A New Sphinx Discovered In Flooded Ancient Temple

When draining the flooded temple of Kom Ombo, near the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, archaeologists were surprised (and delighted) to find a previously-unknown sphinx statue. Hewn from the surrounding rock, it sits 28 cm (11 in) wide and 38 cm (14 in) tall. Small but mighty! It probably dates back to the Greco-Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 305 BCE to 30 BCE, because two reliefs of King Ptolemy V, similarly carved from sandstone, were also recently found at the temple.

The Immortality of Hathor

Hathor was one of the most commonly worshiped goddesses in ancient Egypt. She was primarily a mother goddess, and was often considered the mother of the pharaoh. But she had other aspects, too: she helped women to conceive, she helped mothers survive childbirth, she welcomed the deceased into the Afterlife, she was even "Mistress of Foreign Lands" meaning that as soon as an ancient Egyptian left their homeland, they were in Hathor's territory. Did I mention Hathor was the goddess of music, dance, and sexual love, too? Really, with so much influence over so much of ancient Egyptian life, it is no surprise that Hathor was one of the most long-lived deities.

As early as the Fourth Dynasty (2613 - 2494 BCE), there is written and archaeological evidence of temples dedicated to Hathor. She was also revered in the New Kingdom, and Hatshepsut (1473 - 1458 BCE) dedicated a small shrine in her mortuary temple to Hathor. She remained popular even when Greek pharaohs ruled Egypt. The great temple at Dendera was built in her honor under the Ptolemies.

The ancestor of the cultivated beet is the wild sea beet, which grew in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Beets have been around as longer than civilization. Their leaves have been eaten since prehistoric times, and we have records of them being grown in ancient Mesopotamia.


"The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don't have a space program, it'll serve us right!"

Larry Niven, an American science-fiction writer, with a brilliant and unique analysis of the Cretaceous extinction

The Moon Star Flag: How Turkey’s Flag Came To Be

The Turkish national flag is mostly red, with a white star and a crescent in the center. Ottoman Sultan Selim III formalized the look in 1793, but the flag is actually much older.

The crescent-and-star combination has been used in Turkey since Hellenistic times (400s to 100 BCE). It likely came from ancient Mesopotamian iconocraphy. Ancient depictions of the symbol always show the crescent with horns pointing upward and with the star placed inside the crescent, for reasons that have been lost to time. When it came to Turkey, they gave it their own meanings. For Byzantium the moon symbolized Diana, also known as Artemis, the patron goddess of the city.

In 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the flag remained unchanged. With time, it became not just Istanbul’s flag but the Ottoman flag, with its design formalized in 1793 and its status as national flag formalized in 1844. Turks affectionately call the flag "ay yildiz" -- the "moon star" flag.

Many nations that were once part of Ottoman Empire adopted the star-and-crescent when they gained independence, including Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. In the 1900s the symbol became associated with not just the Ottomans, but with Islam in general, and many states that were never part of the Ottoman Empire adopted it too, including Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Maldives. Pretty amazing that an ancient Mesopotamian symbol is flown around the world today.

A Classroom In The Sand

Students following a lesson written in the Sahara sand. Taken in Tunisia, this appeared in National Geographic in 1914.

Toothpaste Has Always Been Minty -- Literally Since It Was Invented

Ancient Egyptians invented toothpaste! Though a modern person likely would not recognize it. Ancient Egyptian toothpaste was made of rock salt, pepper, mint, and dried iris flowers.

Golden Ear Plugs from Kenya, circa 1800s

These ear plugs are an example of traditional jewelery worn by some Swahili people along the east coasts of Kenya and Tanzania. You might recognize them as "gauges” -- not something you use to sleep better at night.

How Did Crassus Become So Wealthy?

English-speakers have perhaps heard the saying "as rich as Crassus." That's referring to this ancient Roman aristocrat. But how did he get his wealth?

The Temple of Amun at Karnak: A Place For Pharaohs to Brag

One of the main duties of an Egyptian pharaoh was to suppress Egypt's enemies. Their war campaigns were therefor on the god's orders, who would grant them victory in battle. The pharaoh would thank the gods by dedicating spoils and prisoners to the gods, principally to Amun at Karnak. Successive pharaohs added to the temple, inscribing their triumphs (and keeping quiet about their failures) so that the gods and posterity would know their greatness. As a result, the temple at Karnak is a vast storehouse of historical information.

For instance, the outer walls of Karnak's Hypostyle Hall are inscribed with accounts of the campaigns of Seti I in Syria-Palestine, and Ramesses II's defeat of the Hittites at the Battle of Qadesh. The terms of the peace treaty Ramesses' victory won are also inscribed on the wall. It's not all war and battles. One of the small rooms adjoining the Festival Hall contained an important list of Ramesses' 57 ancestors.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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