The Cartouche Coaster Collection

I just finished a new art project: Coasters with the cartouches of my favorite pharaohs + the backing digital sketch.

In chronological order:

  • Menes
  • Sneferu
  • Maatkare
  • Akhenaten
  • Ozymandias (Ramesses II)
  • Alexander
  • Ptolemy
  • Cleopatra

In 1799, the Rosetta Stone was discovered and it set off an arms race of sorts between reigning superpowers Britain and France. The British scientific legend Thomas Young who through the Double-Slit experiment demonstrated the wave theory of light, studied elasticity and gave us the Young’s modulus, studied capillary action and so on. Young and the French scholar Champollion raced to decipher the text on the rosetta stone. Young got pretty far with the demotic script but made scant progress with the hieroglyphic script. His hypotheses were solid, but his skillset was insufficient.

Jean Francois Champollion ran with these ideas however and delivered. Cartouches played a fundamental role in deciphering the hieroglyph script. Inscriptions on obelisks and other artifacts led Egyptologists to understand that cartouches contained the names of rulers. On lining up the names Ptolemy, Cleopatra and so on between the Greek and the heiroglyph versions of the text on the rosetta stone, the whole script sort-of unraveled itself and after a brief hiatus of a few millennia, ancient Egypt’s story was heard again.

The story of ancient Egypt is one of immense time-scales. The cartouche of Menes was drawn 2000 years after his death at Abydos - a time comparable to Jesus Christ and the modern day. From Menes to Cleopatra, we can easily count 3000 years of human history. Sneferu’s first showed the Egyptians how to build pyramids and from his time to Cleopatra, more years have passed than from Cleopatra’s time to the present day.

We are very much the same species as the ancient Egyptians - driven by much of the same dreams and needs. They gave us the pyramids, showed us how to marshall a large empire and harness human capital on an immense scale.

What will our civilization leave behind?

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(c) Shriphani Palakodety 2013-2020