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ANCIENT EGYPT

                                                                

Volume 5 Number 5, Issue 29 April/May 2005, p. 58

This is the third volume published by the author (Vol I was on the Kiosk of Qertassi and Vol II The Temples of Semna and Kumma).

The author has clearly spent considerable time recording the hundreds of graffiti on the huge Kiosk of Trajan, inscribed by travelers who visited Philae from a period between 1799 to the end of the nineteenth century.

Each graffito was recorded on cards and photographed before being located on a ground plan of the building.

Once this work was completed, the author then carried out research on the travellers, to enable biographical information to be included in the volume and he has also referred to contemporary graffiti at other sites, so that, for example, when a graffito by the same hand was not dated at one site, it could be linked to other, dated examples.

The results of this work make fascinating reading. The first person to carve his name on the Kiosk was a soldier of Napoleons army. He inscribed "P. CHABUY 1799". We know of no other graffiti by this man, nor do we know anything about him.

By contrast "CAP. A. L. CORRY RN JANUARY 1818" is better known. He was the captain of the Osprey (a brig of 232 tons, with fourteen guns, manned by thirty- two seamen) who took Lord Belmore and his entourage to the Middle East. This journey took the party as far south in Egypt as the Second Cataract and also to Jerusalem, Damascus and Balbec.

Captain Corry also left his name twice in the large temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel and once in the small temple, and at a place called Abusir, near the Second Cataract. Clearly recording ones name was considered important.

It is worthwhile posing the question of when graffiti ceases to become "interesting" and merely vandalism.

Reading the names in this book is both interesting and frustrating. Who, for example, was "George 1883" or "L. Zucchi 1854"? Perhaps these men thought they were carving their own piece of immortality by leaving their names, but there is a lesson here. This sort of immortality only really works if, a hundred years or so after their death, the carvers are remembered and recorded elsewhere, so we already know who they were and what their achievements in life were.

All three volumes have been printed and published by the author. Most publishers would reject a volume like this, but it is important that these inscriptions are recorded and studied. These books enable us to work out who was visiting Egypt and when, and, where there are multiple inscriptions, which sites they visited.

Copies are available direct from the author. The Kiosk of Trajan is nicely illustrated with archive images of the site and more recent photographs by the author (whose early visits to the site took place when it was still flooded and before it was moved to its new location).

The price is 15 Euros, plus postage costs, available from: roger.de.keersmaecker@skynet.be

RP