Tag Archives: ancient

Of Houses and Time

Countless vacant and abandoned houses are scattered over the American prairie and plains, headstones marking the passage of a rural way of life nearly gone as the face of agriculture has changed.  Each house has stories to tell, imprinted in front porch wood, kitchen walls, or the stones of an empty hearth.  A faded curtain moves in the breeze, and for a moment, murmuring voices are heard.  In the arid southwest, homes carved into cliffside ledges mark the presence of an entire civilization.  These Anasazi ruins speak of the passing of “The Ancient Ones,” a people whose origin and fate are unknown.  Stories live here as well, told in voices so old they are part of the land itself.  The Anasazi stone houses, empty now for about a thousand years, are likely to outlast the abandoned rural home of far newer vintage.  When this prairie house is torn down or burned, what will become of its stories?  Photos: Livingston County Illinois, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Apache County Arizona.

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The “First Time”

In the beginning, according to ancient Egyptian texts, the universe was a dark and watery nothingness, a shapeless and inert cosmic sea of blackness.  From this void rose a mound of dry land, the Great Primeval Mound, upon which the sun god Ra materialized into form as the deity Atum.  This was the moment of creation, the “First Time.” In ancient Egyptian theology, both the Great Pyramid at Giza and the natural rock outcropping upon which it is built correspond to the Great Primeval Mound.  It is said to be a place of birth, death and rebirth, where time itself began. 

Three languages, one dictionary

On this day in 1799, a black granodiorite rock slab bearing inscriptions in three languages was found near the town of Rosetta, Egypt, 35 miles east of Alexandria.  It was soon determined that the inscriptions were more or less identical, but written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Egyptian demotic, and ancient Greek. 

Although the stone was broken, and parts of each text missing, there was enough of each inscription to allow scholars, for the first time, to cross-translate the heretofore undeciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics.  Credit for this work has been given to French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion, although other scholars were involved in the effort. 

The Rosetta Stone, as it came to be called, was in effect, a dictionary, and it could be argued that no other discovery was more significant to the study of Egyptology.  When King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, the find was widely publicized because of its magnificence and nearly complete array of contents.  But from a scholarly perspective, the Rosetta Stone discovery and subsequent translations was a watershed event.

There are other undeciphered ancient languages awaiting their own Rosetta Stone.  The Indus script of ancient India, and the Rongorongo symbols of Easter Island are probably the two most well-known.  Despite much effort by scholars, these two languages remain largely unreadable.  Are there “Rosetta Stones” waiting to be uncovered which will allow us to read these ancient words? 

The thought that such an object is “out there” somewhere is tantalizing to those who are interested in these subjects.  As well, romantic notions of exploration and discoveries like these are what led to my own lifelong passion for archaeology.  The sublime thrill of discovery, of being the first person to see an artifact, a tomb, a city, in thousands of years drives many a historical researcher in their quests.

What is out there, yet to be found?  We cannot say.  My personal wish list includes The Ark of the Covenant, The Hall of Records, The Holy Grail, and Atlantis, among others.  Fanciful yearnings possibly, but the inspiration and excitement generated by the stories of search and discovery of treasures like these remains as strong inside of me now as it did when I was a boy.  And that is what matters.         

(Rosetta Stone photo in the British Museum by Hans Hillewaert)

Out from the shadows: An Eternal Melody

By Paul James Zack

Stories and scenes come alive in the time shadows of our minds.  An elusive fragment of late afternoon rests on your thoughts . . . the ephemeral light of an ancient evening embraces the land . . . the bonds of physical reality float away in the vastness of the night.

Time shadows.  Where you have been.  And where you never were.  A person you loved, once upon a season, long ago, but still today.  Do they remember?  Did they ever know?

Always the stories.  The stories remain, after the parting, after the dust disappears on the wind.  The stories allow us to live, and live again.  Can we ask for anything more?

An Eternal Melody is the story of cowboy singer Casey Beckett and western artist Victoria Ames.  Casey, fast approaching the middle of his life, is a man out of place in a world run by clocks and computers.  Bonded to the land with his Wyoming roots, yet driven by restlessness he can only vaguely understand, he travels the country to sing and recite cowboy poetry.  Victoria, middle-aged and separated from her husband, is struggling to follow her dreams.  She yearns to live in the infinite vistas of the western landscapes she creates on canvas, but wonders if her desires can ever be attained in a life where her every step forward has been matched by retreat.

When Casey walks into Victoria’s art gallery on a hot June day, their lives are forever changed as they begin a passionate romance transcending the boundaries of time and place.  Written in poetic prose, An Eternal Melody is an unforgettable tapestry of tenderness and yearning, defining what it means to dance to the music within one’s heart.  Set in harmony with the lyrical soul of the land, this love story reminds us that hope can exist even at the darkest hours, at the final curtain, and that with courage and affirmation, a man and a woman together can fulfill their shared destiny.  An Eternal Melody will speak to your spirit and haunt you with its passion.

This book is now available on Amazon Kindle (please click on the link below).  Exploring the pages of this site, you will find photographs from scenes in the book, poetry from Casey Beckett, and the first chapter of the story.  Read, imagine, experience.  Find a place in the time shadows of your mind.  And your heart.

To purchase an e-book copy of this book from Amazon Kindle, please click on the title: An Eternal Melody   Thank you!