Egypt Through The Stereoscope

A Journey Through The Land Of The Pharaohs

by James Henry Breasted | 1908 | 103,705 words

Examines how stereographs were used as a means of virtual travel. Focuses on James Henry Breasted's "Egypt through the Stereoscope" (1905, 1908). Provides context for resources in the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA). Part 3 of a 4 part course called "History through the Stereoscope."...

Position 80 - Walled City Of El Kab, Ancient Capital Of Upper Egypt, Southwest From The Door Of A Cliff-tomb

The scene upon which we look, if not one of great beauty, is nevertheless one invested with the greatest interest when we know what we have before us. We have taken up our position in the eastern cliffs, at a point where the river flows northwestward (Map 3); hence we look southwestward from this tomb door across the eastern plain, the river and the fields on the other side, to the distant western cliffs. Thebes is now forty-four miles off to our right, Cairo is three hundred and ninety-eight miles away.

That sombre gray wall which we see beginning on the left and extending as far as the eye can follow on the right, is the fortified wall of the city of E1 Kab, known to the ancient Egyptians as Nekhab. It is the only city wall, practically intact, which has survived from such a remote age, in any country; for it was erected at least in the days of Abraham, not less than 2,000 years before Christ, and possibly much earlier. You will not wonder that it has survived when you know that it is nearly 40 feet thick. The river has cut off one corner, but otherwise it is almost intact. It encloses a space over 1,800 feet long and almost as wide.

The interest and importance attaching to the city are due to the fact that it was the capital of that enormously ancient kingdom of Upper Egypt , which existed here before it was united with the Delta kingdom, and the two kingdoms merged into one nation of Egypt. In yonder city, dwelt the rulers of this remotest kingdom. Their divinity was a vulture-goddess, and when the two kingdoms were united she became the patron goddess of Upper Egypt . If you will turn back to the battles of Sethos I on the Karnak wall (Position 62), you will see there hovering over the king's head the vulture-goddess of this city, with wings outspread in protection over his head.

In historic times the strong city which stood here was the seat of a family of powerful barons, who had much to do with the rise of Thebes. They assisted the Theban princes in expelling the Hyksos, and were the particular favorites of the Theban Pharaohs in the days of their power. We may indeed call them also, as we did those of Assiut, the “king-makers” of ancient Egypt. Their tombs filled the cliffs here all about us, and the walls of these chambers bear many a heroic story of battle and victory in the Pharaoh's cause, for these nobles, choosing for life the profession of arms, entered the Pharaoh's standing army, and the local baron of the feudal age is gradually metamorphosed into the royal official, living at court and serving in the royal army.

These tombs, therefore, signalize for us the transition from the Middle Kingdom to the Empire, from a feudal to a military empire, like that of Napoleon. How utterly all those ancient political and social changes have vanished, as far as the people of the valley at the present day are concerned! If you were to ask one of these native watchmen about all this, he would look at you vaguely and say that the tombs were made by the “people of Pharaoh,” and they may have lived even before “our lord Mohammed.” Of the people of Pharaoh he has heard in the Koran, but he does not know that he is himself a son of that very people, with the blood of the antique princes of this city flowing in his veins.

On the opposite, or western side, of the Nile, a few miles further to our left (south), than we can now see, is the temple of Edfu, which we shall visit next. See Map 3. Our first position will be on the west side of the temple, from which point we shall look east over the great pylons and the Nile. See the Plan 16, on which the lines numbered 81 show just what portion of the temple we are to see.

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