Tag Archive: egypt

Cairo and Egyptian pyramids | Chelsea Scrolls

Contrary to my desolate, isolated imaginings, the Egyptian pyramids are a quick cab ride from Cairo.

by chelsea schuyler

The White Person’s Reprieve

seven wonders | Chelsea Scrolls

Artists largely not to several scales impressions of the Seven Wonders (left to right, top to bottom: Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis, Statue of Zeus, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes, Lighthouse of Alexandria)

If you’re white, like I know I am, there’s a lot to feel guilty for. Top of the list? Slavery.

So when I’m taking a white privileged break from the guilt of my ancestry and the inevitable, if unintentional, consequences of my own racism in my American society, I think about fun things like the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Except I’m stymied there too, cuz I can’t really remember what any of them are, except for the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. But wait, that was built by slaves. Man! Now every 6.5 million tons of stone is riddled with the sadness of drudgery and torture. Way to ruin it, slaves.

But allow me to deliver the (non-Bible related) good news. They weren’t actually slaves! I just assumed they were. Why? Because I’m so white that I can’t imagine something so grandiose not being built by slaves? Well, maybe, but to be fair, I was misled.

Herodotus | Chelsea Scrolls

Herodotus: The first fake news

Alternative Facts Misled Us

The Pyramid of Giza was built in 2560 BCE. Greek historian Herodotus visited the pyramids in 450 BCE and wrote about it, estimating that about 100,000 slaves must have built it.

Then, in 1977, then Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin visited, then went to the Museum in Cairo and said “We built the pyramids”, meaning the Jews.

Menachem Begin, Egyptian Museum | Chelsea Scrolls

“If you can’t say nuthin true (in front of a giant group of experts on the subject), don’t say nuthin at all”

Ignoring the tiny detail that Jews didn’t exist yet, but who ever said the Israelites knew anything about Jews? Y NetNews.com reported that historians and archeologists were quite offended, “the Egyptian press was full of protest articles.”

Ha! This is why the world should be ruled by scientists. There wouldn’t be any wars, just the renowned fury of swift letters to the editor!!

Archeology Says ‘Duh’

Anyway, so how do we know now that these builders weren’t slaves? There certainly were slaves at the time, so it’s not a totally crazy notion. However, Harvard Magazine says that the following evidence helped:

sliced bread and freed slaves | Chelsea Scrolls


  • geological history
  • analysis of living arrangements
  • bread-making technology
  • animal remains

Bread-making technology. Technology. Of bread-making. Yeah, okay. As long as we can say that these workers not being slaves is the best thing since (primitive-technology-chronologically-excluding:) sliced bread.

Basically, here’s what points to well-fed, respected workers:

pyramid city Egypt | Chelsea Scrolls

Pyramid city – formally underground

  • A ‘pyramid city’ found deep in the sand nearby, which could have housed the rotating teams of about 10,000 workers, each working in 3 month stints for 30 years (per pyramid – the successor pharaohs wanted pyramids too).
  • This city included ancient bakeries – which they recognized from the conical bread pot remnants that match tomb hieroglyphics of the bread-making process. Keep in mind that large scale production of anything was not a thing in ancient times, so this is epic.
  • Evidence of nearby clover fields (used to feed cattle) but no cattle bones to be found.
  • conical Egyptian bread | Chelsea Scrolls

    Actual conical bread turds from a tomb at Giza

    Scads of bones at the pyramid city, to the point where it is estimated that workers ate 21 cattle and 23 sheep a day, the best meat available at the time.

  • Tombs specifically for workers were very recently found near to the pyramids. No treasure, and no mummification (just regular corpses), suggesting that the people weren’t THAT revered as to be royalty or anything, but important and respected enough to be buried near the Great Pyramid, with tubs of beer and bread for the afterlife. The lack of treasure made these of no interest to looters, leaving them pristine (cool!!).

Let’s Not Go Crazy

Now, this doesn’t mean these workers were just so idyllic that they happily skipped along in the heat hauling rocks like tanned Smurfs singing and carving JOY in their diaries each day.

great pyramids and smurf | Chelsea Scrolls

La laa, la la la la

Their bodily remains show all the signs of a very hard-working and painful (arthritis, etc) life. Some of the single blocks of the pyramids weigh nine tons. You can steak me all you want, that’s still a rough job.

But yes, they were indeed loyal to the pharaoh, and also, at that time manual labor was just a part of the culture (of the lower classes anyway), intertwined with religion, status, purpose, and yes, a lack of ample, independent choice. For a peasant of Egypt the promise of meat, bread, beer, and relative glory in the afterlife would have looked pretty Smurfin’ good.

hieroglyphics of egypt | Chelsea Scrolls

Lay off, I’m reading.

Our Bad, We Got Distracted

So why did it take so long to discover this? Well, if you found three gargantuan, ancient tombs filled with treasure and symbols and mummies and royalty and myth, are you really gonna go digging in the sand miles away just to see if there’s anything there?

inside the Great Pyramid | Chelsea ScrollsKeep in mind there was also hieroglyphics to decode, which was only figured out in 1822, and remember that the pyramids aren’t empty – they’ve got hallways and chambers and all kinds of cool stuff.

But, after all that Tomb Raider fodder died down, some Egyptologists went looking a little further.

Suck It Heston

Well, sweet – now I can appreciate the pyramidal amazitude without a dark cloud of human cruelty hanging over me. Granted, this kinda dampers the Hollywood mood set for decades.

charlton heston moses | Chelsea Scrolls

WTF my people?

Heston fans who remember the ‘Let my people go’ scene can now imagine all those people going “screw off, I ain’t givin up my daily meat to starve in some desert!”

Oh – and why is the pyramid the only wonder I can remember? Because it’s the only one still standing. Just goes to show that healthy, free workers ensure long-lasting, quality achievements without need for whipping and various horrors.*

*21 and 23 daily cattle and sheep beg to differ, but..one step at a time.

Images in the public domain except:



Bast by Susan Seddon Boulet

by chelsea schuyler

Before I go into this, I just wanna say that some of the following facts change depending on the source, just run with it, it’s Halloween.  Besides, what would a legend be without sketchy tales from less than credible articles from the late 19th century?

why, this must be Egypt

Picture yourself in Egypt. You are a farmer in the year 1888, digging around on your land near the city of Beni Hasan (now known as Istabl Antar).  Suddenly your wacky Egyptian 1800s shovel (hopefully complete with hieroglyphics on the stick part) hits something. Some kind of a elongated pod, and at the top is the shape of a cat’s head. Inside is a linen wrapped, natron soaked, cat mummy from 2000 years previous.

Okay, that’s pretty friggin cool, an Egyptian cat mummy in your own backyard. But what you don’t know is that you are standing atop 20 cat mummies. And I don’t mean 20 total, I mean a layer of 20 cat mummies. In fact, your land is a massive grave of Hundreds of Thousands of ancient felines in a stratum 20 cats deep.


the silver Egyptian mau breed of today

Back in the day, cats (known as mau in ancient Egyptian, which is awesome, and I’m pretty sure must have been pronounced: mau?) were often mummified, some even placed at the feet of their similarly preserved owners, to ensure that the Egyptian VIP would have companionship in the afterlife.

But cats were also representatives of the goddess Bast or Bastet (known by many other names as well, but I like this one best(et) and it’s my blog so).

all cat Bastet, often with scarab necklace

Depicted early on (3200 BC) as a

half human Bastet, with cats

wildcat or lioness, and later as a woman with the head of a cat, she was the goddess of pleasure, music, dancing and joy. ….and of the Sun God’s vengeance against any enemy of Egypt, small detail, but what’s a god without a little wrath of a thousand deaths?

Bastet was worshiped in hopes of gaining protection for the cities that revered her and for blessings of fertility–the women of the Cult of the Cat hoped to have as many children as cats have kittens (um, pass). According to the Greek historian Herodotus (who

Prince was not invited

traveled there around 454 BC), upwards of 700,000 people would come from all over the country to the city of Bubastis to celebrate the Feast of Bast, supposedly held on October 31st. It was a great festival held on the banks of the Nile with dancing and drinking and partying like it’s …9.

Unfortunately for cats, pleasing the goddess became big business, and the people would pay the priests to mummify cats to gain favor with Bastet. Cats were bred specifically for mummification, often just kittens at the time of death.

And of course, the more you pay, the more ornate and lavish the mummy you would get. Although, X-rays would later show that sometimes the priests would pinch pennies and give you an empty mummy, or one with just a few random bones in it. Which no doubt infuriated Bastet and doomed you to an afterlife of eternal agony, but it’s nothing personal, just business.

So, what do you do with 38,000 pounds of cat mummy in the late 1800s? Grind it up, put it on a boat to England and auction it off for fertilizer, of course.


Sorry, but I try to only use fertilizer from local mummy sources

mmm, catlicious

That’s right, the next time you see those lush green fields of England on Masterpiece Theater, you can thank the spirits of thousands of Egyptian cats. The smell is left to the imagination.

Check out these other votive animal mummies:





  • Wash body in the water from the Nile.
  • Remove brain by hammering a chisel through the nasal passage.
  • Make an incision with an obsidian knife along the chest cavity and remove all organs except the heart. Place these organs aside for separate mummification (except the brain and kidneys, those aren’t important, we don’t really know what they do anyway)
  • Rinse empty chest cavity with palm wine.
  • Stuff body with incense and cloth to maintain shape.
  • Cover entire body in absorbent natron powder for drying. Leave for 40 days.
  • Remove incense and stuffing and replace with natron and linen. Sew skin back together.
  • Wrap entire body with strips of linen soaked in hot resin, first each limb including toes and fingers, then entire body as a whole.
  • Apply cartonnage cage (sort of like armor) and mask.
  • Place in appropriately shaped coffin.
  • Have a priest dressed as the jackal god of the underworld, Anubis, perform the “ceremony of the mouth” giving the powers of touch, sight, taste, hearing, and speech to the spirit for use in the afterlife.
  • Entomb with organs, pets, furniture and other provisions.

We are a bizarre species.

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