Several of the Fifth Dynasty (c. 2500-2345 BC) rulers of Old Kingdom Egypt had pyramid tombs constructed at Abu Sir, 11 km southeast of Giza where the more famous Fourth Dynasty pyramids are found. The Fifth Dynasty was dominated by the solar cult of the sun god Rē, and two of the kings built “sun temples” northwest of Abu Sir. The better preserved—and, naturally, harder to get to—is that of Niuserrē (“Delight of Re”). It is 1.6 km from Abu Sir, across the dry dry desert sands at Abu Ghurob. You don’t get this on the bus tour.
The sun temple complex featured a platform rather like a truncated pyramid surmounted by an enormous obelisk, the symbol of Rē. A hieroglyph in the pic above gives an impression of the now-ruined obelisk. The monument is surrounded by a courtyard with various cult buildings and a well-preserved altar. The altar does not get much attention but is cleverly formed by four limestone blocks with upper surfaces carved in the shape of the hieroglyph for “altar.” The Egyptians were great at word/picture play!
From the top of the ruins there is a great view of the altar, the Abu Sir pyramids to the southeast, the Giza pyramids in the distance to the northwest, and the very first Egyptian pyramid—built for Djoser in the Third Dynasty—which peeks over the horizon from Saqqara to the south.
It was well over 100° F at the site when these pics were
taken and I recall running out of water quickly. Still, it looks pretty good
from where I sit now.
To round out my “shipwrecks” POTD posts—of which this may be last, because I think I have run out of shipwrecks—I give you “The Rachel.” After Hurricane Camille in 1969, a mysterious shipwreck appeared on the Alabama coast five miles east of Fort Morgan. Reclaimed by the sea and sand, it reappeared temporarily after Hurricanes Ivan in 2004, Ike in 2008, and Tropical Storm Ida in 2009. Hurricane Isaac then exposed the wreck more than ever in 2012. Apparently, tropical cyclones with “I” names have a thing for this ship.
Despite speculation that the wooden ship might be a Confederate
blockade runner from the Civil War, Fort Morgan historian Mike Bailey is now certain
that the wreck is the Rachel, lost to
. . . you guessed it, a tropical storm in 1923.
Since the practice of naming storms by sequential alphabet letters had not yet
begun, we don’t know if that hurricane would have had a moniker beginning with “I”
(but I wouldn’t bet against it).
The Rachel has an odd
backstory. A Mississippian, Captain John Riley Bless McIntosh, was never able
to achieve his goal of owning a ship prior to his death. His daughter and heir,
Rachel McIntosh McInnis, took her $100,000 inheritance to the De Angelo
Shipyard in Moss Point, MS, to commission a ship in an attempt to fulfill her
father’s dream. John De Angelo at first refused to take Rachel’s money, knowing
that it was a futile investment. But with
hard times for business at the end of World War I, his sons accepted the job
and built a 155 foot 3-masted schooner named Rachel for Mrs. McInnis. It remained docked at her expense from its
completion in 1919 until her death in 1922. After that, the De Angelo brothers claimed
the ship for unpaid dock fees and sold it at auction.
The Rachel’s buyer
hired a crew out of Mobile to operate the schooner for hauling lumber (big
business in South Mississippi at the time). The first run successfully
delivered a load to Cuba, but ran into trouble—the storm, classified as a
hurricane—on the return journey. The Rachel
was driven aground near Fort Morgan, with no loss of life. The crew emptied the
unnamed light cargo and guards were posted to protect the impossibly beached ship
until an insurance settlement could be obtained. Unknown parties burned the Rachel down to near the keel after that,
presumably to salvage metal parts.
Thereafter, the charred hulk was lost to the sand and tide, to sporadically resurface
by the same forces that doomed her.
The Rachel was an odd and pleasant diversion on the Fort Morgan beach for a few years after 2012. It rests on private beach property, but was quite accessible from the beach. I have not seen the Rachel since August of 2014. A quick check of Google Earth reveals that the eroded beach has “recovered”—itself and the Rachel. So if you want to visit her, it seems you will have to wait for an I-named tropical storm to turn back the sands of time.
The southern part of mainland Greece is the large and important Peloponnese peninsula. The Peloponnese, in turn, terminates in three finger-like peninsulas pointing south into the Aegean/Mediterranean Sea. The central one is the Mani, whose tip is the southernmost point of mainland Greece. On the east side of the uppermost part of the Mani, there are two very nice straight beaches near Githio. As you come north over the hill from Selinitsa Beach, Valtaki comes into view, with an unusual feature — a semi-beached shipwreck. It is the Dimitrios (Greek Δημήτριος).
There are other and better-known shipwrecks around Greece, notably the spectacularly-situated MV Panagiotis, wrecked in 1980 on the island of Zakinthos at now-dubbed Navagio (“shipwreck”) Beach. I’ve noted its appearance in several commercials of late. Not accessible by land, the MV Panagiotis and its small cove is nevertheless mobbed by thousands of bathers a year, brought by tour boats in crowded masses.
The seldom-visited Dimitrios, on the other hand, is well-preserved and quite accessible if you know how to get there. And, best of all, You Don’t Get This On The Bus Tour (or the boat tour). I find it picturesque and eerily enchanting.
It is tempting to further my Shipwreck of State theme by noting that the Dimitrios looks as though its captain made a wrong turn and ended up aground. One could also compliment Plato’s Ship of State analogy with the biblical warning:
Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!
— James 3:4-5
It turns out, however, that the Dimitrios’ story is more mundane and apparently lacks a boastfully inept pilot (Wikipedia has a good overview here). In late 1980 Dimitrios made an emergency stop at Githio, because the captain had a medical emergency. The crew was fired after financial disagreements shut down operations and the ship languished unattended. A year later it broke loose from the dock in severe weather and eventually washed up on Valtaki Beach. There Dimitrios was abandoned.
Come to think of it, the Dimitrios still offers a poignant object-lesson.
I am pretty unexcited about this evening’s “big game” between the bandwagon team of dubious integrity and the other guys that rammed their way in via an egregious no-call. Perhaps you, dear reader, need a diversion from the endless-but-not-timeless hype of the afternoon.
This week, the question came up in conversation (I don’t even remember with who), “what happened to the Georgia Dome?” [For the uninformed, Super Bowl LIII will be played in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium which has replaced the former as Atlanta’s main sports venue.] The answer: it was “blowed up” (video here) and removed from existence to make way for the great hood ornament stadium (here is a time lapse of the transition). Apparently Atlanta has some recycling issues (as here). Rather than go on about our “throw-away society,” I offer the contrast of stadiums that have endured to tell about their culture in a way the Georgia Dome never will. Today’s Pic(s) Of The Day:
We begin with the well-preserved stadium at Aphrodisias, in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). It is fairly typical in construction, but has semi-circles of seats at both ends, creating a closed oblong shape.
There are several nicely-preserved stadia in Turkey, including the recently-exposed huge example at Magnesia-on-the-Meander. It is difficult to capture without a panoramic view:
This example is open on one end, which is more typical. It also has some trappings found in other ancient stadiums that we would find familiar, such as reserved sections (as the regular bench seats with inscribed group names at left).
The Magnesia-on-the-Meander stadium also sports some luxury features
that, coupled with its huge size, make it something of the Mercedes-Benz
Stadium of Roman Asia. Premium seating is found down low, in a ring
pictured below, and in apparent box-seat sections at the end. No
retractable roof, though, but with a view and weather like this who
Finally, a couple of views of the best-preserved stadium in Greece; the one at the high point of the remains of ancient Delphi; home of the famous Oracle of Apollo:
As you can see, the Delphi stadium is on the side of a mountain (Mt Parnassus), and the lower (south) side has a significant retaining wall. In that wall, on the east end, is an inscription also having a modern echo. It places limitations on wine brought in or out of the stadium:
You may be wondering why I have not included famous structures like the Colosseum in Rome. That is because the Colosseum is actually an amphitheater, not a stadium. An amphitheater is like a theater in structure, but the seats go all the way around in an oval. Our modern “stadiums” are actually built more like Roman amphitheaters than Greek or Roman stadiums. Modern structures that many people call amphitheaters are really just theaters . . . confusing; but amphitheaters will have to wait for a different post.
I try to make my posts as relevant as possible to current
events or special days. Yesterday was a fail,
and today is a bit of a stretch. Venezuela is in crisis. I have never been
there, but have been close . . . so this
POTD features Aruba, a few miles to the north. In addition to the subtle nod to
Venezuelan chaos, it is also part of my rebellion against winter this year.
There are several wrecks around Aruba, including the beached ship pictured here.
Several submerged wrecks make Aruba a good diving destination. The largest ship is the SS Antilla, a German merchant ship scuttled by her captain to avoid capture just after the outbreak of WWII in 1940. The SS California was a wooden steamship that wrecked off the N coast of Aruba in 1891. A lighthouse built two decades later to avoid similar outcomes is named for that ill-fated ship.
Plato relates Socrates’ use of the Ship of State analogy (Republic6. 488a–489d) to comment on selection of and qualifications for leaders of democracies. Here’s hoping that Venezuela can put a man at the helm who understands the winds of change and looks for the guiding light.
Thanks for looking!
January is International
Holocaust Remembrance Day; observed on the anniversary of the “liberation”
of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp by the Soviet army in 1945. Sadly, I was
unable to locate my pictures of Auschwitz and Birkenau for a somber POTD post.
Having got on a roll with dolmen Pic(s) Of The Days, I decided to put some little-known examples from Spain into the mix (also, I wanted to get something there on the Pic Of The Day Map).
Spain is rich in Neolithic remains. Here I present dolmens in the Parque Megalítico de Gorafe. The “Gorafe Megalithic Park” and surrounding area is home to 240 dolmens. Most are rather un-sensational, but they preserve a range of types in the development of megalithic tombs. And the open-access park itself is a model of cultural heritage preservation for an isolated collection of easily destroyed monuments, and for presentation with durable, unintrusive signage.
The most impressive dolmen in the park is number 134, some 40 m below the canyon cliff edge, but still about 100 m above the Rio Gor.
Number 134 combines elements of various megalithic tombs. It appears to be a mashup of dolmen, wedge tomb, and passage tomb features.
I don’t think you get this on the bus tour; but there is a nice dirt road along the canyon top, and a car pull-off below with a trail up to number 134 (along with 132, 133, 135, and 239).
Because I am about to attend the “Celtic Worship” service at University Baptist Church, I decided to make an additional brief POTD post of domens in Ireland, as a continuance to what has now become a short series of dolmen pics. But are they dolmens? North European megalith-admirers have a lot to work with and have created an array of categories, such as the “portal tombs” featured in yesterday’s post.
Perhaps the most wide-photographed “dolmen” in Ireland is more officially known as Poulnabrone Portal Tomb. Resembling the form of most Middle Eastern dolmens, it stands majestically in the weird landscape of The Burren, in County Clare. Portal tombs have entrances flanked by tall megaliths supporting the roof, and Poulnabrone fits that description. The parallel sides of the chamber, however, are constructed of multiple megaliths while Jordanian examples usually have a single stone on each side.
You might well see Poulnabrone Portal Tomb on a bus tour, but off the main road over the hills but not far away are other “dolmens” even more evocative of the ones in Jordan. An example is the Parkanbinnia tomb (above). These are called “wedge tombs” because the sides generally converge slightly away from the entrance—which is too low to enter standing and, presumably, thus does not rate the designation “portal.”
Finally, moving to the east side of Ireland, the Brownshill Dolmen has the largest capstone known. It is also officially a portal tomb.
Brownsville Portal Tomb is also easily reached by passing bus tours. But you should still get a car . . .