Wednesday, May 23, 2012

G. Maspero: Manual of Egyptian Archaeology, 1895

"The Earth, as they believed, was a flat and shallow plane, longer than its width.  The sky, according to some, extended overhead like an immense iron ceiling, and according to others, like a huge shallow vault.  As it could not remain suspended in space without some support, they imagined it to be held in place by four immense props or pillars.  The floor of the temple naturally represented the earth.  The columns, and if needful the four corners of the chambers, stood for the pillars.  The roof, vaulted at Abydos, flat elsewhere, corresponded exactly with the Egyptian idea of the sky."

I am more interested in the development of atheist theology with the necessity of projecting views onto ancient cultures.  The reader is left with the impression that Egyptian views on cosmology evolved in conformance with the development of architecture.  Maspero's assertions above come with no references or examples of any kind, which isn't like much else that he writes.  Certainly the Ptolemaic period did not include a flat earth belief, but Maspero does not cite any change.  My belief is that no evidence for a flat earth belief exists, but instead the scholarly community projected this interpretation onto the Egyptians in order to be compliant with Ivory Tower theology.  Will keep checking.

As for a contrasting example, there is this comment about a specific inscription:

"Elsewhere, it is not the war which is represented, but the human sacrifices which anciently celebrated the close of each campaign.  The king is seen in the act of seizing his prostrate prisoners by the hair of their heads, and uplifting his mace as if about to shatter their heads at a single blow."

There might be some dispute as to whether or not this qualifies as a human sacrifice or simply the execution of prisoners.  Is there a distinction?  It seems to me that there is depending on whether or not the killing is to propitiate the gods or simply a gruesome way of celebrating a victory.

Maspero has several additional works on Egypt and Mesopotamia that I hope to listen to.


Delirious said...

You might be interested in what Hugh Nibley has to say on the subject. He was really good at reading hieroglypichs.

I actually have read some of his books that give great detail about archeology, but this article really just talks about it as it relates to religion.

Looney said...

The Hugh Nibley article is very well written. I really like his realistic understanding of the "scientific" community.