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Egyptian Civilization Archives - The Wonders Expedition™ - @Archeoastronomy

April 22, 2021

Historian makes US Postal Service relevant again–For me at least

Historian makes US Postal Service relevant again

On Facebook Wednesday in Dallas, Texas, columnist James Ragland was writing about the latest news involving the US Postal Service and how they’re going to remain open on Saturdays now that Congress has basically flat told them they’re not going to be closing.

Friend and Dallas Morning News Columnist James Ragland

Friend and Dallas Morning News Columnist James Ragland

“So, the U.S. Postal Service plans to keep delivering mail on Saturdays, after all.
“I’m yawning because, quite frankly, all I get in the mail these days are solicitations and bills. And more bills.
“Few and far between are the nice handwritten letters I used to get from friends and relatives, thanks to texts, emails and all the other high-tech-hellos/how-are-yous.
“Nothing wrong with the trendy evites, sweet tweets or fruitful ‘friends’ requests, per se. But I do miss the old-fashioned, hard-to-read cursive charms that once filled my box.
“OK, ‘filled’ is a bit of a stretch, but I once upon a time got enough letters and personalized cards to make me feel mighty missed and possibly loved.”

I say all this to set up the facts of the situation. Through this foray into amateur Archaeoastronomy I’ve had the great pleasure to become friends with two wonderful Egyptologists and geo-wizards from London–Hannah Pethen Barrett, whom you’ve all met through her videos previously posted here on The Wonders Expedition, and her pal, Liz Jones. (Liz is the geo-wizard sporting high-tech GPS oriented survey equipment and lots of terms dropped into the Twitterverse that I do not and likely won’t ever understand.)

Back to the story at hand: Today I checked the mailbox, done so in much the same way described by my friend James above.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a white square envelope, cursive handwriting, and an unusual blue sticker with “By Air Mail par avion Royal Mail” on it!  Turning the card over to the back were the letters “From: E.A. Jones.”  (The salutation at the end was from Liz and her manly man, Stu–an adventurous Englishman in his own right.)

My Easter Card from Liz Jones

My Easter Card from Liz Jones

Inside was a delightful Easter card with best wishes coming “from across the pond!  I hope spring has sprung for you guys–it’s miserable here!”

How fun, special and unique.

“Hopping” back to what James was writing yesterday, “The romantic philatelist in me also enjoyed inspecting the stamps on personal letters and wondering if they carried a subtle message, like a single red rose against a backdrop of weeds.

I’m happy to share with you the stamps that came on the outside, and a special one Liz attached to the inside of the card.

Fun Stamp from England

Fun Stamp from England

Beautiful Stamp from England

Beautiful Stamp from England

And so, friends, on both sides of the pond and around the globe as well, I hope you can sense the joy and excitement of having received a real card for a change–A card that’s traveled through many hands, thousands of miles and across the Atlantic Ocean just to get to me and my daughters.

It probably only took Liz a moment or two to pen the card and likely she’s not been pining away on her latest adventures wondering what’s become of it, but for me, it has incredible value because a friend of mine, one I’ve never met in person mind you, cared enough to do something so few of us even think about any longer.

Who could you send a card or letter to and make their day?

Trust me. This one’s going on display for a while and then it’s going to be tucked away in a drawer for some dreary day in days to come when I’m cleaning up or moving again and I’m going to sit and stop and remember the excitement of seeing what all was inside.

How’s that eCard you got the other day holding up?

And so, James, as you ended yesterday, yes, I’ve still got mail, and I’m quite the better for it.

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The Wonders Expedition–A Growing Collection Of Friends Around The World

I have a few confessions to make.  At 46-years of age, I’ve never left the North American continent.  But through the work the past nine months through The Wonders Expedition, I’ve begun to make friends with people in other countries around the world that I want to meet as much as I want to take my next breath. I used to say that I never really wanted to leave North America either, but the more I engage with those who are in other parts of the world, I am feeling a calling to go.

In my head I often hear the joke routing of English Transvestite Comedian Eddie Izzard as he’s talking to a crowd in “The City” in San Fransisco and he asks them sarcastically, “You do realize there are other countries, don’t you?!” I’ve always known that there are, but they are coming alive to me via this project in a way I never would have dreamed of.  And the excitement makes getting up each morning even more enjoyable.

Today’s Foreign Conversations–April 9, 2012

Today I talked with Jeff in Peru.  He’s a photographer and a highly skilled one at that.  He couldn’t talk with me last week because, and I quote: “I am currently in the Peruvian Amazon.”  Now tell me that isn’t the coolest reason ever offered in an email as to why you will have to speak with someone later!

Tonight I spoke via chat with Alex, who is in LA, but he was talking about how he’s been in Maui doing underwater photography with an iPad and his iPhone.  Using Aqua Box, a product I’d never heard of–and frankly a concept I’d never thought of–he’s been down as low as 20 feet underwater and suffered no leaks, but came away with some amazing videos.  Here, take a look at this one about filming in the ocean.  The Maui video isn’t far off he says!

And then today I’ve also gotten to know Iza who went to Machu Picchu in September 2011 with her Portuguese speaking BFFs in what appeared to be a Girls Night Out-type of adventure where they just happened to go to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

Tonight, I sent off an email to a guy in Germany who is about to get up and start the day as I’m about to end this one.

And then there of course were the Twitter conversations with Hannah Pethen Barrett and her Egyptian expedition roommate Liz, who both have been in Egypt since late March exploring and mapping with cool GIS equipment Middle Kingdom sites such as Gurob.  What they are doing with hi-tech gear is absolutely fascinating.

Finally, the good fokes @AfricanCosmos posted this cool trivia photo today encouraging people to identify it.  They didn’t ask the other person I’ve been talking with a lot lately, Gigi, in South Africa, who has gotten the answer to the last three or four weekly postings right….  Gigi was trying to help me with an answer tonight but I’ve been so busy exploring Tumult’s Hype program for the Mac that makes HTML 5 animations, I totally missed them!  (Sorry Gigi!)


It’s in some ways intimidating to be talking with these people in other parts of the world because they all speak English really, really well.  Not to mention their own native language and a couple more on average.

Liz and Gigi both have used words in conversations I’ve had to go back and look up.  And I began my conversations with Iza today using Google Translate to go from English to Portuguese out of respect of trying to use her native language.  She immediately began using English like a snap of a finger.

That to me is a semi-indictment of the type of education I’ve received here in America.  I’m fairly well educated.  The US Air Force bases we were stationed at always had good schools for the officers kids.  I got a good college education through Auburn University.

But I’ve never really wanted to learn other languages.  I’m seeing at my age that it would have been nice to know along the way.  While I have seen much of America by having moved 35 times now in 46 years, I’ve still missed about 6/7ths of the rest of the world.  And here I am talking with people who are out there every day doing more exploration of our world than I’d ever dreamed of before I began researching for The Wonders Expedition.

I have much to learn.  I hope to be learning something new right up until my final moments.  In the meantime, I plan to make the most of every moment and take in as much as I have missed as humanly possible. I’m making some great new friends around the world and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Tomorrow night I’m doing an interview with a guy in Australia.  And so The Wonders Expedition keeps expanding.

And to think, I could still be sitting in a downtown Dallas office doing corporate PR…..

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For Parents; An Egyptologist’s Favorite Bedtime Story–The Shipwrecked Sailor

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of interviewing Egyptologist and Archeologist Hannah Pethen Barrett before she headed to Egypt for a month of adventure and studiesand in the course of our conversation, asked her,

العربية: Deutsch: Alle Pyramiden von Gizeh auf...

العربية: Deutsch: Alle Pyramiden von Gizeh auf einem Bild. English: All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пирамиды Гизы на изображении. Español: Las Pirámides de Guiza (Egipto). Français : Les Pyramides de Gizeh (Egypte). Català: Les Piràmides de Giza, a Egipte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

based on what she’s learned, what her favorite bed time story would be if she had kids.  The young archeologist said she’s not a “mum” yet, but when they do come along, a definite Egyptian bedtime story she looks forward to telling is the story of The Shipwrecked Sailor.

According to Pethen, who you can follow on Twitter @HannahPethen, this story didn’t originate as a bedtime story in Egypt, but it’s been around a long time and in our studies we found it’s even been illustrated and marketed as such over time.

We won’t spoil it here, but rather let Hannah share it with you.

Don’t forget to bookmark the Gurob site to keep up with their latest adventures!


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Landscape Archeology–Planetary Alignments Are Significant

Archeologist and Egyptologist Hannah Pethen Barrett, who presently is in Egypt on an expedition, recently discussed with us the importance of landscape archeology.  It is her work’s primary focus and one she finds quite curious. In our conversation with her, we discuss the exploration and analysis of ancient topographical features and how they played a role in the development of ancient buildings.  This is important because as climates change over the course of time and the Earth itself shifts, it often leaves us asking today why the ancients built something so far away from a body of water or out in the middle of the desert. The short answer often times is, a couple thousand years ago, it was right next to a body of water and it wasn’t out in the middle of nowhere….

Map of Ancient Egypt, showing the Nile up to t...

Map of Ancient Egypt, showing the Nile up to the fifth cataract, and major cities and sites of the Dynastic period (c. 3150 BC to 30 BC). Cairo and Jerusalem are shown as reference cities. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, we discussed sites like the Temple of Karnak, which now is located some distance from the Nile River, but apparently was quite close to the ancient Nile River.  Over the course of time, landscapes change and most of us probably don’t realize how much.  But according to our learned scholar, things change quite a bit over the course of 2,000-3,000 years.

Though she isn’t an archeoastronomer by title, she does say that when it comes to dating the ruling periods of Egyptian Pharaohs it is largely done by “Year so and so, of such and such Pharaoh.”  That makes it hard to put into terms of something having happened in X BC/AD.

So by focusing on things like the Dog Star, Sirius, and references to Sirius’s location in the ancient night skies in the writings left behind, archeologists can do calculations to help better determine when, in terms of our modern day calendar of BC/AD, when a pharaoh reigned or a particular recorded event in ancient history likely happened.

And so, in this way, planetary alignments are of great importance in Egyptology and the study of other ancient cultures around the world.




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Safety Tips for Travel in Egypt–Egyptian Tours Deemed Safe

Our friend across the pond, Archeologist and Egyptologist Hanna Pethen of London, is beginning her travel in Egypt today.  Last week we asked her about Egyptian tours and travel and the safety precautions one should take while headed to the pyramids in Egypt or further south to Luxor or Karnak, or to her site at Gurob and the Harem Palace of the New Kingdom.

A distant cemetery on a former levee of the Bahr Yussef by Hannah Pethen

Her primary assessment was that Egyptian travel is safe at this time even though some may worry of further unrest or the potential of war in Egypt.   And it didn’t sound like there was much that could thwart her enthusiasm about studying ancient Egypt.   This is what she does and she clearly enjoys doing it.

So what are some tips for those going to Egypt tours and traveling about in the country?

Her primary points are really to use good common sense.  Stay away from areas where there is the potential for an uprising, like in the heart of a city or she even said, “at football matches.”   Then there were obvious things like not wandering the street alone, etc.  But it sounds much cooler to hear her say it, so we’ve included the video for your benefit.

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What to study to become an Egyptologist or Archeologist

Want to become an archaeologist or Egyptologist?

العربية: Deutsch: Alle Pyramiden von Gizeh auf...

العربية: Deutsch: Alle Pyramiden von Gizeh auf einem Bild. English: All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пирамиды Гизы на изображении. Español: Las Pirámides de Guiza (Egipto). Français : Les Pyramides de Gizeh (Egypte). Català: Les Piràmides de Giza, a Egipte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you think you should be studying in high school and college? What foreign languages would be most beneficial to the study of ancient Egyptian language?

We have a few answers and we’re sharing them in a series of video conversations with Archaeologist and Egyptologist Hanna Pethen Barrett of London who is headed back to Gurob in Egypt on the 22nd for a month-long expedition.

So what languages does she recommend?  French and German.

What should you be studying?  Everything!

We’ll let her explain more in the video.

Don’t forget to sign up for email updates, our Twitter updates, and like our Facebook page.  And thanks so much to Hannah for taking the time with us as she is so busily preparing for her latest adventure!

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Egyptian Photos and Egyptian Civilization by Hannah Pethen

By Hannah Pethen
Ph.D Candidate, University of Liverpool
For ‘The Wonders Expedition’

(Editor’s Note: We constantly are asking scholars around the world to provide insights and reflections on some of the most curious places on Earth.  Today’s feature comes via Hanna Pethen of Liverpool, England.  Her incredible cache of additional photos can be seen on her Flickr account. What’s equally exciting is she’s headed back to Egypt in a few weeks! Follow her on Twitter!)

As an archaeologist and Egyptologist I have undertaken many trips to Egypt over the last six years. Although in earlier seasons of excavation I did not always have a suitable camera with me, since 2007 I have taken pictures of both modern life and ancient artifacts in the country. Some of my pictures cover sites not normally visited by tourists. These include the giant pedestals of Biahmu, which are the height of a bungalow and originally carried two enormous colossi of the Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Amenemhat III.  The giant statues may reflect a political statement associated with the reclamation of land in the Faiyum during this period.

The western Pedestal at Biahmu by Hannah Peth

Amenemhat III was buried at the pyramid of Hawara and the vast temple attached to the south of the pyramid gave rise to stories about the ‘Labyrinth,’ later made popular by Herodotus.

Other sites I have visited are amongst the most visited in Egypt, including the pyramids of Giza, the temples of Karnak and the temple of Luxor (which will soon be added to Flickr).

Visiting Karnak and Luxor

I visited Karnak and Luxor in 2007 and 2011 as part of holidays taken at the end of seasons of excavation. Our holiday in 2011 was brilliant, although protests were still going on Cairo, Luxor was very quiet and the tourists were very limited. This made trips to popular monuments like the temple of Karnak much easier and more relaxing than at the height of the tourist season.

We also met some brilliant people including Mohamed Abu El-Hagag who drives a carriage in Luxor and is often outside the temple of Karnak. A very honest man, his horse is one of the best cared for I have seen and we often went with him for trips to Luxor and the West Bank.

Visiting Denderah and Abydos

The changing political situation also meant we were able to visit Denderah and Abydos by road, without needing a police escort. Previously all tourist trips to Abydos needed to travel in convoy with tourist police to escort them, in order to be absolutely sure there was no risk to any travelers. With the changing political situation, this rule was relaxed and in 2011 we went by car with just a guide and a driver. The convoy system has now been reinstated by the current Egyptian government, as they seek to reassure people that the safety of tourists is of paramount importance. Ceiling incscription of they Hypostle Hall at Denderah, Egypt by Hannah Pethen

As a result of the convoy system, the sites at Denderah and Abydos were less frequently visited, although some Nile cruises include the temple of Hathor at Denderah, built by the Greek rulers who followed Alexander the Great. Denderah is amongst the best preserved temples in Egypt. Much of the original colour paint is preserved on the inscriptions within the temple and when I visited in 2011, restoration work was underway to remove the black soot, caused by generations of smoky lamps, and reveal the beautiful painting.

I was able to photograph some fantastic mythological scenes which had been newly revealed and conserved.

Denderah also has one of the few images of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion. Although carved into the rear external wall of the temple at monumental scale, the image is not a true portrait, but a generic and idealised representation of an Egyptian queen with the name of Cleopatra VII attached to it. In Egyptian thought this would have been quite sufficient, the addition of a name to a statue or image conveyed the essence of the individual irrespective of the accuracy of the portrait, but it does leave the modern observer a little frustrated.

The temple of Abydos was built by Seti I and his son Ramsses II of the New Kingdom, but is located close to the ancient burial ground where the earliest Kings of Egypt were buried almost 2000 years before the foundations of the temples were laid. By the New Kingdom Abydos was considered to be the burial place of the god Osiris, a mythical King of Egypt who was murdered by his brother before being reanimated by his wife. After his son was conceived Osiris moved into the afterlife to become God of the Dead.

The temple built by Seti I and Ramsses II celebrates the myth of Osiris as well as the cults of various other gods. At the rear of the temple is the Osireion, a separate sunken structure believed to be a simulacrum of the tomb of Osiris where various rites could be performed. Although partly flooded by high ground water, it is still and impressive structure. Within the temple, the raised reliefs (where the surrounding rock has been cut away to reveal the image) of Seti I are particularly fine and many retain their original paint. Seti built the inner cult chambers and chapels and the inner Hypostyle Hall.

Ramsses completed some of the peripheral decoration as well as that in the outer Hypostyle Hall, portico and temple courts, but the sunk-relief of Ramsses is not as refined or elegant as the carving commissioned by his father.

The temple of Abydos famously contains a King List, which details the royal names of all the Kings of Egypt from the earliest times. It is a valuable historical document, although a number of Pharaohs are missing. Unusual or dangerous Pharaohs, like the woman Hatshepsut and the monotheist Akhenaten, have been airbrushed from the official version of Egyptian history in the Abydos King List. Some political realities never change.

The Work of Hannah Pethen

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