Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Discovery at Sakkarah

Pyramide de Sakkarah
Here is a bit more from Amelia Edwards' account of her 1873 voyage in A Thousand Miles Up the Nile. The night before, they had docked at Bedreshayn and in the morning the party took the long ride on donkeys to the ancient site of Sakkarah outside of Memphis.

And now, having dismounted through compassion for our unfortunate little donkeys, the first thing we observe is the curious mixture of debris underfoot. At Ghizeh one treads on only sand and pebbles; but here at Sakkarah the whole plateau is thickly strewn with scraps of broken pottery, limestone, marble, and alabaster; flakes of green and blue glaze; bleached bones; shreds of yellow linen; and lumps of some odd-looking dark brown substance, like dried-up sponge.

Presently someone picks up a little noseless head of one of the common blue-ware funereal statuettes, and immediately we all fall to work, grubbing for treasure -- a pure waste of precious time; for though the sand is full of debris, it has been sifted so often and so carefully by the Arabs that it no longer contains anything worth looking for.

Meanwhile, one finds a fragment of iridescent glass -- another, a morsel of shattered vase -- a third, an opaque bead of some kind of yellow paste. And then, with a shock which the present writer, at all events, will not soon forget, we suddenly discover that these scattered bones are human -- that those linen shreds are shreds of cerement cloths -- that yonder odd-looking brown lumps are rent fragments of what once was living flesh! And now for the first time we realise that every inch of this ground on which we are standing, and all these hillocks and hollows and pits in the sand, are violated graves.


  1. I'm not sure how to describe these words, Belle. Atmospheric? I can see why you would be engrossed in this, can't imagine myself doing this work, yet, oddly, wonder if I could?
    As today is now Monday, I wish you luck in your presentation.

    1. Thanks, Penny, for the luck. The presentation went very well.

      I love these vintage travel books! They are so colorful and it is fun to read how people traveled then. So civilized! I am pretty sure that the real Amelia Edwards was the basis for Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody. And now I know why she chose Peabody as a surname: a certain George Peabody, philanthropist, founded the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. I just discovered this in a book I started yesterday that has to do with maps! Strange how things get connected...