Sunday, September 14, 2014

Egypt and The Exodus: The Other Side's Story

Yes it sounds like a story from The Onion - WATCH: Egyptian academic demands Jews give back gold stolen during the Exodus Jerusalem Post - and obviously the claim is as ridiculous as if the Jews made one for building the pyramids as slaves, or for the 'return' of the Colosseum since it was funded by the Temple Treasure, but ...

I had planned to blog about this around Passover, but since I seem to blog about crucifixion not at Easter, here goes ...

The Passover Letter from Elephantine tells us of a decree from Darius that allowed the Jews to celebrate Passover at the Temple at Elephantine in Egypt without being disturbed by the local Egyptians. The Egyptians had in the destroyed the Temple there in anti-Passover riots.

Was it anti-Semitism? No.

Whilst in Judaism and the Biblical tradition the Jews were slaves in Egypt, and Moses led then to freedom and eventual settlement in the Promised Land ... in Egyptian tradition the Jews were foreign rulers who had invaded, mistreated the local population - and the ancient Egyptians had had to rise up against them and free themselves from the Jews, whom they expelled.

This tradition is preserved in the early Hellenistic work of Hecataeus of Abdera, preserved only in quoted fragments, and that of Manetho.

For those interested in this and other versions of history we tend to forget, I highly recommend Anti-Judaism by David Nirenberg. Parts of it were infuriating (his stated methodology and decision to ignore evidence he could not read in the original language), but it was one of the most fascinating books I've read this year.

Available at libraries, Amazon UK, Amazon US and all the usual place.

(With thanks to Bruce Bartlett for sending me the original story ... although I bet he's surprised there is some logic to it!)

Apology re Yesterday's Green Post Comments

Yesterday I wrote a post in answer to a piece in the WaPo - PhDiva: I come to bury Green, not to praise him - about the almost universally condemned Green Scholar Initiative acquisition policies and treatment of Egyptian antiquities:
Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green has big plans for his Bible museum in Washington - The Washington Post

I'm hoping that Michelle Boorstein is using a heavy dose of sarcasm here:
Steve Green is standing in the basement of the eight-story Bible museum he’s building in Washington. Plans for the $800 million project are coming together nicely: the ballroom modeled after Versailles, the Disney-quality holograms, the soaring digital entryway with religious images projected on the ceiling, the restaurant serving biblically-themed meals.

 But my issue is not poor taste in decorating ...
A few people sent the author Ms Boorstein comments of a similar nature, including that post and the many others by scholars who have researched the Green collection, to which she replied:

Although Roberta Mazza was politer in pointing out that she had already furnished Ms Boorstein with information prior to publication:

I'm afraid that I was not, and I wrote something that I should not have. I implied that Ms Boorstein would be better suited to writing puff pieces for Town and Country magazine than journalism for the Washington Post. I should not have done so, and I would like to apologise unreservedly. I do not look down on Town and Country magazine, nor do I believe that they write puff pieces. It was a throw-away remark, and in fact I actually like that there are magazines out there who write positive articles rather than scurrilous tabloid-style ones. I enjoy reading Town and Country magazine, and will continue to purchase it, since it maintains higher journalistic standards that the Washington Post. I cannot apologise enough to Town and Country magazine, nor express how much I regret this slur against them.

A journalist from Town and Country would also probably have appreciated the irony of decorating a la Versailles, and know that whilst those who emulate the style see themselves as the great Louis XIV, they more often fall from grace like Louis XVI - see Patricia Kluge and all the other '80s trophy wives chronicled by Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of the Vanities and in Dominick Dunne's brilliantly observed People Like Us.

As a quick reminder, this is how Mrs Louis XVI ended up ...

Marie Antoinette's execution in 1793 at the Place de la Révolution, unknown artist.

Incidentally, although we recognise David as having been a great artist, Marie Antoinette probably would have looked down her nose at his art and seen his as a royal "decorator" ... David played an active role in the French Revolution, and in fact voted during the National Convention in favour of the execution of Louis XVI. I can't think of a better illustration of why one should treat everyone as human beings, and not as serfs merely there to do one's bidding.

Drawing by Jacques-Louis David of  Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine on 16 October 1793, now in the Louvre.

Lauren Greenfield's documentary, The Queen of Versailles, featuring the rise and fall of David and Jackie Siegel and their attempt to build a house modeled on Versailles is brilliant - ironic, self-aware, moving and very funny, it should be required viewing for all self-made men. Available at the usual sources: Amazon US and Amazon UK, etc ...

In case people accuse me of being a snob about 'new' money; I've always had far more respect for those who made their own way in the world than for those born with a silver spoon who inherited riches. And better nouveau riche than never riche - because these are the people that fund museums and cultural institutions. Just ... not always in the right way ...

Ellie and Balloons ...

@DorothyKing: Ellie celebrating 10th anniversary of Duke of York Square ...

And yesterday with a Vodafone balloon ...

A long time ago I dated a musician, and whenever I was with him everyone completely ignored me. Strangely I'm now sleeping with an even bigger (local) celebrity - Ellie von Jack Russell - and if anything ... People focus even more on her - and less on me - than they did on him. I'm happier living in the shadows, so that works for me. And she makes people smile, something we need.

Ellie often carries and plays with a balloon that says "Happy Birthday" - only because those are the ones our local newsagent stocks.

She used to be terrified of balloons, I blew some up to show her they were not scary, and by the second or third she realised that they bounce and are rather fun.

To answer another question - I have no problem with companies sending her branded balloons, and her mailing address is under 'contact me' on the blog.

Unfortunately Ellie does not do TV for the simple reason that I'd need to go along with her and be compensated for my time. (Obviously I'd make an exception for my secret crush Stephen Colbert, but ...)

Addendum - I always make an effort to pick up the pieces of the balloons once they eventually burst - I know that this means future archaeologists will not find the evidence ... but I don't like to litter!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I come to bury Green, not to praise him

Unfortunately the Washington Post, reputedly the paper of record, went for blind eulogizing of Steve Green and his planned Bible Museum yesterday:

Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green has big plans for his Bible museum in Washington - The Washington Post

I'm hoping that Michelle Boorstein is using a heavy dose of sarcasm here:
Steve Green is standing in the basement of the eight-story Bible museum he’s building in Washington. Plans for the $800 million project are coming together nicely: the ballroom modeled after Versailles, the Disney-quality holograms, the soaring digital entryway with religious images projected on the ceiling, the restaurant serving biblically-themed meals
But my issue is not poor taste in decorating, it's the fact that Boorstein has written what amounts to a puff piece the Hobby Lobby museum, seemingly regurgitating their PR, without doing even a simple Google search that would have clarified how bloody controversial the museum's acquisition policy is. And by 'controversial' I don't mean "some scholars are against it" ... I mean that at least one acquisition is in direct contravention of both a US MoU and its import into the US in breach of US customs laws.

Almost two years ago I pointed out - Dorothy King's PhDiva: The Tale of the Very Dodgy Papyri ... - the obvious: that these papyrus fragments of Galatians 2:2-4 and 5-6 being discussed on a Biblioblog and on sale on eBay were highly dodgy. Not only did the seller admit to having smuggled them out of Egypt, with whom the US has a MoU, but that he was offering to post them from Turkey, which did not allow the export of antiquities.

Plenty of people who were well aware of the law were quite happily buying off the seller, and having the items sent by post to the US.

eBay refused to do anything about Lot 221146685190 or any other illegal items this seller listed under this or other handles. You can read my various posts about it here: eBay.

Finally, it an attempt to convince eBay the seller was dodgy as hell, I 'bought' one his lots, and gave him enough rope to hang himself: Dorothy King's PhDiva: So I Bought A Papyrus on eBay ...

eBay still couldn't have cared less. When I left negative feedback, they initially removed it, although it has now reappeared:

It was Don Quixote 1 - Windmills 0, and I had met the first looted item I had failed to get returned ... I felt as if I was banging my head against a brick wall.

Then the brilliant papyrologist Roberta Mazza visited an exhibition about the Green collection in Rome - A trip to Rome (with a detour on eBay). A Review of Verbum Domini II - and noted:
But I must confess that the fragment which attracted my attention mostly is number 28 in the catalogue (GC.MS.000462, p. 42 with figure 26). This is a humbler papyrus fragment from a codex page containing lines from Galatians 2 in Sahidic Coptic. The label reports that the item dates to the 5th-6th century AD and is undergoing research with the Green Scholar Initiative (as most of the items in the exhibition). I remembered this piece well, because it was noticed by Brice C. Jones among those put on sale on eBay from a Turkish account (MixAntik) in October 2012. At that time, Brice wrote a post about it on his blog, and there were reactions from people alerting on the legal issues concerning this selling. Dorothy L. King has also written on this and other fragments posted on eBay by MixAntik in her blog more than once. I have contacted Brice, who is going to write on this bit of the story in his blog soon.
See also her recent paper available here.

The Italians are not the best at dealing with items looted from other countries, but the owner was clearly Green, a US citizen, and he almost certainly planned to show the fragments in his US museum-to-be.

ICE could have seized the papyri on an import customs violation but ignored my email.

As a quick side note, the only cultural property blog I regularly read is Paul Barford's and he's been very on the ball on this one, and blogging info when I couldn't. See for example his: Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Green Collection and a Certain EBay Dugup Dealer

Barford has also been on the ball when it comes to the Green scholars destroying ancient Egyptian cartonnage from mummies as part of 'education' at Baylor University; see Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: US Christian Apologist Fanatics Destroy Ancient Artefacts

See also Brice Jones here; Jones took this screen shot from this video.

The deliberate destruction of Egyptian antiquities to try to find fragments of Biblical texts goes against everything every reputable scholar in the world believes. And is really rather different from the image presented in the Greens' Passages Exhibition adverts:

As a government agency, ICE should not be turning a blind eye to what the Greens and their Green Scholars Initiative are doing, and I sincerely hope their agents have not done so to support fellow Christians. eBay clearly doesn't care and their mantra must be: profit before adhering to the law.

If islamic fundamentalists destroy cultural property to propagate religious propaganda  - whether it's the Taliban or ISIS - we're metaphorically up in arms. Why do we treat Christian fundamentalists differently? Why do we make allowances for the Green Collection scholars destroying ancient Egyptian mummies? If this ain't religious discrimination, I don't know what is.

Mushrooms @ La Ferme London

The best funghi porcini I have ever bought in London (oh, sod it – they're better than any I've ever picked myself too) come from François' stand at the Duke of York Square market; he's there on Saturdays with a whole host of other French produce from onions to cheese. For other markets he goes to see: @LaFermeLondon.
This week there are no cepes as it was too rainy in France so those available have bugs, but he is selling beautiful chanterelles.
Whether or not to wash funghi porcini is a matter of preference – most people will tell you to just brush the dirt off, but I think there are times when a quick rinse and wipe is fine. I also trim the tougher bits.
Put a large pan of well salted water on to boil.
I slice the mushrooms. Then I warm olive oil in a pan (be generous as this will be the 'sauce'), and first sautee the stems. Then I throw in a generous pinch or four of sea salt. Most people used fresh garlic, but I find it tends to singe in this recipe, so instead I used half a teaspoon of powdered garlic or garlic salt (reduce the sea salt accordingly). Then I add the sliced tops of the mushrooms and thrown fresh tagliatelle into the now boiling water.
The mushrooms are ready when they have all soaked up some of the oil, roughly when the pasta is ready. Throw on some chopped flat parsley, mix and serve.
Incidentally, the mushrooms will not freeze when raw, but do freeze well when cooked this way.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exhibition: Departure by Xavier Mascaró @ Saatchi

I loved the exhibition of bronzes by Spanish sculptor Xavier Mascaró. Influenced by everything from Egyptian funerary boats to Benin bronzes to ancient coins to statues of Buddha, this is his first – one hopes of many more – exhibitions in London.

Departure: Xavier Mascaró

3 September - 5 October 2014

Incidentally, although some naughty blonde occasionally tells tourists that the puppy with a balloon is part of the exhibition, and although she can often be seen there ... she is not. Yes, everyone says that Ellie belongs in a circus, but I'd rather see her in the Saatchi gallery – there's far more money in contemporary art!

Exhibition: Chez Chanel @ Saatchi

Mlle Chanel's rue Cambon apartment has been much photographed, but is almost impossible to visit. So if you want to peek into this icon's home, then Chanel has organised an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery of photographs of number 34 by the photographer formerly known at Sam Taylor-Wood. It's not her best work – for example it pales by comparison to her re-creation of the Parthenon frieze on the scaffolding covering Selfridges – but it's a charming little insight into Coco Chanel, from the famous mirrored staircase down which she sent her mannequins, to the Chinoiserie she surrounded herself with.

Second Floor:
The Private Apartment Of Mademoiselle Chanel

12 September - 4 October 2014

A photographic exhibition by Sam Taylor-Johnson
The second to last photo: we had a similar chair covered in that same horrific floral brocade, and now I know where the interior got her inspiration from.
Whilst Mlle Chanel preached simplicity in dress, clearly most of the guests at the launch party had not received that memo. Also, amusingly, which she sold costume jewellery, she herself wore real jewels.

Food: Fry Baby, Fry

Both options are Knot Kwite Kosher, but ... with Chanukah coming up, and the simple fact that everything fried somehow tastes to much better ... I present my favourites in London.
The doughnuts I love are from my favourite little Polish sklep: Prima. These Pączki are fabulous, and available fresh daily.
192 N End Rd, London W14 9NX
And the Cannoli that Don Lobel likes to be given?
Those come from Casa Cannoli, and are freshly piped – at the Duke of York Square Market on Saturdays, and various other places in London, see: Casa Cannoli. They also cater, so if you are planning a Chanukah party ... book 'em before someone else does.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Video of Amphipolis Discoveries

Yes, I know I said I'd keep away from Amphipolis, but George Raptis produced this very nice video based on the photos released by the Greek Ministry of Culture, so I couldn't resist posting it.

Why Archeologists Hate Indiana Jones

The Last Word On Nothing | Why Archeologists Hate Indiana Jones

I don't - I think that anything that gets people interested in archaeology is good - and I'm sure that most intelligent people can differentiate between fiction and reality ... but it's an interesting read.

Nothing Much ...

I'm not going to do an update on Amphipolis today. Maybe in a few days!

I'm working on another site and ... I've got to concentrate on that one for a little bit without getting distracted!

But yes the Caryatids are fabulous; they look like more archaising versions of the Tralles-Cherchel type I discussed the other day. That type is also known through Classicising copies at Mantua and other sites. None of the Tralles-Cherchel type have the raised arm preserved, and the Mantua-Venice variant figures the raised arm hold either a scroll or a mask ... So maybe the type didn't support the architrave after all! The backs of the Tralles and Cherchel types are very flattened, suggesting that the original backed onto a pillar. And the bitof the face found in the dirt supports the theory that it was structural damage.

Anyway, now I'll be dealing with Persian matter for a bit!


Le Fluff et Le Puff ... Lotions and Potions at Space NK

On Wednesday 17th September Space NK is doing one of their regular 'gift with purchase' events; if you spend £ 150, you receive this set of samples (full details here - and it tends also to be available online, which is where I buy). Yes it's a lot to spend in one go, but I tend to wait for these 'events' to stock up on my regular products so that I can try new products - the full list of next week's samples is here - and Christmas is coming up, so it's never to early to start Christmas shopping ...

These are products I use regularly and love. Yes, most of them are classic French Pharmacy products, because I spent a good chunk of my life in France.

War Memorial: Poppies @ The Tower

I went to The City the other day, and stopped by the Tower of London to see the poppies. For anyone not aware of the installation, a ceramic poppy was created for each of the British and Colonial dead in World War one, and these almost fill the moat. In some ways the war memorial was almost more moving as the poppies started to flow out of the Tower, into a sea of blood, and before they were all in place, but it is still well worth making the effort to visit. The poppies will be in situ until Remembrance Day in November.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sphinxes: not just at Amphipolis!

This is a high resolution photo of the Sphinxes. Yes they differ slightly, and this sort of attempt to differentiate them was 'normal' in sculpture of the period.

Also the Ministry of Culture released this diagram of the tomb, showing what has been excavated so far, with the sphinxes at the entrance. Michaelis Lefantzis is a brilliant architect, so the architecture is accurate, but the details of the Caryatids as restored are conjecture still; I know this is confusing people, so it is worth clarifying.

Some boys see dead people, I tend to see Hecatomnids ... ;-)
There were strong links between the Argeads and the Hecatomnids, both in terms of proposed marriages and adoptions and sharing artists. But I am aware that my research tends to make me think "Hecatomnid" in terms of links.

So I see a Sphinx and think immediately of Labraunda in Caria, as I did in this post: Let's Talk About Amphipolis ...

These bearded male sphinxes from the Persian Satrapy of Caria are very much in the Achaemenid style.

This is what a 'proper' Achaemenid Persian sphinx looks like. It comes from Persepolis and was probably carved during the time of Phillip II, just before Alexander the Great conquered Persia. It is now in the British Museum.

There have been some rather odd claims made about there not having been any Greek Caryatids or no Greek sculptures of Sphinxes in the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods ... and in fact two Macedonian tombs at Vergina have sphinxes.

The first is from the throne in the so-called Tomb of Eurydice, dated by a Panathenaic amphora found nearby to 344/3 BC: photo above.

The second is on the throne in the Rhomaios tomb, dated to the early 3rd century BC and named after the excavator.

Other examples of thrones with sphinxes have been excavated at Delos - see here: Andrianou, Hesperia 75, 2006, pp. 219ff
The Nereid Monument from Lycia and now in the British Museum; ca. 400 BC.

The hind quarters of a Sphinx were also excavated (BM), showing that the Nereid tomb was decorated with sphinxes just as the 'old' Lycian tomb represented in the frieze on the monument had been, as in the photo above.

There are dozens of earlier Lycian tombs decorated with Archaic and archaising Sphinxes, eg here. There are also sphinxes on the Lycian Payava Tomb, which is dated by inscription to 375-362 BC; here.

Whilst Caria and Lycia were both part of the Persian Empire until the conquests of Alexander the Great, there is a long history of Archaic and Classic sphinxes in Greece, often on grave monuments and stele, but also as votive dedications.

This is an Attic stele with a sphinx produced circa 400 BC for Archiades son of Hagnus and Polemonikos son of Athmonon (BM).
If the heads of the Amphipolis sphinxes are slightly archaising, the way the heads of the Caryatids are ... then that would be another parallel to Hecatomnid portraits - we know the women on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus by Leochares were shown wearing an old fashioned hair fillet (saccos), and that Leochares then produced portraits for the royal court in Macedonia.

This is an early Classical rhyton from Athens of a sphinx wearing a saccos (BM).

There are lots of sphinxes linked to Amphipolis - on coins of the city, the Lion Tomb, this Roman relief later built into a Byzantine church there - so the assumption must be that there was an ancient, possibly local, myth that linked the Sphinx and Amphipolis.

Similarly there are dozens of depictions of sphinxes from Capua, mostly architectural sculpture in terracotta - eg here and the photo to left - which again suggests an ancient link between the mythical monster and the town.

And don't even get me started on the Greek style sphinxes from Ptolemaic Egypt ...