Graveyard

Graveyard
The Matthews Monument at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eternally Emulating Egypt

Winged Solar Disk, Horus and the Two Ladies, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia
(Note:  To enlarge pictures, click on them and they will enlarge.)

The mention of ancient Egypt brings to mind giant pyramids in the desert, with the Nile River snaking past, and tales of ruling pharaohs like Ramses and Cleopatra and Tutankhamen.  There was and still is a romance about ancient Egypt, a magnetic attraction to a way of life very different from ours. Americans may have first become fascinated with Egypt in the early 19th century, after Napoleon invaded the country in 1798.  Napoleon took a scientific expedition along with his military men, and they published Description de l’Egypte, which reached Europe and the new country of America.  While Egyptian burial architecture had been used on occasion in European funerary art and architecture before the 19th century (i.e. Bernini’s erection of a giant obelisk in Rome’s Piazza Navona), the publication of Napoleon’s scholars changed that.  In the early 1800’s, in cemeteries across Europe and America, the influence of Egypt could be clearly seen in the erection of hundreds and hundreds of obelisks.

The obelisk is the Egyptian symbol of eternal life and the ancient sun god Ra.  According to Wikipedia, the definition is a “tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk.”  And yet, the word “obelisk” is a Greek word, since the Greek traveler, Herodotus, was one of the first classical writers to describe the object.  The Egyptians usually erected obelisks in pairs at the entrance to their temples.  The sun was a very important part of Egyptian religion, and the obelisk and the pyramid seem to be physical copies of the rays of the sun.

Part of the popularity of the obelisk in American may also have something to do with the building of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., as a memorial to George Washington.  The Monument, a giant obelisk more than 550 feet tall, was started in 1848 and completed in 1884.  The “Worship of Washington” was very much alive and well in the 19th century, as Americans experienced many presidents who rarely lived up to the almost God-like standards set by our first president.  (in my opinion)

The obelisk was almost the sole Egyptian funerary symbol adopted by Americans in the early to mid-19th century, although there were many public buildings built in the Egyptian style during this time.  The late 19th century and early 20th century saw a myriad of Egyptian symbols used in cemetery architecture, especially in mausoleums erected by wealthy families.  Since Egypt was known for its “Cult of the Dead,” the Victorians embraced the symbols of the Nile, and many of their late 19th century cemeteries had Egyptian-styled entrance gates, leading to their cities of dead.  

The late 19th century’s revival of all things Egypt most likely was also heavily influenced by the construction of the first Aswan Dam in 1895.  The flooding of the area threatened the Philae island, which was the site of a small but well-known temple, the “Pharaoh’s Bed.”  The threat of destruction to this historic temple was well-publicized in American newspapers, and many of the mausoleums shown below took their inspiration from the Philae temple.  (The temple on the island spent much of the 20th century under water, until 1977, when the temple was dismantled, block by block, and reconstructed on a higher island.)

The Pharaoh's Bed, Philae Island, Egypt

The fascination with Egypt continued into the early 20th century with the 1922 discovery of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb by archeologist Howard Carter.  The Boy King fascinated Americans, especially wealthy Americans.  And I suspect those rich folk liked the idea of entombing their own remains in an Egyptian-inspired mausoleum, bringing attention to themselves as “Kings of Industry.”  

The most popular Egyptian symbols seen below include lotus and papyrus plants, and winged solar disks.  Lotus and papyrus represent the joining of Upper and Lower Egypt, as Egypt existed as two separate kingdoms for many years until the 32nd century B.C. (I cannot even begin to wrap my head around just how ancient that is).  The winged solar disk is the physical form taken by the god Horus during battle, and the goddesses Nekhbet and Uazet join him in the form of Egyptian spitting cobras.  Nekhbet and Uazet also symbolize the joining of Upper and Lower Egypt, and they are also known as "The Two Ladies."

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA (Daniel Baugh was a fertilizer manufacturer, and had a mansion in Philly)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA (T.S. Harrison was a chemicals manufacturer, and served as Consul General in Egypt under Pres. McKinley.  He left the city of Philly a trust to help the municipality, & it's still in effect today.)

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA (John Clifford English was a well-known chemist, physicist and expert in acoustics.  There is a laboratory at Hahnemann Hospital in Philly named after him.)

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA (Tinuis Olsen was a Norwegian immigrant who invented a materials testing machine in the mid-1800's.  It helped engineers, etc. to discover the strength of materials before erecting a building that might collapse.  He started his own company 125 years ago that is still in existence, run by his descendants.)

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA, (C. Stanley Hurlbut was successful hosiery manufacturer)

Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA (John W. Graham was a partner w/N.O. Griffin in a successful floor coverings manufacturing company)

Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Receiving Vault, West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA
Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA (George Blabon made a fortune selling linoleum)

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

side view, Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA (note winged solar disk under the column)

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


Sunnyside Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA


Hays Cemetery, Easton, PA

Winged Sphinx, West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Horus and the Two Ladies, West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Indian Orchard Cemetery, Indian Orchard, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA (Edwin Fitler was a beloved former mayor of Philly)

Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

St. Michael's Evan.Lutheran Cemetery, Sellersville, PA

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

West Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

West Laurel Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Daleville Cemetery, Daleville, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA



No comments: