Monday, October 17, 2011

giovanni belzoni+seti I

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Giovanni Belzoni was born in Italy in 1778, he was the son of a barber who had thirteen siblings. When his native land was invaded he fled to England. He worked as a hydraulic engineer and as a merchant trader. He used his knowledge of hydraulics to create a machine that would make water more available. At the age of 4 he was a staggering 6’7” tall and traveled to London where he was employed as a circus strong man. After leaving the circus Belzoni, his wife and his Irish servant James Curtin moved to Malta. It was there that he met up with a British Consul General named Henry Salt who convinced Belzoni to gather treasures and artifacts to send back to the British museum. They then moved to Egypt.

The tomb of pharaoh Seti I was discovered in the Valley of the Kings in October 1817 by Giovanni Belzoni. The tomb of Seti I represents the new kingdoms royal tomb. It is the deepest and the longest at over 100m in length and was the most completely finished of all the tombs in the valley. It’s covered with numerous decorations of great beauty. Seti’s tomb was discovered only a few days after the tomb of his father, Ramesses I.

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Seti I ruled in the XIX dynasty approximately 185BC, he was known for his high achievements and culture, and his tomb was one of the hallmarks of his building projects, with paintings of great beauty and skill. The paintings and decorations are more detailed then in earlier tombs, with figures having more realistic features. This tomb was the first to have all walls and passages covered with decorations. The structure of the tomb was very complex and would have taken great skill to create, as in many of the tombs of the Valley.

Giovanni Battiasta Belzoni mummified Seti I

Description of the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings

A. Entrance stairway and passage- corridor of the god

B. Corridor I or second corridor of the god (decorated with scenes from the Litany of Re and the king before Re-Horakhty

C. Second stairway -third corridor of the God (scenes from the Amduat and Litany of Re)

D. Corridor II, or passage of the God (scenes from the Amduat)

E. Ritual well, -a deep well shaft (scenes of the king praying to the sun god as well as various deities)

F. Four pillared hall (eight meters wide) (decorated Osiris shrine and scenes from the book of Gates)

G. Lower passage or corridor III (opening of the mouth’ ceremony)

H. Two pillared side room, or hall of drawings (scenes from the Amduat; pillars decorated with the king before various deities)

I. Antechamber or hall of truth (decorated with scenes of the king before various deities)

J. Southern annex or chamber

K. Northern annex or chamber

L. Six pillared burial chamber or house of gold (book of gates, the Amduat and the book of the Divine cow; images of the kink before various deities)

M. Hall for canopic jars

N. Crypt.- (decorated with scenes from the Amduat; astronomical ceiling)

It was here that Belzoni found an elegant empty alabaster sarcophagus, three meters long and with walls only five centimeters thick, the mummified body of Seti I along with others including Ramesses II had been moved in ancient times to the cache at Deir el-Bahari

O. North-west side chamber or annex

P. Four pillared chamber

Belzoni seemed to have a naturally scientific mind, he could read all the signs of diggings in the discarded shale and dirt and in the way water ran in the valley to help him find tombs, and find tombs he did, Seti I, Ay, Mentuherkhepeshef and four others all within a short time.

On some occasions Belzoni was very destructive, while exploring Seti I’s tomb Belzoni came across an ancient wall, and ordered his men to destroy it so they could proceed on, it’s unknown what would have been learned from studying the wall. Even the government of the time did not care about storing or preserving the historical mummies and tombs and did not put any restrictions on pillaging and destruction of sites. But what has to be taken into consideration is the lack of tools, knowledge and technology of the time.

But Belzoni’s methods were not all destructive, He recreated the burial chamber of Seti I by taking wax imprints, by doing this he did not destroy the walls but still got accurate records of the carvings and decorations. Others at this time were not so thoughtful, the French were planning to use dynamite on the statue of Ramesses II, luckily for it and the rest of the world, Belzoni claimed it and successfully moved it intact.

I feel that his diggings have helped us to understand our history with depth and to great precision. Although his techniques were sometimes considered destructive and quite unorthodox his discoveries could be said to have began the scientific study of Egyptology. Howard Carter, the famous archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, said that Belzoni was “ one of the most remarkable men in the entire history of archaeology.” I feel that without the works of Belzoni and fellow archaeologist we would not have such a great understanding of our history.

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