Egypt: a fascinating journey

by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
27 June 2011
Comments (32)

At Christmas I read the biography of Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. In January I followed in his footsteps to Egypt, visiting the pyramids on the Giza plateau, then Saqqara to see the Stepped Pyramid of Djoser, then Luxor and Karnak (ancient Thebes, centre of the worship of the god Amun) and finally, across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings.

  Karnak temple Ornately carved pillars at Karnak temple.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria

Excavation of Ptolemaic era baths outside the main entrance to Karnak temple. Excavation of Ptolemaic era baths outside the main entrance to Karnak temple.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria

To enter the tomb in which Tutankhamun was buried was an extraordinary experience. In 1922 there were over 5000 astonishing objects in the tomb, stacked one on top of the other, that took Carter and his team ten years to carefully remove, record, conserve and then pack for their journey to the Cairo Museum. As I stepped into the burial chamber I felt something of the excitement that Carter had felt as he peered through the sealed blocking wall for the first time. The beautiful sarcophagus is still there, carved with the protective deities with wings outstretched that guarded the young king as he began his journey to the afterlife. So too is Tutankhamun; his mummy has never left the tomb except for a short journey outside for a CT scan a few years ago.

I was lucky enough to have the tomb to myself for ten minutes or so, to absorb the atmosphere and marvel at the paintings on the walls of the burial chamber. Photographs are forbidden, quite rightly, not just to help preserve the pigments of the paintings but also the sense of awe. When some other visitors eventually entered they concluded that the sarcophagus and mummified body were replicas. I was able to reassure them that they were not!

My fascinating journey to Egypt included a visit to the Cairo Museum to see the objects that Howard Carter had so carefully sent down the Nile. Visitors clustered around one object in particular, the famous gold funerary mask that never leaves Egypt. Some of the cases had notes to say that the objects that they normally contained were part of an international exhibition. With pride I knew where they were heading—to Melbourne Museum to be displayed in the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition that opened in April.

  Patrick Greene in front of the Cairo Museum Patrick Greene outside the famous Cairo Museum, where treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun are housed.
Source: Museum Victoria

I couldn't take photographs in the tomb, or in the Cairo Museum for that matter, but elsewhere I was given access to sites and met with fellow archaeologists making exciting discoveries that I was able to photograph. A selection of my images has now been published by Museum Victoria in a book that is hot off the press. Its title? Egypt: a fascinating journey.


Egypt: a fascinating journey

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

Watch Dr Greene's lecture: 'An Archaeologist Visits Ancient Egypt'




We have a signed copy of Patrick's book to give away to a blog reader. To enter, leave a comment on this post by noon on Thursday 30 June with your answer to this question:

What fascinates you about Egypt?  


UPDATE: Thank you to all the entrants! Patrick has chosen JessB as the winner, saying:

“I was spoilt for choice in deciding the winner of my book.  I had no idea who had written the blog entries as they were shown to me without names attached.  I made a shortlist, and finally chose my winner, which expresses so eloquently the captivating beauty of the artists and crafts people whose creations still speak to us over the distance of time.”

Comments (32)

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Gyliane Carver 28 June, 2011 09:48
The tombs,the carvings and all the history behind it is so fascinating.
Michelle Winters 28 June, 2011 09:55
EVERYTHING!! The culture, religion, fashion, language, writing and architecture (of course!!). I wish I was an Egyptian!!!
Sandy Tito 28 June, 2011 10:07
A whole civilization who were so advanced in their abilities to build their ancient structures, tomb traps, etc, without the aid of our modern technology is something I find absolutely amazing
Frank Andreotti 28 June, 2011 10:13
I am most fascinated by the the fact that they were able to create such amazing pieces of 'art' being furniture and decorations etc. with what would have been essentially home made equipment! The detail and precision is absolutely amazing!
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Helen M 28 June, 2011 10:16
The mystery and magnificence of Egypt's past still leaves us amazed and wanting more answers to their unbelievable knowledge and achievements. Everyone should see these treasures to understand the feeling of mystery Egypt created.
Bec Browne 28 June, 2011 10:18
Everything fascinates me about this amazing country - its history, it's culture, it's beauty, it's people. Such a magnificent era that we are fortunate to still be able to see and touch. I am so envious that you were able to go to Egypt. I am planning a trip there for my 50th but in the mean time, the exhibition in Melbourne was simply breathtaking. Well worth the trip from Canberra.
Raelene Braithwaite 28 June, 2011 10:19
Everything about Egypt facinates me! My dream is to go to Egypt to walk on the same soil and to breathe the same air as these remarkable people!
Simone Gough 28 June, 2011 10:20
Everything about history fasinates me, especially seeing things that were seen by others centuries ago, and Egypt offers so much to be seen.
margaret 28 June, 2011 10:26
the magic and the feeling of awe i get when i read or look at anything to do with ancient egypt is what fascinates me.i feel privileged that i can look at the objects and learn about the life and culture from so many thousands of years ago. i look forward to the results of ongoing excavations that will show even more how they lived and worked and left their mark on civilization for hopefully thousands more years.
JessB 28 June, 2011 11:03
I am fascinated by the way the ancient Egyptians liked everything around them to be so beautiful. The most everyday of objects, from food platters, to make-up brushes, to furniture, is all designed with thought, decorated carefully and made to last. In an age when everything would have been handmade (imagine that!), it might have been easier to make objects simpler, and plainer - without much thought or decoration. Instead, they made sure that they were surrounded by gorgeous objects, clothed in fine linen, served delicious and beautiful food, and that they took the most beautiful objects with them to the grave and the life beyond. I love that idea, and was amazed to see it so beautifully represented in the Tutankhamun exhibit a few weeks ago when I visited.
Lee Lamprey 28 June, 2011 11:09
The whole civilisation!!! How they built the pyramids and preserved the mummies I find totally fascinating. I am heading over from Tassie to the exhibition on Saturday 23rd July and can hardly wait!!!!!
B. Fensham 28 June, 2011 11:14
The juxtaposition of past and present is what fascinates me. Also the fact that there are still so many artifacts just waiting to be found and studied, still so much to learn. Modern Egypt offers so much to visitors as well, and my Egyptian friends are amongst the kindest, warmest people I have ever met.
Jordana edwards 28 June, 2011 11:22
I am facinated with egypt for many reason but mostly for the wonderful structures they built, all without any of the technology that we rely on today. They relied on people power and simple but effective methods to cart huge pieces of stone to a building site where it was shaped, decorated then put into place.
Tracy Leslie 28 June, 2011 11:27
I love everything about Egypt. I have been to the Excibition of Tutankamun and the Golden Age of the Pharos in Melbourne and it was fascinating, loved the history behind his life and death. It was quite amazing.
Janelle Esson 28 June, 2011 11:28
The people, the History, everything, it is the most facinating place on earth, the feeling of standing in front of the Pyramids or talking to people on the street is nothing short of breathtaking, I can't pick just one thing I love, Egypt has since I was a child held a special place in my heart and it always will.
Mel Horder 28 June, 2011 11:39
So many people ask me that, but it is near impossible to express in words. At the age of 10 I became obsessed with the ancient culture, I couldn’t get enough of the place. At 19, I went on my first trip with an Australian Egyptologist, who taught me that there is so much more to Egypt than its monuments. It is the wonderful people, the culture, the amazing landscape and the most awesome feeling of just ‘being there.’ I have returned since and will never stop going to Egypt, I love the country and it feels like a second home. The feeling of Egypt really is indescribable.
janet sherwood 28 June, 2011 11:43
The majesty and serenity of a civilisation who have left their mark for all time, what an amazing legacy for the rest of us.
Jacki Dupuis 28 June, 2011 11:54
I have always been fascinated with Egyptology. As a child we had three sets of Encyclopaedias, and I would spend all day sifting through each 'Egypt' entry, marvelling at the life that they lived. Egypt was the birthplace of many of the things we take for granted today, and the very word itself conjures a rich and very long history in my mind. I am now a mother myself and my son is only 3, but also completely fascinated by the 'gyptians' himself.
fida derbas 28 June, 2011 12:15
the glamour, the perfectionism, the beauty and the enigma that keeps us all wanting more.
Kirsty Skilbeck 28 June, 2011 12:22
Egyptian history is awesome. The other wordliness, the beautiful art, the scale of the architecture, the gods, the unique way of story telling, the gold,the rituals of death, the wealth, the agriculture and the unexpected. Any culture that can make a cool mythology about a dung beetle is pretty incredible.
Charmaine conaghty 28 June, 2011 12:41
What facinates me about egypt is the long ancient history of the country. The Amarna period has always facinated me, the art from the period is just amazing, their are so many questions surrounding the period even king tutankhamun grew up in the amarna period. Its amazing to me how Akhenaten and Nefertiti changed egypt so much during that time creating a new city to worship the sun\Aten. Everything about ancient egypt facinates me but I love the Amarna periodits such a facinating time in egypt and whats still unknown is where nefertiti mummy is now that would answer some questions:-)
Cheryl Ellery 28 June, 2011 13:30
The history of the pharaohs
Amanda Davies 28 June, 2011 15:33
What fascinates me most about Egypt is there is still so much more waiting to be discovered.The desert's have covered so many secrets, there are still so many questions. I'm waiting for someone 2 unearth the intriguing answers.....
Judy Russell 28 June, 2011 20:20
I think everything fascinates me, it always has every since i first heard about ancient Eygpt in my first high school history class to lisening to the old movies of the treasure hunters finding the Pharoh's tombs to the new "The Mummy" movies there is still so much to discover there and will be for years to come one day i will visit Egypt and the Famous Cairo Museum and see all the treasures for myself.
Carmen Canle 28 June, 2011 21:27
The egyptian history is so rich with science, maths and art. My question would be, how can one NOT be fascinated and intrigued by a culture so ancient and yet so very advanced? One must also wonder what else has been erased by the sands of time?
A-J Hunter 28 June, 2011 23:16
Ancient Egypt has always fascinated me, ever since I can remember. It's beauty, complexity and how advanced the civilisation really was before the fall of the empire! I got my highest marks in school when the subject was Ancient Egypt. One of my favourite authors is Christian Jacq who is also an Egyptologist. And they revered nature and as a witch I have come to call upon some of the Ancient Egyptian deities during my spellcrafting!
Alvin Liau 29 June, 2011 06:42
The digs. Working through what's left now, to figure out what was there before, is truly fascinating, and transcends generations - literally, and figuratively. My eight year old and I can sit for hours going through documentaries, books, or exhibits on ancient Egypt. Trying to picture ourselves back then, like our very own time machine. HG Wells would be proud!
Lauren 29 June, 2011 17:17
What fascinates me about Egypt is the fact that they were able to construct such amazing structures such as the pyramids or the sphinx without modern technology, as well as creating intricate pieces of art. What i really like about the Egyptians is how they they would farewell their dead with such respect and style, giving them everything they could ever need in life or death. In many ways their dead live on because of this.
Elisa Lorenzini 29 June, 2011 21:05
For years now, Egypt has captivated my imagination. You only have to look at the many magnificent archeological remains to appreciate the immense knowledge and capabilities that the ancient Egyptians possessed that allowed them to construct such inspiring structures such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx and Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple at Deir-el Bahri. From this, two questions that I always ask myself are, ‘where did the ancient Egyptians gain so much knowledge that allowed them to create and construct such timeless structures and how did they do it?’ So for me, this is what fascinates me about Egypt. Always wondering, but never really knowing how the ancient Egyptians were able to construct such great monuments on such a massive scale. In the modern world, we are not able to create buildings with precision and absolute accuracy, but the ancient Egyptians were and they did so with very limited amounts of technology. So for me, always wondering about ‘how they did it’ and ‘where the knowledge came from’ to leave the world with such great monuments is what fascinates me about Egypt.
Margaret 30 June, 2011 02:33
How they made everyday items to last. In an exhibition in Perth I saw a pair sandals made from reeds that were a couple of thousand years old. My sandals last a year at best.
Saribel M 30 June, 2011 10:10
What fascinated me about Egypt are the pyramids as tombs of Pharaohs, the civilization and the Nile River, the history and mysteries behind them. I never being there and still dreaming that one day I would love to go with my family and experience the history of the magnificent place.
Gaille Walton 4 July, 2011 00:53
We are visiting from Sydney and the King Tut. exhibition was on top of our list. We were not disappointed. The professionalism of this showpiece was spectacular- layout excellent, information intriguing, and the items displayed - stunning. Congratulations. Another fabulously presented walk through history! What's next?

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