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An American Woman in Egypt, 1914-1915: Asswan to Abu Simbel

Today we rejoin our anonymous female diarist as she journeys down the Nile in the winter of 1914-1915. You can read previous installments of this series here (introduction) here (Cairo to Aysut) and here (Aysut to Asswan).

What strikes me about the diary entries for 6-10 December 1914 is that while our American traveler is describing mural reliefs, shopping at outdoor markets, and visiting luxury resorts, Europe is settling in for the first winter of the Great War. During the first week of December, the Austrian army captured Belgrade and the British-Indian army was moving across Mesopotamia toward the Ottoman empire. The Great War YouTube series provides a nine-minute synopsis of the week’s events in newscast form.

Meanwhile, on the Nile:

Dec. 6. Arrived at Komumbu about 10  & walked to temple a few steps away. Temple dedicated to 2 deities, each deity had his own special worship & festivals so there are really 2 temples; the temple was divided & each side had its own gateways, doors & chapels. Crocodiles were worshipped here. Mural reliefs especially beautiful. Fine view of Nile country from temple. After lunch reached Asswan about 3. Took boats from ship & went first to Elephantine island to see the Nilometer & some ancient ruins; then sailed round island by Cataract Hotel to mainland & went through the Bazar with the [illegible word]. Got back to ship for late tea & had fine sunset coming back.

Dec 7. At 9.30 took boat to ships - visited shops & bought [illegible word], then went up to Cataract Hotel & looked at views. Got back just for lunch. Saw Eatons at hotel, who asked us to lunch P.M. At 2.30 went ashore with Miss Phelps took carriages & road out on desert to granite quarries & Bisharin camp where the natives danced for us on the sand. Saw horses raced [illegible] we had to get out and go in other carriages. Lunch in the [illegible word] . Got back for tea after 5. Then packed.

The entry of 7 December 1914 is the first time that local Egyptians, in this case the Beja people of southern Egypt and northern Sudan, have appeared in our narrator’s diary. The portrait of a group of anonymous Bisharin (a subgroup of the Beja people) which appears above, comes from the contemporaneous travel narrative Along the Nile with General Grant by Elbert E. Farman (1904). Farman’s description of the community which he and General Grant visited, like that of our diarist, situates the Bisharin as local color: “It is here that they are best seen in their real native character, habits and dress ... Here was the simplicity of nature” (220-221). The brief appearance of the Bisharin in our diarist’s narrative underscores the overall absence of interaction with local Egyptians. Like many tourists today, our diarist’s focus on the ancient history and landscape of the places she passes through renders the inhabitants an often indistinguishable part of the backdrop.

Dec 8. Had early breakfast & left boat at 8.30. Took boat to train & then trains  to [illegible phrase] & there we left our party & went on board the Prince Albert sailing at 9.30 After lunch visited temple of Dendur a very small temple built by Augustus. Later, almost at sunset, landed in boats & visited temple of Gerf-Hosein. Had magnesium light to see inside. In the center some pillars [illegible phrase] burial figures of Ramses II. [illegible phrase] statues of King there [illegible phrase]. Quite dark going back to boat.

Dec. 9. Arrived soon after breakfast at Wadi Sabou & went ashore to visit temple. An [illegible word] of sphinxes leading to the temple. Soon after lunch went ashore again to see temple of Amadu - then at sunset reached Kaer-[illegible word] & climbed to top of ruined fort or castle for the view. Stopped here for the night.

Dec. 10. Reached Abu Simbel just before lunch & after it went ashore & saw the temple - with 4 statues of Ramses II outside 66 ft high - then at the right temple dedicated to his wife. Hathor & his wife. The front ornamented with statues of the king, his wife & some of his children. After dinner went back to see it by moonlight.  Were called at 4.30 A.M. to see [illegible phrase] temple hewn in rocks, to 185 ft deep.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in our diarist’s travels, to be posted mid-June. And, as always, you are welcome to access the diaries for yourself here in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s library reading room

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

Extinction and Discovery, Denial and Redemption: The Brontosaurus Roller Coaster

The Brontosaurus is one of the most easily identified dinosaurs in popular culture. Just think about Little Foot, the main character in the animated movie, The Land Before Time, or about Fred Flintstone chowing down on a brontosaurus burger.

Despite this popularity, since 1903 this animal has officially been considered a non-entity. Rather than representing a singular genus of dinosaur, it was believed that the available fossils were actually those of a species of Apatosaurus, that archaeologists misidentified the bones. Thus, the lone species of the genus, Brontosaurus excelsus, was reassigned as A. excelsus.

Earlier this month, though, some members of the scientific community turned an about-face and accepted that the two genera of dinosaur, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus, are distinct enough from one another to receive individual classification. Once again, Brontosaurus is a valid term. You can read more about the debate in nomenclature and cladistics in the articles listed at the end of this post.

So what does this have to do with the MHS?

Within our holdings is a publication created by Othniel Charles Marsh, the man credited with original identification and description of both the Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus, among many others. The Dinosaurs of North America (1896) is an extract from the 16th annual report of the U.S. Geological Survey.

In this report, Marsh looks at three main time periods in turn, beginning with the Triassic period, then Jurassic, then Cretaceous. In each period he splits his descriptions among three distinct orders of dinosaurs: theropods, sauropods, and predentata. The first part of the book is devoted to narrative description. As he begins a new order of animal he gives brief and broad descriptions of typical characteristics and geographic dispersal. Then he gets more specific, identifying major families and genera within each order.

Theropods were typically bipedal and carnivorous. The most famous of all the theropod dinosaurs must be Tyrannosaurus rex. Marsh, however, looks at some of its smaller cousins that were located in North America, like the Allosaurs and Ceratosaurs.

 

 

Sauropods were large four-legged herbivores (mostly), characterized very generally by huge, barrel-shaped bodies with long slender tails and necks, and relatively small heads. It is into this order that the genera Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus fall. Other fairly well-known names in this type are the brachiosaurs and diplodocidae.

 

 

The third and most varied order handled by Marsh in this book are the predentata, now known more widely as ornithischia. This order contains the armored stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, the horned ceratopsians, and the duck-billed hadrosaurs.

 

Following all of this narrative information are dozens of plates featuring detailed drawings of skeletons and individual bones. All of the images in this post come from this volume and are a small sampling of those present.

Unfortunately, when searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL, this item is the only one that comes up under the subject Dinosaurs. Still this volume is wonderful look at the work which laid the foundation for our modern understanding of these long-extinct creatures. Do you have any favorites that appear here? What do you think of the potential resurrection of the Brontosaurus?

 

For further reading

- Choi, Charles. "The Brontosaurus is Back." Scientific American (2015). Accessed April 25, 2015. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-brontosaurus-is-back1/

- Naish, Darren. "That Brontosaurus Thing." Scientific American (2015). Accessed April 25, 2015. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/2015/04/24/that-brontosaurus-thing/

- Switek, Brian. "Back to Brontosaurus? The Dinosaur Might Deserve Its Own Genus After All." Smithsonian (2015). Accessed April 25, 2015.  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/back-brontosaurus-dinosaur-just-might-deserve-its-own-genus-species-science-180954892/?no-ist

comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 12:01 PM

An American Woman in Egypt, 1914-1915: Aysut to Asswan

Image: Watercolor from A Nile Journal by Emily Horby (1908)

 

In the previous installment of An American Woman in Egypt, we left our narrator journeying south from Aysut by steamer. During the first week of December, the travelers continue down the Nile stopping at a number of archeological sites and luxury tourist resorts along the way. In this post, I have interleaved our anonymous diarist’s narrative with excerpts from a contemporary travel guide and published memoir describing the same locations.

Dec. 1. Had early breakfast, reached Denderah & went ashore there at 8.30. Took donkies [sic] & rode to Denderah Temple in 2 hours. Temple of Hathor.  Great vestibule of Pharaohs 24 columns with heads of Hathor. Went up on the roof for view. Got back for lunch. Just at tea time reached Luxor. Miss Goeller & we two went ashore with Dr. Hodson who took us over the Winter Palace Hotel & gardens. Then we walked out to Luxor temple & looked at ships.

Dec. 2. Started on donkies at 9.30 & rode to Karnak. Very hot day. Saw temple of Kurnah then rode dromedaries little way to temple of Ammon. Finally went on top for view and got home just before one p.m. Very warm & slept after lunch; had tea at 4 & then went out to see Luxor temple. A beautiful sunset & we stayed behind to see the color on the water then went to Winter Palace & P.O.

 A short distance from the river, on the west bank, a little to the north of the village of Denderah, stands the Temple of Denderah, which marks the site of the classical Tentyra or Tentyris ... where the goddess Hathor was worshipped. ... The wonderfully preserved Temple now standing there is probably not older than the beginning of our era; ...hence it must be considered as the architectural product of a time when the ancient Egyptian traditions of sculpture were already dead and nearly forgotten. It is, however, a majestic monument worthy of careful examination.
--The Nile: Notes for Travellers in Egypt, 9th edition (London: Thos. Cook & Son, 1905).

Dec. 3. Breakfast at 7.30, left at 8.30 & sailed across to W. bank where we took donkies & road to mortuary chapel of Sethos I. Then rode on to tombs of Kings & reached 4 -- Ramses IX - Ramses VI - Sethor I - Amenophis II - then walked up over hill for view & down to rest-house for lunch. At 2 walked to temple of Darr El-Bahre of Queen Hatsh[epsut]. Then rode back to river & took boats home in time for tea. After it went to buy cards.

Dec. 4 - Early breakfast at 7.30. Left at 8 & rode first to ruins of Rames great temple of Ramses Srenk II, then road to temples of Derr-El-Medenah, judgement halls of Osiris, & temple of Ramses III. … finest in Egypt. Passed Colosses of Memmon (Amenophsis III) on way back to boat. Got back to steamer just for lunch. P.M. took pad[dle] on Nile for 1 hr with Miss Phelps & Miss Marell, mailed my Christmas cards after tea went to Hotel [illegible phrase] walked along shore to see sunset, then went into shops.

Came to a lovely grove of palm trees, where we lunched. Donkeys arrived...and we had a very pleasant ride on to Karnak, a good way further. Pigeons flying in clouds over fields. Must be very destructive, but picturesque. Soon the obelisk was seen in the distance, and at last we came to the avenue of the sphinxes, which has only been lately thoroughly uncovered. Enormous creatures, each with a little figure on their knees.
--A Nile Journal by E. H. [Emily Hornby] (Liverpool: J.A. Thompson, 1908)

Dec. 5. Sailed very early from Luxor & about 10 arrived at Esna after going thro’ a lock. Walked to the temple, as it was very near. Temple of Khnum goat-headed local deity. Pronave 24 columns in 6 rows with different floral capitals - similar to  of temple Hathor at Denderah. From there sailed on & reached Edfou about 3, took donkeys & some walked to the temple of Horus, best preserved ancient temple in the world. A great [?] & we went to top up a dark stairway for view 242 steps. Crest surrounded on 3 sides by colonnade of 32 columns in the different floral (^ & palm) capitals [illegible phrase] wall also decorated. In evening we had a lecture on the Nile by the doctor. Got back from temple for tea.

Side-by-side it is possible to see how the genre of travel writing, published and unpublished, often contains strikingly similar observations, despite differences in tone (the Cook’s authoritative, the Hornby self-consciously poetic in her descriptions). It is likely that our diarist would have read one or more commercially-published travel guide before or during her tour, and it is clear that Dr. Hodson, mentioned in the December 5 entry above, mediates her interpretation of the archeological sites the group encounters. 

In two weeks we will continue our journey down the Nile. In the meantime, I encourage you to explore the lavish watercolor illustrations and personable narration of Emily Hornby’s Nile Journal at Internet Archive.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 16 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

Selections from MHS in the New "Remembering Lincoln" Digital Collection

On 14 April 1865, while attending a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.  The event was tragic and shocking. Lincoln died the next morning, 15 April, and people all over the country struggled to comprehend what had happened.

Ford's Theatre, a National Historic Site and a working theatre, has recently launched a new digital collection, Remembering Lincoln.  Two dozen institutions, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, have contributed digital images, metadata, and transcriptions of materials about the assassination of President Lincoln to this online collection. Researchers can read first-person accounts of the startling event, examine newspaper articles, explore printed documents and broadsides, and look at artifacts.

Several remarkable manuscripts from the collections of the MHS are included in the Remembering Lincoln collection.  Two letters were written by Augustus Clark, a War Department employee, who was one of the men who moved Lincoln after he was shot from Ford's Theatre to Petersen's boarding house.  One of Clark's letters (addressed to S. M. Allen) fully describes his impressions of the evening and the tragic event.  In the other letter, written to Massachusetts Governor John A.  Andrew, Clark mentions enclosing a piece of cloth with Lincoln's blood with the correspondence.  Both letters (letter to S. M. Allen and letter to Gov. Andrew) and also the towel fragment are viewable on the website. 

Another item featured in the digital collection is an excerpt from the young Boston diarist, Sarah Gooll Putnam.  Only 14 years old in April of 1865, her reaction was poignant.  She drew a shocked face on her diary page along with the following words:   

Now guess my feelings, when coming down to breakfast, at mother's saying "The president is killed!" I stared so [handwritten mark pointing to illustration] for a few minutes without speaking. I cannot realize it yet.  Poor, dear, old, Abe.

Please explore the whole Remembering Lincoln website:  http://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/

 

A browse display of the items that MHS contributed to Remembering Lincoln is also available:  http://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/contributor?uid=40

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 14 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

Military Manuscripts at the MHS and Beyond

It is not uncommon for the MHS library to receive copies of new publications from authors that did research here. In fact, we have an entire set of shelves devoted to displaying this type of new publication. After some time on display, these volumes are typically moved to our closed stacks and then available by request. Less often, we receive a new publication from a researcher that we deem appropriate to move immediately into our reference collection.

We recently received a newly published book called Military Manuscripts at the State Historical Societies in New England (2014). This volume, put together by Paul Friday, provides extensive documentation of manuscript collections relevant to military history in New England. Each chapter shines a spotlight on one individual institution and provides detailed lists of manuscript collections that contain materials related to military matters.

Since I started working at the MHS in 2011, Mr. Friday’s face has been one of the more familiar ones in the reading room. Over the years he placed scores of requests to consult manuscript materials from myriad collections in our holdings. The result is a box-level, sometimes folder-level inventory of military-related papers that the Society preserves. The sources include a large variety of material types, from maps and charts to correspondence and orderly books to printed materials like broadsides. The materials he worked with encompass a large chronology, going back as far as the Pequot War of the 1630s all the way up to the Vietnam War.

The countless hours of work that Mr. Friday did result in extremely valuable identifications of military papers held here. From documenting a single letter by Gen. John Burgoyne in the Bromfield family papers, to identifying thirty-five boxes, seven volumes, and three oversize items in the Clarence Ransom Edwards papers.

In addition to identifying such relevant collections, Mr. Friday also provides explanations in each chapter about the various organization schemes used by the different institutions, catalogs available for researchers (online and physical), procedures for requesting materials, hours of operation, and so forth.

At the back of the volume there are four appendices made up of several glossaries and complementary information. Also, there are five separate indices and a section introducing them.

Because he used available finding aids and collection guides to locate collections with military papers, Mr. Friday acknowledges that each historical society holds additional relevant collections that did not have companion finding aids and so did not show up in the volume. Despite this limitation, the volume as a whole will surely prove a tremendous help for researchers performing primary source research into the military history of New England and the United States. 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 10 April, 2015, 12:00 AM

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