

For all their beauty, however, these monuments constitute one of the world’s greatest conservation challenges. The modern town of Luxor has grown up around the east bank temples, while on the west bank, sugar-cane fields, roads, and mud-brick villages lie in and among the valley temple ruins.

The environmental impact of public works projects, unmanaged tourism, and destructive agricultural policies threaten to destroy an extraordinary cultural landscape.        

Statue fragments from the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III once sat in destructive salty water. Today, the surviving fragments are being protected until the groundwater problem can be solved permanently. (Steve F-E-Cameron/Creative Commons)

While the sheer number of Theban sites makes their care and management a formidable task, the burden increased dramatically in 1970 when the Aswan High Dam was completed. Since then, year-round irrigation of the flood plain for the production of sugar cane has caused a substantial rise in the local water table, inviting agricultural exploitation of fields in and around monuments such as the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III.

The dam also depleted the Nile of vital nutrients—now trapped in silt at the bottom of Lake Nasser—which, in turn, has led to increased fertilizer use downstream. And with the Nile’s annual flood cycle interrupted, soil salinity has risen in the lands along the riverbanks.

Further complicating the situation, burning is still used to clear fields, and the heat from it has caused even massive stones to split. Collectively, these processes are exacting a tremendous toll on the archaeological sites.

By Angela M. H. Schuster 


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Artifact: Romano-British Brooch


Artifact: Romano-British Brooch

This brooch reflects the complexities of life on Rome's northern frontier, where native Celtic and classical cultures converged. 

Its curving animal heads and bright enameling are typical of Celtic art in northern Britain, yet it dates to a time after the invasion of the country by the Roman emperor Claudius in A.D. 43.

"dragonesque" brooch

To fasten clothing
A.D. 80-175

In a hoard on Lamberton Moor, Scottish Borders, UK

Copper alloy, enamel

2.3 inches long Prior to the arrival of the Romans, Celtic brooches were almost universally safety-pin-type. The Celts combined new Roman styles, including animal-shaped and flat brooches, with local styles of decoration familiar from jewelry and horse gear to create a new indigenous type. The "dragonesque" brooch shows the hybridization of cultures and the innovation of Celtic art on the edge of the Roman Empire

Some 250 of these brooches have been found, mostly in the frontier area. But a few were scattered across the Empire, perhaps the property of troops who had served in Britain or souvenirs of visits to the northern frontier. 

This one, unearthed around 1840 with a hoard of metalwork, comes from a peat bog about 50 miles north of Hadrian's Wall in what is now Scotland

Unfortunately, much of the hoard was lost soon after its discovery. The surviving pieces include a matching pair of safety-pin brooches, two finger rings, and a torque (neck ornament)--probably a jewelry set--and a large number of bronze vessels, both Roman and Celtic in origin. 

The hoard's deliberate burial in a bog suggests that it was a votive offering, likely made by a local leader. The mixing of artifacts in the hoard and styles on the brooch show how Celts were adapting to the new world of Rome in the frontier areas.

By: Fraser Hunter
Principal Curator, Iron Age & Roman Collections, Department of Archaeology, National Museums Scotland

Sunday, September 21, 2008


PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project in which people mail their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.

The simple concept of the project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions were (or are) made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before.

Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to
confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Estimated IQs of the Greatest Geniuses



This page is dedicated to some of the greatest minds of all time.


A normal intelligence quotient (IQ) ranges from 85 to 115 (According to the Stanford-Binet scale). Only approximately 1% of the people in the world have an IQ of 135 or over. In 1926, psychologist Dr. Catherine Morris Cox - who had been assisted by Dr. Lewis M. Terman, Dr. Florence L. Goodenaugh, and Dr. Kate Gordon - published a study "of the most eminent men and women" who had lived between 1450 and 1850 to estimate what their IQs might have been.

The resultant IQs were based largely on the degree of brightness and intelligence each subject showed before attaining the age of 17. Taken from a revised and completed version of this study, table II shows the projected IQs of some of the best scorers.

For comparison I have included table I which shows the IQs' relation to educational level.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Nietzsche Family Circus


Refreshing and insightful, the Nietzsche Family Circus pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote.