Today in history —> On this day in 1799, French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard found the Rosetta Stone in an Egyptian village. The stone was inscribed with hieroglyphics and Greek script in 196 BC but was lost during the Medieval period. After its rediscovery, it prompted widespread excitement as scientists raced to be the first to decipher the ancient text. It was eventually translated by Jean-François Champollion, a French scholar, in 1822!
The inscription, by the way, is about the divine status of Ptolemy V.
This is the Ancient Royal Game of Ur – Will We Ever Understand It, how it’s played?
The Royal Game of Ur is a Sumerian version of the ancient Middle Eastern game generically called The Game of Twenty Squares, in Royal Tombs of Ur in Iraq by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1926-1927, and is dated to roughly to 2500 BCE. One of the copies from Ur is kept in the British Museum.
The original rules of the Royal Game of Ur are unknown, but have been reconstructed by a few different historians based on a cuneiform tablet found in 1880 in Iraq, which is now located in the British Museum. The tablet was written in 177-176 BCE by a Babylonian Scribe Itti-Marduk-balatu.
The problem with most rules proposed by historians, such as RC Bell and Irving Finkel is that the game is boring and not challenging. Considering that different versions of this game were found in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries with over 100 examples found archaeologically, we can assume that the game was popular and I interesting.
Historians who reconstructed rules of play lumped the Royal Game of Ur together with Egyptian Aseb, Jiroft Game of 20 Squares, and Shahr-i Sokhta Game of 20 Squares, which used the same board, but did not have any of the square markings, and since the boards are all similar looking and contain 20 squares. However, The Royal Game of Ur board is so much more elaborately designed than Aseb, Jiroft, and Shahr-i Sokhta that it would make more sense that this game is a similar type of game, but the rules are different.
Today in Egyptian history —> In 1915, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, employed English archaeologist Howard Carter to explore it. After a systematic search, Carter discovered the actual tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) on November 4th 1922.
On November 26, 1922, Carter and fellow archaeologist Lord Carnarvon entered the interior chambers of the tomb, finding them miraculously intact.
Thus began a monumental excavation process in which Carter carefully explored the four-room tomb over several years, uncovering an incredible collection of several thousand objects. The most splendid architectural find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, which was made out of solid gold, was the mummy of the boy-king Tutankhamen, preserved for more than 3,000 years. Most of these treasures are now housed in the Cairo Museum.
1922: Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon became the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun since the young ruler was buried in 1323 BCE. Below is a four minute video about the discovery. Here’s the famous story of the tomb’s opening:
“Carter returned to the Valley of Kings, and investigated a line of huts that he had abandoned a few seasons earlier. The crew cleared the huts and rock debris beneath. On 4 November 1922, their young water boy accidentally stumbled on a stone that turned out to be the top of a flight of steps cut into the bedrock. Carter had the steps partially dug out until the top of a mud-plastered doorway was found. The doorway was stamped with indistinct cartouches (oval seals with hieroglyphic writing). Carter ordered the staircase to be refilled, and sent a telegram to Carnarvon, who arrived two-and-a-half weeks later on 23 November.
On 26 November 1922, Carter made a “tiny breach in the top left hand corner” of the doorway, with Carnarvon, his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert, and others in attendance, using a chisel that his grandmother had given him for his 17th birthday. He was able to peer in by the light of a candle and see that many of the gold and ebony treasures were still in place. He did not yet know whether it was “a tomb or merely a cache”, but he did see a promising sealed doorway between two sentinel statues. Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” Carter replied with the famous words: “Yes, wonderful things!” Carter had, in fact, discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb (subsequently designated KV62).”
Yesterday (Sunday) I decided to jump on the metro and head into Washington DC and go to a museum. It is one of my favorite activities when I have the time after all. I am so lucky to be living in an area with so many high-caliber museums and even luckier that the vast majority of them are free. Having just moved to the area it is definitely something I am not used to and have been taking advantage of whenever I’ve had the opportunity. I glanced on the internet to check what temporary exhibitions were going on and my choice was simple as I settled upon the Freer / Sackler Museums of Asian art. After my morning coffee, a short walk, forty-five minutes of Zazen and a blueberry-banana smoothie I was ready to go.
I grabbed my copy of The Three Pillars of Zen that I have been re-reading and headed to the metro. I was rather excited to get to the museums as there were several exhibits that were ending today. Sorry folks if you are interested in them you won’t be able to see them. Among those exhibitions was one “Chigusa and the Art of Tea,” I was particularly interested in. If you are wondering what Chigusa is then join the club because I had no clue. Turned out it was, “a utilitarian piece, a large stoneware jar made in southern China in the 13th or 14th century and exported to Japan for use as a commercial container” (Smithsonian Institution).
My interest was piqued for sure and I grabbed my seat on the metro and heading into town. I have for a long time had an interest in asia and their affinity and significance they hold in tea with the Japanese Tea Ceremony in particular. This exhibit would have Japanese, Chinese and Korean tea artifacts as well as Chigusa of course.
I wouldn’t say the exhibition disappointed, but it was a lot smaller than I expected. I learned some interesting and valuable information such as “This mill for grinding tea leaves into fine powder is made of black granite from the Kamo River, which flows through Kyoto. The leaves are added from the opening in the top, and the powder emerges from between the stones, accumulating in the trough. It takes about an hour to grind enough tea for a bowl of “thick tea,” which is shared by all the guests, typically two or three people” (Smithsonian Institution).
Truth be known I don’t usually get all that excited about pottery or ceramics. I appreciate them and their historical significance, but usually my interest begins to mane after about half an hour. I spent a good hour examining the artifacts in this collection as other people at the museum came and went. I found the a tea caddy named Ueda Bunrin especially beautiful.
Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons: Autumn and Winter
late 15th-early 16th century
Sesshu Toyo , (Japanese, 1420-1506)
Ink, and color on paper
H: 178.3 W: 375.7 cm
After a period of travel and study in China in from 1467 to 1469, the Zen Buddhist monk and painter Sesshu returned to Japan. Recognized during his stay in China as a gifted artist, Sesshu directed his experience and skills toward creating a distinctive new Japanese interpretation of Chinese artistic traditions. In the pair of screens, he follows the Japanese convention of creating a landscape with a seasonal progression from spring at the far right to winter at the far left. The focus on birds and flowers, however, derives from a traditional subject of Chinese painting.
Sesshu’s painting style also reflects Chinese sources in its emphasis on three-dimensional form and observation of the natural world. His interest in dramatic compositions emphasizing spatial depth can be seen in the large, gnarled branch in the foreground of the screen at left, which disappears into water and reemerges to frame a view of the distant, snow-covered mountains. Precise control of ink tones and brush technique, which Sesshu learned from his study of Chinese painting, enhance the expressive quality of this image.
Source: Smithsonian Institution – Freer Museum of Asian Art Collection