Saturday, February 12, 2005

Stumbling over sarcophagi

SleepingDogs.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Just back from a frigid three hour ride in the desert with my Belgian friends. The horses love this weather, and with their furry coats I would too, but I was bundled in a sweatshirt over a tshirt under a fleece jacket, wearing gloves and a helmet with sunglasses that were more for the cold wind than the sun. When I think of how I used to ski in -5 degrees Celsius for hours on end and now I'm shivering in +12 C, it's embarassing. Living here has turned me into a cold weather weenie.

We were making a tour of various antiquities surroundings today. You don't have to actually approach pyramids to be in the midst of ruins here. There is mile after mile of rubble piles, some of which are left overs from other excavations, while others may hide things yet to be excavated. Today we were counting sarcophaguses/sarcophagi?. There are at least 6 or 7 of them lying rather randomly out in the desert. It's hard to imagine how or why they ended up there. After all this time, it could be that they were taken from other resting places or it could be that they never made it there. At the sarcophagus by the railroad track, fourteen year old Pauline remarked that the area was rather spooky with the overturned sarcophagus and the surrounding hills covered by large almost liquid looking boulders. A surrealistic sculpture garden of sorts. Another sarcophagus that we encountered at the top of another hill had the expected body and head shape cut out of the stone. A perfect Hollywood mummy movie artifact.

On the way back we took a shortcut through an area where the antiquities department has been dumping rubble in the desert, mostly the remains of the old guesthouse that was torn down when they discovered that leaky pipes were releasing water into the ground near the Serapeum. The Serapeum was first excavated in the 1800's by the French archaeologist Mariette, who found an underground complex of rooms filled with enormous (think dumptruck-sized) sarcophagi ( Earthquakes in recent years and problems with rising groundwater have forced the closure of the Serapeum recently, but I was fortunate to see it a number of times before it was closed. There is even still one enormous sarcophagus still resting in a passage on its way to its final resting place. These basalt sarcophagi were for the sacred Apis bulls. As we were picking our way through the piles of rock and sand, I noticed a round white object that proved to be a human skull. I have no idea how old it was but it didn't seem to be that old. When I returned to the paddocks and dropped by one of my neighbours to whom I mentioned the skull, he said that it was possibly some unfortunate who found a hasty burial out there.

Amazing what you find in the desert.

The dogs are actually a puzzle. Figure out how many you see. On a cold rainy day, this is the only way to do it.


J-Birds said...


Fiona said...

I got eight!