I finished a book about Champollion, the guy who figured out how to read hieroglyphs. Before him they were considered crazy art from people long dead and gone, no longer capable of saying anything interesting. After all, modern people (in the early 1800s) were so smart. They had science. They had steam engines. They had cannons.
Turns out that one of these guys totally knew how to throw a cannon ball. His name was Napoleon. And he had a thing about Egypt. So he dragged a bunch of poor saps over there and went walking all around. Eventually he brought back a whole bunch of stuff.
In all fairness to history, he didn’t bring it back by himself. He had help in the form of lots of ships. But those ships were waylaid by Nelson of the British, and they stole the stuff that Napoleon had stolen from the current tenants.
Lucky for Champollion, and us, copies were made of a very special stone. The Rosetta stone.
It took Champollion a long time to put all the pieces together. Language pieces that is, not the stone. The stone was fine.
Once he did, the stories from Ancient Egypt rang free and clear, and sounded as if they could have been written yesterday.
Among some of the best in this book? A young woman works as a temple prostitute, but the mother who abandoned her returns and promises to get her a husband in exchange for her life savings. The daughter trusts the mother, and the mother runs away. The daughter records her grievance trying to find justice. The grievance is written in hieroglyphics, about FOUR THOUSAND years ago.
Another story, this time fictional, tells about a priest who meets a woman and falls deeply in lust. She is willing but demanding, taking all his money, his lands, and forced him to kill his children. In the final moment of her surrender she screams, and he wakes up.
Could this be the ORIGINAL dream sequence story? Probably. After all, it’s almost four thousand years old as well.
The book is called Linquist and the Emperor, a bit of a meandering tale about Champollion and Napoleon. It’s by Daniel Meyerson from 2004, and it’s not bad.
What was best, for me, was the reference to the guy in the picture. He’s a frenchman who lived from 1613 to 1679. He tried recording all the maxims of behavior that he could. Truisms of behavior.
This could make him the first true objective behavioral scientist. I’m not sure, but I don’t know of anyone earlier.
But what we’ll do as we go along is look at his maxims, and see how many make sense and have stood the test of 400 years since his observation.
Heck, we’ll apply those same observations to the ancient Egyptians and see how they have fared over four thousands years. Maybe then they will gain some relevance.