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The Scrivener: Technology And Pharaohs

...And then we moved to Ancient Egypt, archaeology, the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, and umpteen related topics. Good gracious me, it's a long time since I had such a wonderful discussion...

Brian Barratt's mundane eye test evolved into a fascinating journey into ancient times.

I was at a particular shopping precinct for a very mundane reason an eye test and arrangements for new glasses. My ophthalmologist, who is Chinese but comes from England, had recommended I take this step when I saw him last week for more complex tests. It happens every two years.

The amicable optometrist, who hails from Sri Lanka, did the usual things. Oh, it is so difficult when she switches a lens, asking, 'This one, number one? Or this one, number two?' over and over again. It just takes a while for my silly old eyes, one at a time, to focus so quickly. But she eventually completed typing the new prescription into the company computer and took me to the optician, an imposing chap, to be measured up for frames and lenses.

When you sit down at his table, you're facing a long horizontal mirror with nothing attached to it. A flick of a switch, and the HP computer screen appears as if my magic in front of him on the mirror. Wonderful technology these people use. He had a new gadget which really impressed me. Replacing the old manual way of establishing pupillary distance and other measurements of the lenses, a special camera is now used. Within a few seconds, my face was on the screen on the mirror, with all kinds of lines, circles, figures and calculations, and stored on their computer. I got him to explain the technicalities of all that, which he gladly did. Not that I understood much of it.

I studied his face, and noticed his name label, which was something like Ahmed, and simply said, 'Turkey?' He looked surprised. How did I know? No, he wasn't Turkish. He was Egyptian but with a Turkish name. And that led us into a remarkable conversation which he continued while he was working and during frequent breaks from what he was doing.

He was again surprised when I talked about the late Pope Shenouda III and the new Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. I knew of the former from his visits to Australia, and of the latter from news and film of his consecration and also the fact that he started a Twitter page before Pope Benedict XVI of the Roman Catholic Church.

It turned out that my new friend is a member of the Egyptian Coptic Church. We discussed the openness and simplicity of the method used in the Egyptian church when choosing a new Pope, compared to the secrecy of the Roman church's method. He has enormous respect for the spirituality and wisdom of the late Pope Shenouda and believes Pope Tawadros was selected by God for his strength to handle the current difficult situation in Egypt between Coptic Christians and Muslims.

And then we moved to Ancient Egypt, archaeology, the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, and umpteen related topics. Good gracious me, it's a long time since I had such a wonderful discussion.

His knowledge of Pharaonic history was obviously far greater than mine, and I was interested to get his thoughts on the elongated skulls of one particular succession of Pharaohs. Did they have a slight incidental malformation or a dolichocephalic head which I believe is known as Marfan Syndome? They included Akhenaten, who was married to the famous Queen Nefertiti. One piece of art shows Akhenaten and Nefertiti with their three daughters. All three daughters have misshapen skulls. Sculptures of Akhenaten show that his head and face were quite different to those found on other Pharaohs.

Talking about the damaged face of the Sphinx, my well informed conversational friend has his own ideas based on extensive study. It was not the work of Napoleon's troops. The real reason has been kept quiet, for the sake of peace. It makes perfect sense, historically and culturally, but I won't reveal it here, for security reasons.

Regarding the Great Pyramid, yes, he has been inside it, and told me of the claustrophobia he felt when crawling along the long passage. And no, he does not think there is anything undiscovered inside the pyramids, though archaeologists continue their work with advanced electronic searching techniques and who knows what they might find?

Copyright Brian Barratt 2013


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