Tag Archives: Archeology
Curator’s Comments: We continue to not use the superfluous “a”.
Curator’s Comment: Who knew they existed, but perhaps it’s time this digital museum hired our own internet archeologist. By the way, we used the superfluous “a” only because they did.
Actually By Edgar Allan Poe
Curator’s Comment: Because no Halloween is complete without a tale by Poe. This one comes all the way from 1845.
THE SYMPOSIUM of the preceding evening had been a little too much for my nerves. I had a wretched headache, and was desperately drowsy. Instead of going out therefore to spend the evening as I had proposed, it occurred to me that I could not do a wiser thing than just eat a mouthful of supper and go
immediately to bed.
A light supper of course. I am exceedingly fond of Welsh rabbit. More than a pound at once, however, may not at all times be advisable. Still, there can be no material objection to two. And really between two and three, there is merely a single unit of difference. I ventured, perhaps, upon four. My wife will have it five; but, clearly, she has confounded two very distinct affairs. The abstract number, five, I am willing to admit; but, concretely, it has reference to bottles of Brown Stout, without which, in the way of condiment, Welsh rabbit is to be eschewed.
Having thus concluded a frugal meal, and donned my night-cap, with the serene hope of enjoying it till noon the next day, I placed my head upon the pillow, and, through the aid of a capital conscience, fell into a profound slumber forthwith.
But when were the hopes of humanity fulfilled? I could not have completed my third snore when there came a furious ringing at the street-door bell, and then an impatient thumping at the knocker, which awakened me at once. In a minute afterward, and while I was still rubbing my eyes, my wife thrust in my face a note, from my old friend, Doctor Ponnonner. It ran thus: Come to me, by all means, my dear good friend, as soon as you receive this.
Come and help us to rejoice. At last, by long persevering diplomacy, I have gained the assent of the Directors of the City Museum, to my examination of the Mummy- you know the one I mean. I have permission to unswathe it and open it, if desirable. A few friends only will be present- you, of course. The Mummy is now at my house, and we shall begin to unroll it at eleven to-night. Yours, ever, PONNONNER. By the time I had reached the “Ponnonner,” it struck me that I was as wide awake as a man need be. I leaped out of bed in an ecstacy, overthrowing all in my way; dressed myself with a rapidity truly marvellous; and set off, at the top of my speed, for the doctor’s.
There I found a very eager company assembled. They had been awaiting me with much impatience; the Mummy was extended upon the dining-table; and the moment I entered its examination was commenced.
It was one of a pair brought, several years previously, by Captain Arthur Sabretash, a cousin of Ponnonner’s from a tomb near Eleithias, in the Lybian mountains, a considerable distance above Thebes on the Nile. The grottoes at this point, although less magnificent than the Theban sepulchres, are of higher interest, on account of affording more numerous illustrations of the private life of the Egyptians. The chamber from which our specimen was taken, was said to be very rich in such illustrations; the walls being completely covered with fresco paintings and bas-reliefs, while statues, vases, and Mosaic work of rich patterns, indicated the vast wealth of the deceased.
The treasure had been deposited in the Museum precisely in the same condition in which Captain Sabretash had found it;- that is to say, the coffin had not been disturbed. For eight years it had thus stood, subject only externally to public inspection. We had now, therefore, the complete Mummy at our disposal; and to those who are aware how very rarely the unransacked antique reaches our shores, it will be evident, at once that we had great reason to congratulate ourselves upon our good fortune.
Approaching the table, I saw on it a large box, or case, nearly seven feet long, and perhaps three feet wide, by two feet and a half deep. It was oblong- not coffinshaped. The material was at first supposed to be the wood of the sycamore (platanus), but, upon cutting into it, we found it to be pasteboard, or, more properly, papier mache, composed of papyrus. It was thickly ornamented with paintings, representing funeral scenes, and other mournful subjects- interspersed among which, in every variety of position, were certain series of hieroglyphical characters, intended, no doubt, for the name of the departed. By good luck, Mr. Gliddon formed one of our party; and he had no difficulty in translating the letters, which were simply phonetic, and represented the word Allamistakeo.
We had some difficulty in getting this case open without injury; but having at length accomplished the task, we came to a second, coffin-shaped, and very considerably less in size than the exterior one, but resembling it precisely in every other respect. The interval between the two was filled with resin, which had, in some degree, defaced the colors of the interior box.
Upon opening this latter (which we did quite easily), we arrived at a third case, also coffin-shaped, and varying from the second one in no particular, except in that of its material, which was cedar, and still emitted the peculiar and highly aromatic odor of that wood. Between the second and the third case there was no interval- the one fitting accurately within the other.
Removing the third case, we discovered and took out the body itself. We had expected to find it, as usual, enveloped in frequent rolls, or bandages, of linen; but, in place of these, we found a sort of sheath, made of papyrus, and coated with a layer of plaster, thickly gilt and painted. The paintings represented subjects connected with the various supposed duties of the soul, and its presentation to different divinities, with numerous identical human figures, intended, very probably, as portraits of the persons embalmed. Extending from head to foot was a columnar, or perpendicular, inscription, in phonetic hieroglyphics, giving again his name and titles, and the names and titles of his relations.
Around the neck thus ensheathed, was a collar of cylindrical glass beads, diverse in color, and so arranged as to form images of deities, of the scarabaeus, etc, with the winged globe. Around the small of the waist was a similar collar or belt.
Stripping off the papyrus, we found the flesh in excellent preservation, with no perceptible odor. The color was reddish. The skin was hard, smooth, and glossy. The teeth and hair were in good condition. The eyes (it seemed) had been removed, and glass ones substituted, which were very beautiful and wonderfully life-like, with the exception of somewhat too determined a stare. The fingers and the nails were brilliantly gilded.
Mr. Gliddon was of opinion, from the redness of the epidermis, that the
embalmment had been effected altogether by asphaltum; but, on scraping the surface with a steel instrument, and throwing into the fire some of the powder thus obtained, the flavor of camphor and other sweet-scented gums became apparent.
We searched the corpse very carefully for the usual openings through which the entrails are extracted, but, to our surprise, we could discover none. No member of the party was at that period aware that entire or unopened mummies are not infrequently met. The brain it was customary to withdraw through the nose; the intestines through an incision in the side; the body was then shaved, washed, and salted; then laid aside for several weeks, when the operation of embalming, properly so called, began.
As no trace of an opening could be found, Doctor Ponnonner was preparing his instruments for dissection, when I observed that it was then past two o’clock.
Hereupon it was agreed to postpone the internal examination until the next evening; and we were about to separate for the present, when some one suggested an experiment or two with the Voltaic pile.
The application of electricity to a mummy three or four thousand years old at the least, was an idea, if not very sage, still sufficiently original, and we all caught it at once. About one-tenth in earnest and nine-tenths in jest, we arranged a battery in the Doctor’s study, and conveyed thither the Egyptian.
It was only after much trouble that we succeeded in laying bare some portions of the temporal muscle which appeared of less stony rigidity than other parts of the frame, but which, as we had anticipated, of course, gave no indication of galvanic susceptibility when brought in contact with the wire. This, the first trial, indeed, seemed decisive, and, with a hearty laugh at our own absurdity, we were bidding each other good night, when my eyes, happening to fall upon those of the Mummy, were there immediately riveted in amazement. My brief glance, in fact, had sufficed to assure me that the orbs which we had all supposed to be glass, and which were originally noticeable for a certain wild stare, were now so far covered by the lids, that only a small portion of the tunica albuginea remained visible.
With a shout I called attention to the fact, and it became immediately obvious to all.
I cannot say that I was alarmed at the phenomenon, because “alarmed” is, in my case, not exactly the word. It is possible, however, that, but for the Brown Stout, I might have been a little nervous. As for the rest of the company, they really made no attempt at concealing the downright fright which possessed them.
Doctor Ponnonner was a man to be pitied. Mr. Gliddon, by some peculiar
process, rendered himself invisible. Mr. Silk Buckingham, I fancy, will scarcely be so bold as to deny that he made his way, upon all fours, under the table.
After the first shock of astonishment, however, we resolved, as a matter of course, upon further experiment forthwith. Our operations were now directed against the great toe of the right foot. We made an incision over the outside of the exterior os sesamoideum pollicis pedis, and thus got at the root of the abductor muscle. Readjusting the battery, we now applied the fluid to the bisected nerveswhen, with a movement of exceeding life-likeness, the Mummy first drew up its right knee so as to bring it nearly in contact with the abdomen, and then, straightening the limb with inconceivable force, bestowed a kick upon Doctor Ponnonner, which had the effect of discharging that gentleman, like an arrow from a catapult, through a window into the street below.
We rushed out en masse to bring in the mangled remains of the victim, but had the happiness to meet him upon the staircase, coming up in an unaccountable hurry, brimful of the most ardent philosophy, and more than ever impressed with the necessity of prosecuting our experiment with vigor and with zeal.
It was by his advice, accordingly, that we made, upon the spot, a profound incision into the tip of the subject’s nose, while the Doctor himself, laying violent hands upon it, pulled it into vehement contact with the wire.
Morally and physically- figuratively and literally- was the effect electric. In the first place, the corpse opened its eyes and winked very rapidly for several minutes, as does Mr. Barnes in the pantomime, in the second place, it sneezed; in the third, it sat upon end; in the fourth, it shook its fist in Doctor Ponnonner’s face; in the fifth, turning to Messieurs Gliddon and Buckingham, it addressed them, in very capital Egyptian, thus: “I must say, gentlemen, that I am as much surprised as I am mortified at your behaviour. Of Doctor Ponnonner nothing better was to be expected. He is a poor little fat fool who knows no better. I pity and forgive him. But you, Mr. Gliddon and you, Silk- who have travelled and resided in Egypt until one might imagine you to the manner born- you, I say who have been so much among us that you speak Egyptian fully as well, I think, as you write your mother tongue- you, whom I have always been led to regard as the firm friend of the mummies- I really did anticipate more gentlemanly conduct from you. What am I to think of your standing quietly by and seeing me thus unhandsomely used? What am I to suppose by your permitting Tom, Dick, and Harry to strip me of my coffins, and my clothes, in this wretchedly cold climate? In what light (to come to the point) am I to regard your aiding and abetting that miserable little villain, Doctor Ponnonner, in pulling me by the nose?” It will be taken for granted, no doubt, that upon hearing this speech under the circumstances, we all either made for the door, or fell into violent hysterics, or went off in a general swoon. One of these three things was, I say, to be expected.
Indeed each and all of these lines of conduct might have been very plausibly pursued. And, upon my word, I am at a loss to know how or why it was that we pursued neither the one nor the other. But, perhaps, the true reason is to be sought in the spirit of the age, which proceeds by the rule of contraries altogether, and is now usually admitted as the solution of every thing in the way of paradox and impossibility. Or, perhaps, after all, it was only the Mummy’s exceedingly natural and matter-of-course air that divested his words of the terrible. However this may be, the facts are clear, and no member of our party betrayed any very particular trepidation, or seemed to consider that any thing had gone very especially wrong.
For my part I was convinced it was all right, and merely stepped aside, out of the range of the Egyptian’s fist. Doctor Ponnonner thrust his hands into his breeches’ pockets, looked hard at the Mummy, and grew excessively red in the face. Mr. Glidden stroked his whiskers and drew up the collar of his shirt. Mr. Buckingham hung down his head, and put his right thumb into the left corner of his mouth.
The Egyptian regarded him with a severe countenance for some minutes and at length, with a sneer, said: “Why don’t you speak, Mr. Buckingham? Did you hear what I asked you, or not? Do take your thumb out of your mouth!” Mr. Buckingham, hereupon, gave a slight start, took his right thumb out of the left corner of his mouth, and, by way of indemnification inserted his left thumb in the right corner of the aperture above-mentioned.
Not being able to get an answer from Mr. B., the figure turned peevishly to Mr. Gliddon, and, in a peremptory tone, demanded in general terms what we all meant.
Mr. Gliddon replied at great length, in phonetics; and but for the deficiency of American printing-offices in hieroglyphical type, it would afford me much pleasure to record here, in the original, the whole of his very excellent speech.
I may as well take this occasion to remark, that all the subsequent conversation in which the Mummy took a part, was carried on in primitive Egyptian, through the medium (so far as concerned myself and other untravelled members of the company)- through the medium, I say, of Messieurs Gliddon and Buckingham, as interpreters. These gentlemen spoke the mother tongue of the Mummy with inimitable fluency and grace; but I could not help observing that (owing, no doubt, to the introduction of images entirely modern, and, of course, entirely novel to the stranger) the two travellers were reduced, occasionally, to the employment of sensible forms for the purpose of conveying a particular meaning. Mr. Gliddon, at one period, for example, could not make the Egyptian comprehend the term “politics,” until he sketched upon the wall, with a bit of charcoal a little carbuncle-nosed gentleman, out at elbows, standing upon a stump, with his left leg drawn back, right arm thrown forward, with his fist shut, the eyes rolled up toward Heaven, and the mouth open at an angle of ninety degrees. Just in the same way Mr. Buckingham failed to convey the absolutely modern idea “wig,” until (at Doctor Ponnonner’s suggestion) he grew very pale in the face, and consented to take off his own.
It will be readily understood that Mr. Gliddon’s discourse turned chiefly upon the vast benefits accruing to science from the unrolling and disembowelling of mummies; apologizing, upon this score, for any disturbance that might have been occasioned him, in particular, the individual Mummy called Allamistakeo; and concluding with a mere hint (for it could scarcely be considered more) that, as these little matters were now explained, it might be as well to proceed with the investigation intended. Here Doctor Ponnonner made ready his instruments.
In regard to the latter suggestions of the orator, it appears that Allamistakeo had certain scruples of conscience, the nature of which I did not distinctly learn; but he expressed himself satisfied with the apologies tendered, and, getting down from the table, shook hands with the company all round.
When this ceremony was at an end, we immediately busied ourselves in
repairing the damages which our subject had sustained from the scalpel. We sewed up the wound in his temple, bandaged his foot, and applied a square inch of black plaster to the tip of his nose.
It was now observed that the Count (this was the title, it seems, of Allamistakeo) had a slight fit of shivering- no doubt from the cold. The Doctor immediately repaired to his wardrobe, and soon returned with a black dress coat, made in Jennings’ best manner, a pair of sky-blue plaid pantaloons with straps, a pink gingham chemise, a flapped vest of brocade, a white sack overcoat, a walking cane with a hook, a hat with no brim, patent-leather boots, straw-colored kid gloves, an eye-glass, a pair of whiskers, and a waterfall cravat. Owing to the disparity of size between the Count and the doctor (the proportion being as two to one), there was some little difficulty in adjusting these habiliments upon the person of the Egyptian; but when all was arranged, he might have been said to be dressed. Mr. Gliddon, therefore, gave him his arm, and led him to a comfortable chair by the fire, while the Doctor rang the bell upon the spot and ordered a supply of cigars and wine.
The conversation soon grew animated. Much curiosity was, of course, expressed in regard to the somewhat remarkable fact of Allamistakeo’s still remaining alive.
“I should have thought,” observed Mr. Buckingham, “that it is high time you were dead.” “Why,” replied the Count, very much astonished, “I am little more than seven hundred years old! My father lived a thousand, and was by no means in his dotage when he died.” Here ensued a brisk series of questions and computations, by means of which it became evident that the antiquity of the Mummy had been grossly misjudged. It had been five thousand and fifty years and some months since he had been consigned to the catacombs at Eleithias.
“But my remark,” resumed Mr. Buckingham, “had no reference to your age at the period of interment (I am willing to grant, in fact, that you are still a young man), and my illusion was to the immensity of time during which, by your own showing, you must have been done up in asphaltum.” “In what?” said the Count.
“In asphaltum,” persisted Mr. B.
“Ah, yes; I have some faint notion of what you mean; it might be made to answer, no doubt- but in my time we employed scarcely any thing else than the Bichloride of Mercury.” “But what we are especially at a loss to understand,” said Doctor Ponnonner, “is how it happens that, having been dead and buried in Egypt five thousand years ago, you are here to-day all alive and looking so delightfully well.” “Had I been, as you say, dead,” replied the Count, “it is more than probable that dead, I should still be; for I perceive you are yet in the infancy of Calvanism, and cannot accomplish with it what was a common thing among us in the old days. But the fact is, I fell into catalepsy, and it was considered by my best friends that I was either dead or should be; they accordingly embalmed me at once- I presume you are aware of the chief principle of the embalming process?” “Why not altogether.” “Why, I perceive- a deplorable condition of ignorance! Well I cannot enter into details just now: but it is necessary to explain that to embalm (properly speaking), in Egypt, was to arrest indefinitely all the animal functions subjected to the process. I use the word ‘animal’ in its widest sense, as including the physical not more than the moral and vital being. I repeat that the leading principle of embalmment consisted, with us, in the immediately arresting, and holding in perpetual abeyance, all the animal functions subjected to the process. To be brief, in whatever condition the individual was, at the period of embalmment, in that condition he remained. Now, as it is my good fortune to be of the blood of the Scarabaeus, I was embalmed alive, as you see me at present.” “The blood of the Scarabaeus!” exclaimed Doctor Ponnonner.
“Yes. The Scarabaeus was the insignium or the ‘arms,’ of a very distinguished and very rare patrician family. To be ‘of the blood of the Scarabaeus,’ is merely to be one of that family of which the Scarabaeus is the insignium. I speak figuratively.” “But what has this to do with you being alive?” “Why, it is the general custom in Egypt to deprive a corpse, before embalmment, of its bowels and brains; the race of the Scarabaei alone did not coincide with the custom. Had I not been a Scarabeus, therefore, I should have been without bowels and brains; and without either it is inconvenient to live.” “I perceive that,” said Mr.
Buckingham, “and I presume that all the entire mummies that come to hand are of the race of Scarabaei.” “Beyond doubt.”
“I thought,” said Mr. Gliddon, very meekly, “that the Scarabaeus was one of the Egyptian gods.” “One of the Egyptian what?” exclaimed the Mummy, starting to its feet.
“Gods!” repeated the traveller.
“Mr. Gliddon, I really am astonished to hear you talk in this style,” said the Count, resuming his chair. “No nation upon the face of the earth has ever acknowledged more than one god. The Scarabaeus, the Ibis, etc., were with us (as similar creatures have been with others) the symbols, or media, through which we offered worship to the Creator too august to be more directly approached.” There was here a pause. At length the colloquy was renewed by Doctor Ponnonner.
“It is not improbable, then, from what you have explained,” said he, “that among the catacombs near the Nile there may exist other mummies of the Scarabaeus tribe, in a condition of vitality?” “There can be no question of it,” replied the Count; “all the Scarabaei embalmed accidentally while alive, are alive now. Even some of those purposely so embalmed, may have been overlooked by their executors, and still remain in the tomb.” “Will you be kind enough to explain,” I said, “what you mean by ‘purposely so embalmed’?” “With great pleasure!” answered the Mummy, after surveying me leisurely through his eye-glass- for it was the first time I had ventured to address him a
“With great pleasure,” he said. “The usual duration of man’s life, in my time, was about eight hundred years. Few men died, unless by most extraordinary accident, before the age of six hundred; few lived longer than a decade of centuries; but eight were considered the natural term. After the discovery of the embalming principle, as I have already described it to you, it occurred to our philosophers that a laudable curiosity might be gratified, and, at the same time, the interests of science much advanced, by living this natural term in installments. In the case of history, indeed, experience demonstrated that something of this kind was indispensable. An historian, for example, having attained the age of five hundred, would write a book with great labor and then
get himself carefully embalmed; leaving instructions to his executors pro tem., that they should cause him to be revivified after the lapse of a certain period- say five or six hundred years. Resuming existence at the expiration of this time, he would invariably find his great work converted into a species of hap-hazard note-book- that is to say, into a kind of literary arena for the conflicting guesses, riddles, and personal squabbles of whole herds of exasperated commentators. These guesses, etc., which passed under the name of annotations, or emendations, were found so completely to have enveloped, distorted, and overwhelmed the text, that the author had to go about with a lantern to discover his own book. When discovered, it was never worth the trouble of the search. After re-writing it throughout, it was regarded as the bounden duty of the historian to set himself to work immediately in correcting, from his own private knowledge and experience, the traditions of the day concerning the epoch at which he had originally lived. Now this process of re-scription and personal rectification, pursued by various individual sages from time to time, had the effect of preventing our history from degenerating into absolute fable.” “I beg your pardon,” said Doctor Ponnonner at this point, laying his hand gently upon the arm of the Egyptian- “I beg your pardon, sir, but may I presume to interrupt you for one moment?” “By all means, sir,” replied the Count, drawing up.
“I merely wished to ask you a question,” said the Doctor. “You mentioned the historian’s personal correction of traditions respecting his own epoch. Pray, sir, upon an average what proportion of these Kabbala were usually found to be right?” “The Kabbala, as you properly term them, sir, were generally discovered to be precisely on a par with the facts recorded in the un-re-written histories themselves;- that is to say, not one individual iota of either was ever known, under any circumstances, to be not totally and radically wrong.” “But since it is quite clear,” resumed the Doctor, “that at least five thousand years have elapsed since your entombment, I take it for granted that your histories at that period, if not your traditions were sufficiently explicit on that one topic of universal interest, the Creation, which took place, as I presume you are aware, only about ten centuries before.” “Sir!” said the Count Allamistakeo.
The Doctor repeated his remarks, but it was only after much additional
explanation that the foreigner could be made to comprehend them. The latter at length said, hesitatingly: “The ideas you have suggested are to me, I confess, utterly novel. During my time I never knew any one to entertain so singular a fancy as that the universe (or this world if you will have it so) ever had a beginning at all. I remember once, and once only, hearing something remotely hinted, by a man of many speculations, concerning the origin of the human race; and by this individual, the very word Adam (or Red Earth), which you make use of, was employed. He employed it, however, in a generical sense, with reference to the spontaneous germination from rank soil (just as a thousand of the lower genera of creatures are germinated)- the spontaneous germination, I say, of five vast hordes of men, simultaneously upspringing in five distinct and nearly equal divisions of the globe.” Here, in general, the company shrugged their shoulders, and one or two of us touched our foreheads with a very significant air. Mr. Silk Buckingham, first glancing slightly at the occiput and then at the sinciput of Allamistakeo, spoke as follows: “The long duration of human life in your time, together with the occasional practice of passing it, as you have explained, in installments, must have had, indeed, a strong tendency to the general development and conglomeration of knowledge. I presume, therefore, that we are to attribute the marked inferiority of the old Egyptians in all particulars of science, when compared with the moderns, and more especially with the Yankees, altogether to the superior solidity of the Egyptian skull.” “I confess again,” replied the Count, with much suavity, “that I am somewhat at a loss to comprehend you; pray, to what particulars of science do you allude?” Here our whole party, joining voices, detailed, at great length, the assumptions of phrenology and the marvels of animal magnetism.
Having heard us to an end, the Count proceeded to relate a few anecdotes, which rendered it evident that prototypes of Gall and Spurzheim had flourished and faded in Egypt so long ago as to have been nearly forgotten, and that the manoeuvres of Mesmer were really very contemptible tricks when put in collation with the positive miracles of the Theban savans, who created lice and a great many other similar things.
I here asked the Count if his people were able to calculate eclipses. He smiled rather contemptuously, and said they were.
This put me a little out, but I began to make other inquiries in regard to his astronomical knowledge, when a member of the company, who had never as yet opened his mouth, whispered in my ear, that for information on this head, I had better consult Ptolemy (whoever Ptolemy is), as well as one Plutarch de facie lunae.
I then questioned the Mummy about burning-glasses and lenses, and, in general, about the manufacture of glass; but I had not made an end of my queries before the silent member again touched me quietly on the elbow, and begged me for God’s sake to take a peep at Diodorus Siculus. As for the Count, he merely asked me, in the way of reply, if we moderns possessed any such microscopes as would enable us to cut cameos in the style of the Egyptians. While I was thinking how I should answer this question, little Doctor Ponnonner committed himself in a very extraordinary way.
“Look at our architecture!” he exclaimed, greatly to the indignation of both the travellers, who pinched him black and blue to no purpose.
“Look,” he cried with enthusiasm, “at the Bowling-Green Fountain in New York! or if this be too vast a contemplation, regard for a moment the Capitol at Washington, D. C.!”- and the good little medical man went on to detail very minutely, the proportions of the fabric to which he referred. He explained that the portico alone was adorned with no less than four and twenty columns, five feet in diameter, and ten feet apart.
The Count said that he regretted not being able to remember, just at that moment, the precise dimensions of any one of the principal buildings of the cityof Aznac, whose foundations were laid in the night of Time, but the ruins of which were still standing, at the epoch of his entombment, in a vast plain of sand to the westward of Thebes. He recollected, however, (talking of the porticoes,) that one affixed to an inferior palace in a kind of suburb called Carnac, consisted of a hundred and forty-four columns, thirty-seven feet in circumference, and twenty-five feet apart. The approach to this portico, from the Nile, was through an avenue two miles long, composed of sphynxes, statues, and obelisks, twenty, sixty, and a hundred feet in height. The palace itself (as well as he could remember) was, in one direction, two miles long, and might have been altogether about seven in circuit.
Its walls were richly painted all over, within and without, with hieroglyphics. He would not pretend to assert that even fifty or sixty of the Doctor’s Capitols might have been built within these walls, but he was by no means sure that two or three hundred of them might not have been squeezed in with some trouble. That palace at Carnac was an insignificant little building after all. He (the Count), however, could not conscientiously refuse to admit the ingenuity, magnificence, and superiority of the Fountain at the Bowling Green, as described by the Doctor. Nothing like it, he was forced to allow, had ever been seen in Egypt or elsewhere.
I here asked the Count what he had to say to our railroads.
“Nothing,” he replied, “in particular.” They were rather slight, rather illconceived, and clumsily put together. They could not be compared, of course, with the vast, level, direct, iron-grooved causeways upon which the Egyptians conveyed entire temples and solid obelisks of a hundred and fifty feet in altitude.
I spoke of our gigantic mechanical forces.
He agreed that we knew something in that way, but inquired how I should have gone to work in getting up the imposts on the lintels of even the little palace at Carnac.
This question I concluded not to hear, and demanded if he had any idea of Artesian wells; but he simply raised his eyebrows; while Mr. Gliddon winked at me very hard and said, in a low tone, that one had been recently discovered by the engineers employed to bore for water in the Great Oasis.
I then mentioned our steel; but the foreigner elevated his nose, and asked me if our steel could have executed the sharp carved work seen on the obelisks, and which was wrought altogether by edge-tools of copper.
This disconcerted us so greatly that we thought it advisable to vary the attack to Metaphysics. We sent for a copy of a book called the “Dial,” and read out of it a chapter or two about something that is not very clear, but which the Bostonians call the Great Movement of Progress.
The Count merely said that Great Movements were awfully common things in his day, and as for Progress, it was at one time quite a nuisance, but it never progressed.
We then spoke of the great beauty and importance of Democracy, and were at much trouble in impressing the Count with a due sense of the advantages we enjoyed in living where there was suffrage ad libitum, and no king.
He listened with marked interest, and in fact seemed not a little amused.
When we had done, he said that, a great while ago, there had occurred
something of a very similar sort. Thirteen Egyptian provinces determined all at once to be free, and to set a magnificent example to the rest of mankind. They assembled their wise men, and concocted the most ingenious constitution it is possible to conceive. For a while they managed remarkably well; only their habit of bragging was prodigious. The thing ended, however, in the consolidation of the thirteen states, with some fifteen or twenty others, in the most odious and insupportable despotism that was ever heard of upon the face of the Earth.
I asked what was the name of the usurping tyrant.
As well as the Count could recollect, it was Mob.
Not knowing what to say to this, I raised my voice, and deplored the Egyptian ignorance of steam.
The Count looked at me with much astonishment, but made no answer. The silent gentleman, however, gave me a violent nudge in the ribs with his elbowstold me I had sufficiently exposed myself for once- and demanded if I was really such a fool as not to know that the modern steam-engine is derived from the invention of Hero, through Solomon de Caus.
We were now in imminent danger of being discomfited; but, as good luck would have it, Doctor Ponnonner, having rallied, returned to our rescue, and inquired if the people of Egypt would seriously pretend to rival the moderns in the all-important particular of dress.
The Count, at this, glanced downward to the straps of his pantaloons, and then taking hold of the end of one of his coat-tails, held it up close to his eyes for some minutes. Letting it fall, at last, his mouth extended itself very gradually from ear to ear; but I do not remember that he said any thing in the way of reply.
Hereupon we recovered our spirits, and the Doctor, approaching the Mummy with great dignity, desired it to say candidly, upon its honor as a gentleman, if the Egyptians had comprehended, at any period, the manufacture of either Ponnonner’s lozenges or Brandreth’s pills.
We looked, with profound anxiety, for an answer- but in vain. It was not
forthcoming. The Egyptian blushed and hung down his head. Never was
triumph more consummate; never was defeat borne with so ill a grace. Indeed, I could not endure the spectacle of the poor Mummy’s mortification. I reached my hat, bowed to him stiffly, and took leave.
Upon getting home I found it past four o’clock, and went immediately to bed.
It is now ten A.M. I have been up since seven, penning these memoranda for the benefit of my family and of mankind. The former I shall behold no more. My wife is a shrew. The truth is, I am heartily sick of this life and of the nineteenth century in general. I am convinced that every thing is going wrong. Besides, I am anxious to know who will be President in 2045. As soon, therefore, as I shave and swallow a cup of coffee, I shall just step over to Ponnonner’s and get embalmed for a couple of hundred years.
Actually By Barbara Johnson
November 18th, 2014 From World News Daily Report
Drogheda| A team of archaeologists affiliated with the University College Dublin, have unearthed three skeletons from a previously unknown humanoid species of extremely small size in a wooded area of Eastern Ireland. The specimens measuring between 47 and 61 centimeters are presumably from an entirely new species of humanoid, distinct from modern humans, which would have survived until the 12th or 13th century AD.
The bones which were presumably partially unearthed by a recent rainfall, and were found by three local children who were playing in the area. The young boys immediately contacted the police, believing they had found the remains of murdered children. The medical examiner called on the site, rapidly understood that this was not a modern crime scene, but seemed instead to be an unusual archeological site. He contacted the University College Dublin to ask for help, and the institution sent Professor Edward James McInnes to analyze the discovery.
The bodies of two females and one male were discovered with a small number of artefacts in what appeared to have been a small settlement, near the banks of the river Boyne. The team of archaeologists led by Professor McInnes, has named the species Homo minusculus, which means either ‘Tiny Man’ or ‘Is small in comparison’.
If you’ve ever served as a docent or interpreter, you’ve wanted to say some or all of this.
Actually By Mark Twain
“A Brace of Brief Lectures on Science.” From The American Publisher, October, 1871
- PALEONTOLOGY CONCLUDED – PRIMEVAL MAN
My brother paleontologists have “proved” by the finding of weapons (for use in the happy hunting grounds,) side by side with the Primeval Man’s bones, that the Primeval Man was a believer in immortality. And I think they have done more than this. I think that in “proving” that he always broke the bones of animals “lengthwise” to get at the marrow, they have come near proving the Primeval Man an ass. For why should he break bones lengthwise to get at the marrow when anybody except a scientist knows that it is a deal easier to break a bone crosswise than lengthwise, and still more convenient to smash your stone down on it and let it break any way it pleases; and we all know that the marrow will taste just the same, no matter what plan of fracture you pursue. And yet nothing would suit this primeval “galoot” but lengthwise style ― it does not look reasonable. And I must call notice to the fact that neither the Primeval Man’s elk-horn instruments, nor his flint knife, nor yet the awe-inspiring quoit which he thought was a flint “hatchet,” could split a slippery, crooked, uneasy and vexatious bone lengthwise with facility ― and I have always noticed that your Primeval Man looks to convenience first. That is his way, if I know whereof I speak ― and if I do not, what am I a paleontologist for?
2. Somehow I cannot feel satisfied that those bears (whose bones are found mingled with those of the Primeval Man), were not the real parties that ate that marrow ― and also the animals that used to own it. And without nibbling at heresy any further, I may as well come out and suggest that perhaps they ate the Primeval Man himself. Here is a pile of bones of primeval man and beast all mixed up together, with no more damning evidence that the man ate the bears than that the bears ate the man ― yet paleontology holds a coroner’s inquest here in the fifth geologic period on an “unpleasantness” which transpired in the quaternary, and calmly lays it on the MAN, and then adds to it what it purports to be evidence of CANNABALISM. I ask the candid reader, Does not this look like taking advantage of a gentleman who has been dead two million years, and whose surviving friends and relatives――. But the subject is too painful. Are we to have another Byron-scandal case? Here are savage ways and atrocious appetites attributed to the dead and helpless Primeval Man ― have we any assurance that the same hand will not fling mud at the Primeval Man’s mother, next?
3. Again. Is there anything really so surprising about the absence of the marrow from bones a few hundred thousand years old as to make it worth while to sit up nights trying to figure out how it came to be absent? Now is there, considering that there are so many good chances that Age, Worms and Decay got the marrow?
4. If the student should ask why paleontologists call the Primeval Man a cannibal, I should answer that it was because they find tooth-marks on primeval children’s bones which they “recognize as the marks of human teeth.” If the student should ask why paleontologists assert that primeval hyenas gnawed the bones of roasted animals after the Primeval Man had finished his meal, I should answer that they find teeth-marks upon said bones which they “recognize as hyena teeth-marks.” If the student should ask me how the paleontologist tells the difference between hyena and human teeth-marks on a bone, and particularly a bone which has been rotting in a cave since the everlasting hills were builded, I should answer that I don’t know.
A man could leave a sort of tooth-mark (till decay set in,) in any fleshy substance that might remain sticking in a bone, but that he could make a tooth-mark on the bone itself I am obliged to question. Let the earnest student try to bite the handle of his tooth-brush and see if he can leave an autograph that will defy the ages. Aha! Where are you now!
5. The frivolous are apt to take notice of a certain paleontological custom, which, not understanding, they take to be proper prey for their wit. I refer to the common paleontological custom of “proving” the vast age of primeval bones by their “extreme fragility,” and then accounting for their wonderful preservation by the fact that they were “petrified and fossilized by deposits of calcareous salts.” If cavilers had brains enough to comprehend this, they would not cavil so much about it.
6. In the celebrated paleontological “cave of Aurignac” were found bones of primeval men, woolly elephants, huge bears and elks and wolves of a singular pattern, and also bones of the august mastodon. What do my fellow paleontologists call that place? A “primeval graveyard.” Why? Why graveyard? Reader, I have looked carefully into this matter and discovered the significant fact that they never found a single tomb-stone. Nor any sign of a grave. Then why call it a graveyard? Does a tangled mess of of bones of men and beasts necessarily constitute a graveyard? I would not disturb any man’s faith in the primeval cemetery, though, merely to hear myself talk. I have opened the subject for a nobler purpose ― to give the paleontological student’s faith a new direction and worthier one. I have investigated the evidences and now feel tolerably satisfied that the contents of the cave of Aurignac are not the remains of a primeval graveyard, but of a primeval menagerie. I ask the intelligent reader if it is likely that such rare creatures as a woolly elephant, a mastodon, and those huge and peculiar bears, wolves, etc., would simply happen together, along with a man or two, in a comfortable, roomy cave, with a small, low door, just suited to the admission of single files of country people, to say nothing of children and servants at half price? I simply ask the candid reader that question and let him sweat ― as the historian Josephus used to say. If I should be asked for further suggestions in support of my hypothesis, I should hazard the thought that the treasurer of the menagerie was guilty of a hideous general massacre, while the proprietor and the beasts were asleep, and that his object was robbery. It is admitted by nearly one-sixth of all the paleontologists [observe the unusual unanimity] that the first part of the quaternary period must have been an uncommonly good season for public exhibitions ― and in this one fact alone you have almost a confirmation of the criminal motive attributed to the treasurer. If I am asked for final and incontrovertible proof of my position, I point to the significant fact that the bones of the treasurer have never been found, and THE CASH BOX IS GONE. It is enough to make one’s hair stand on end.
I desire nothing more than my dues. If I have thrown any light on the mystery of the cave of Aurignac, I desire that it shall be acknowledged ― if I have not, I desire that it may be as though I had never spoken.
7. As concerns the proud paleontological trophy, the “flint hatchet” and its companion the “flint knife,” I am compelled again to differ with the other scientists. I cannot think that the so-called “flint knife” is a knife at all. I cannot disabuse my mind of the impression that it is a file. No knife ever had such a scandalous blade as that. If asked by scholars of the established faith what the Primeval Man could want with a file, I should, with customary paleontological diplomacy, ask what he could want with such a knife? Because he might file something with that thing, but I will hang if he could ever cut anything with it.
8. And as for the oval shaped flint which stands for the lauded primeval “hatchet,” I cannot rid myself of the idea that it was only a paper-weight. If incensed brother-paleontologists storm at me and say the Primeval Man had no paper, I shall say calmly, “As long as it was nobody’s business but his own, couldn’t he carry his paper-weight around till he got some?”
But there is nothing intractable about me. If gentlemen wish to compromise and call it a petrified hoecake, or anything in reason, I am agreeable; for the Primeval Man had to have food, and might have had hoecakes, but he didn’t have to have a flint “hatchet” like this thing, which he could not even cut his butter with without mashing it.
If any one should find fault with any arguments used by me in the course of the above chapter, and say that I jump to a conclusion over so much ground that the feat is in a manner ungraceful; and if he should say further, that in establishing one paleontological position of mine I generally demolish another, I would answer that these things are inseparable from scientific investigation. We all do it ― all scientists. No one can regret it more than we do ourselves, but there really seems to be no remedy for it. First we had to recede from our assertion that a certain fossil was a primeval man, because afterward when we had found multitudes of saurians and had grown glib and facile in descanting upon them, we found that that other creature was of the same species. What could we do? It was too big a job to turn a thousand saurians into primeval men, and so we turned the solitary primeval man into a saurian. It was the cheapest way. And so it has always been with us. Every time we get a chance to assert something, we have to take back something. When we announced and established the great discovery of the “Glacial Period,” how we did have to cart the dead animals around! Because, do not you see, the indiscriminate sort of distribution of fossil species which we had accommodated to the characteristic action of a general flood would not answer for a nicely discriminating “glacial period” which ought to transport not only walruses, white bears, and other frigid creatures, from the North Pole down into Africa and not meddle with any other kind of animals. Well, we had only got the several species of fossil animals located to “back up” the “glacial period” when here comes some idiot down from Behring’s Strait with a fossil elephant a hundred thousand years old! Of course we had to go to work and account for him. You see how it is. Science is as sorry as you are that this year’s science is no more like last year’s science than last year’s was like the science of twenty years gone by. But science cannot help it. Science is full of change. Science is progressive and eternal. The scientists of twenty years ago laughed at the ignorant men who had groped in the intellectual darkness of twenty years before.
We derive pleasure from laughing at them. We have accounted for that elephant, at last, on the hypothesis that when he was alive Alaska was in the tropics. Twenty or thirty years from now the new crop of paleontologists will be just as likely as not to find an elephant and a petrified iceberg roosting in the same quaternary cave together up there in Alaska, and if they do, down we go, with our tropical theory, that is all.
Actually By Mark Twain
“A Brace of Brief Lectures on Science.” From The American Publisher, September, 1871
What a noble science is paleontology! And what really startling sagacity its votaries exhibit!
Immediately after the Nathan murder, twenty practiced detectives went and viewed the dead body; examined the marks on the throat and on the head; followed the bloody tracks; looked at the bloody clothes, the broken safe, and the curious, unusual, mysterious “dog.” They took note of the stolen diamond studs and set a watch on the pawnbrokers, and they set watches upon all known thieves and housebreakers, and upon their fast women. They had the detectives of all the wide world to help them watch and work, and the telegraph to facilitate communication. They had the testimony of fifty witnesses in point and conveniently at hand for reference, a knowledge of everything that transpired about the Nathan mansion during the entire eventful night with the exception of the single hour during which the murder was committed. Thus we perceive that the mystery was narrowed down to a very small compass, and the clues and helps were abundant and excellent. Yet what is the result? The “dog” has told no tales, the bloody tracks have led no whither, the murderer has not been found. Why, it is not even known whether there was one murderer, or twenty ― or whether men or women did the deed – or how entrance was gained to the house or how exit was accomplished!―
The reader perceives how illiterate detectives can blunder along, with whole volumes of clues to guide them, and yet achieve nothing. Now let me show him what “science” can do. Let me show what might have been done if New York had been intelligent enough to employ one deep paleontologist in the work instead of a dozen detectives.― Let me demonstrate that with no other clue than one small splinter off that “iron dog,” or a gill of the water the bloody shirt was washed in, any cultivated paleontologist would have walked right off and fetched you that murderer with as unerring certainty as he would take a fragment of an unknown bone and build you the animal it used to belong to, and tell you which end his tail was on and what he preferred for dinner.
In this lesson I will treat only of one subject of paleontological “research” ― PRIMEVAL MAN. Geology has revealed the fact that the crust of the earth is composed of five layers or strata. We exist on the surface of the fifth. Geology teaches, with scientific accuracy, that each of these layers was from ten thousand to two million years forming or cooling. [A disagreement as to a few hundred thousand years is a matter of little consequence to science.] The layer immediately under our layer, is the fourth or “quaternary”; under that is the third, or tertiary, etc. Each of these layers had its peculiar animal and vegetable life, and when each layer’s mission was done, it and its animals and vegetables ceased from their labors and were forever buried under the new layer, with its new-shaped and new fangled animals and vegetables. So far, so good. Now the geologists Thompson, Johnson, Jones and Ferguson state that our own layer has been ten thousand years forming. The geologists Herkimer, Hildebrand, Boggs and Walker all claim that our layer has been four hundred thousand years forming. Other geologists just as reliable, maintain that our layer had been from one to two million years forming. Thus we have a concise and satisfactory idea of how long our layer has been growing and accumulating.
That is sufficient geology for our present purpose. The paleontologists Hooker, Baker, Slocum and Hughes claim that Primeval Man existed during the quaternary period ― consequently he existed as much as ten thousand, and possible two million, years ago. The paleontologists Howard, Perkins, de Warren and Von Hawkins assert that Primeval Man existed as far back as the tertiary period ― and consequently he walked the earth at a time so remote that if you strung ciphers after a unit till there were enough to answer for a necklace for a mastodon you could not adequately represent the billions of centuries ago it happened. Now, you perceive, we begin to cramp this part of our subject into a corner where we can grasp it, as it were, and contemplate it intelligently. Let us ― “for a flier,” as the learned Von Humboldt phrases it ― consider that this Primeval Man transpired eight or nine hundred thousand years ago, and not day before yesterday, like the Nathan murder.― What do we know of him, and how do we find it out? Listen, while I reduce the “revelations” of paleontology to a few paragraphs:
1. Primeval Man existed in the quaternary period – because his bones are found in caves along bones of now extinct animals of that period ― such as the “cave-hyena,” the mammoth, etc.
2. The incredible antiquity of the Primeval Man’s bones is further proven by their extreme “fragility.” ― No bones under a million years old “could be so fragile.” [I quote strictly from the scientific authorities.] The reason royal skeletons in Westminster crumble to dust when exposed, although only a trifling eight hundred years old, is because they are shut up in leaden coffins, I suppose. Bones do not keep good in coffins. There is no sure way but to cord them up in caves. Paleontology reveals that they will then last you a million years without any inconvenience.
3. The Primeval Man possessed weapons ― because along with his bones are found rude chips and flakes of flint that the paleontologist knows very well were regarded as knives by the Primeval Man; and also flints of a rude oval shape that in his pretty simplicity he regarded as “hatchets.” These things have been found in vast quantities with his bones.
4. The Primeval Man “wore clothes” – because, along with his bones have been found skeletons of the reindeer, “with marks still visible about the base of the horns, such as are made in our day when we cut there to loosen the hide in order to skin the animal.” Could this paleontologist find the Nathan murderer? ― Undoubtedly he could. The ignorant need not say that possibly the Primeval Man wore no clothes, but wanted the hide for a tent, or for bow-strings, or lassos, or beds, or to trade off for glass beads and whisky. The paleontologist knows what he wanted with the hide.
5. The Primeval Man had not only inventive powers and gropings toward civilization, as evidenced by his contriving and manufacturing flint hatchets and knives and wearing clothes, but he also had marked and unmistakable “art” inspirations ― because, along with his bones have been found figures scratched on bone, vaguely suggestive of possible fishes; and a boar’s tooth rudely carved into the shape of a bird’s head, and “with a hole in it to enable him to hang it around his neck.” [I quote from authority.] I ask, could this person discover the Nathan murderer?
6. The Primeval Man “eat his wild game roasted” ― because, “along with his bones are found the bones of wild animals which seem to have been scorched” some millions of years ago.
7. The Primeval Man was “passionately fond of marrow” [I still quote from the scientific authorities,] ― because, along with his bones have been found animal bones broken lengthwise, “which shows that they had been thus broken to extract the marrow, of which our primitive forefathers were inordinately fond,” says the “Paleontological Investigations.” Could this man read the secrets of an iron dog and a bloody shirt, or could he not?
8. The Primeval Man was – a – cannibal! ― because, in Italy, and also in Scotland, along with his bones have been found children’s bones which had, “first been carefully cleansed and emptied to satisfy the inordinate taste for marrow, and then gnawed.” (!) This is horrible, but true. Let not the ignorant say that a dog might have done this gnawing, for paleontology has looked into that and decided that ―
9. The Primeval Man had no dog ― because “there is no trace of dogs having been domesticated then.” Which settles that point.
10. The Primeval Hyena gnawed bones, however ― because paleontology proves that “the marks on some bones found in France were not made by dog, human, cat,or mastodon teeth, but by the teeth of a hyena.” And paleontology is aware that the hyena gnawed the bones “after the Primeval Man” was done with them ― which was clever, but paleontology keeps the reasons for knowing this a scientific secret.
11. Primeval Man has graveyards ― “because, along with great quantities of roasted and gnawed bones of primeval animals, have been found quantities of human bones and flint weapons.” And it is a precious privilege to live in an epoch of paleontologists, for the uneducated investigator would not be able to tell a primeval graveyard from a primeval restaurant.
12. The Primeval Man always had a banquet and a good time after a funeral ― because, down the hill a little way from his graveyard (there is only one on record,) “a bed of ashes was unearthed.” Von Rosenstein and some others say the banquet occurred before the funeral, but most paleontologists agree that is was nearly a week after the obsequies.
13. Primeval Man “made his flint knives and hatchets with a stone hammer”― and an English paleontologist has “proved” this, and overwhelmed all cavilers with confusion, and won thunders of applause and incalculable gratitude from his fellow-scientists by actually making a flint hatchet with a stone hammer. The fact that these weapons are so independent in form that if a man chipped a piece of flint with his eyes shut the result would infallibly be a primeval flint knife or a flint hatchet, one or the other, in spite of him, has got nothing to do with the matter. If cavilers say that the fact that we could carve our bread with an axe is no sign that we do carve it with an axe, I simply say that such an argument begs the question, inasmuch as it applies to the present time, whereas the science of paleontology only treats of matters of remote antiquity.
Now I come to the most marvellous “revelation” of all ― the most unexpected, the most surprising, the most gratifying. It is this. Paleontology has discovered that ―
14. “THE PRIMEVAL MAN BELIEVED IN IMMORTALITY!” ― because, “else why did he bury those huge quantities of flint hatchets and other weapons with his dead, just as all savages do who desire to provide the loved and lost with means of amusement and subsistence in the happy hunting grounds of eternity?” Aha! What saith the caviler now? Poor purblind croaker, in this grand and awful evidence of the Primeval Man’s belief in the immortality of his soul, you would find only evidence that the primeval cemetery, the primeval restaurant and the primeval arsenal were purposely compacted into the same premises to save rent. Idiot!
The lesson is ended. Do you see, now, how simple and easy “science” makes a thing? Do you see how ―
Some animal bones, split, scratched and scorched; located in quaternary ground;
Some full sized human bones with them ― and very “fragile”;
Some small bones, marrowless and scratched;
Some flints of several uncertain shapes;
Some rude scratchings and carvings, done possible by design;
Some deer horns, scratched at their bases; An ash-pile;
The absence of dog-tracks;―
Do you see how these clues and “evidences” are all the materials the science of paleontology needs in order to give the world the wonder of a ―
And not only that but tell you what was the particular period he lived in;
What weapons he carried;
What kind of clothes he wore;
What his art predilections and capacities were;
What he made his weapons with;
What his funeral customs were;
What part of a bear or a child he preferred for breakfast;
What animal got the remains of his feasts, and what animal didn’t;
And, finally, what the foundation and corner-stone of the religion of the lost and lamented old antediluvian commander-in-chief of all the fossils, was!
What a crying pity it is that the Nathan murder was not committed two million years ago- for I do so want to know all about it.
[Some of my own paleontological deductions differing is some respects from those of other paleontological authorities, I reserve them for expression in another chapter on “Science,” which will appear next month.]