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The scale of time

Alice Mansfield remembers a memorable line

There is a report featured on the website of The Independent today about the discovery of a cemetery of a previously little known Ancient Egyptian pharaohs’ dynasty at Abydos, about seventy miles from the Valley Of The Kings.

I bring it to the attention of National Rust readers because I have had an interest in Ancient Egypt ever since I took a three-week guided tour ‘holiday of a lifetime’ with my first husband, travelling down the Nile on an old-fashioned steamboat, shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1980s.

Within our touring party, as an unofficial lecturer, was a Cambridge University Egyptologist don.

Under Egyptian law at the time, it was obligatory for every tourist group to be accompanied by an official (Egyptian) guide. However, every evening, over a drink in the bar before dinner was served on board, our Cambridge don would ‘sing for his supper’ by giving us a half-hour talk upon the ancient wonders we would be going to see the following day.

Next day, as we walked around each site, we would listen to short official talks by the Egyptian guide, whilst our don remained respectfully in the background, saying little or nothing.

However, if we ever wished, we could hang back and seek him out to ask any supplementary questions, e.g. what a particular inscription meant – and, of course, our ‘chap’ was frighteningly fluent in hieroglyphics.

Something that he said, in his very first introductory talk on board our Death On The Nile-style steamer, was interesting enough that I’d like to repeat it here.

Seeking to give us some sense of the scale of time involved in what we would be seeing on our trip, he said that it was generally reckoned – by those who decide these things – that human civilisation had been in existence for five-two centuries.

He wished us to know that pharaohs had reigned in Egypt for thirty-seven of them.

See here for the above-mentioned Independent article – ABYDOS FIND

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About Alice Mansfield

A graduate of the Slade, Alice has painted and written about art all her life. With her children now having now grown up and departed the nest, she recently took up sculpture. More Posts