Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Physicists Might Be Jerks and Other Things I Learned While Researching Egypt

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been holed up in the library at Rosicrucian Park, a magnificent place that is also home to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, one of my favorite museums in the country. I needed to do some deep research for the novel I’m writing, and I figured this particular research library would be an excellent place to do just that. I was not disappointed.

One of the great things about researching there is that they have several older Egyptology books, some dating to the early 1900s (oh man… I typed that like it was some old timey century ago but that’s literally the century I was born in… ack). One of the interesting things I discovered as I went through some of these older books is that the paradigms of Egyptology that I’m used to encountering in books written in the past 40 years or so are not the paradigms that have always existed. Some scholars at the beginning of everything had different–and sometimes more interesting–ideas about ancient Egyptian culture that have fallen away. Some have fallen away due to more finds and better understanding of the language. But some seem to have dissipated for no good reason. I find it all fascinating.

One aspect of the shifting paradigms is shifting ideas about how advanced or primitive the ancient Egyptians were compared to the ancient Greeks or Romans or even modern peoples, for whatever value of modern one is talking about. I found varying views on the types of tools and simple machines the Egyptians must have had for them to have built massive monuments and temples of multi-ton granite stones, varying views on how sophisticated their knowledge of astronomy was, and varying views on the meaning of their mythologies. So much to take in!

One particular aspect of this caught my eye while researching, which I wanted to share with you. That is the supposed mystery of how Egyptians were able to move such large stones.

A few years ago some physicists published a paper called “Sliding Friction on Wet and Dry Sand,” which proved that one needed less force to pull a heavy object over wet sand than dry sand. The way science journalists got everyone’s attention when reporting on this somewhat boring topic is with headlines like “The surprisingly simple way Egyptians moved massive pyramid stones without modern technology” and “Solved! How Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Pyramid Stones.” First of all, nothing in this research paper proves anything about pyramid stones, but clickbait headlines gotta clickbait, right?

Anyway, the reason why most people remember these articles is because of this:

It has long been believed that Egyptians used wooden sleds to haul the stone, but until now it hasn’t been entirely understood how they overcame the problem of friction. … “The Egyptians… placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research … revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet.”

Adding more evidence to the conclusion that Egyptians used water is a wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep. A splash of orange and gray, it appears to show a person standing at the front of a massive sledge, pouring water onto the sand just in front of the progressing sled. What this man was doing has been a matter of great debate and discussion.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Bonn [one of the researchers] wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “In fact, Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation…”

When I first read this my thought was: Ugh, typical Egyptologists/archaeologists, assuming something practical is ritualistic. Cuz, well, this happens often.

But then.

As I was going through older books, I came across that picture of the pulling of the giant stone statue several times, and every single time I did, the author explained the picture or captioned it with something along the lines of: Workers pulling granite statue of the pharaoh while someone pours water on the sand to help make moving it easier.

Um. But wait. I thought that “Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation.”

HMM.

Either the early Egyptologists were smarter than the ones that came later about these things or maybe, just maybe, the physicist who gave that quote doesn’t know what the hell he’s fucking talking about and/or made it seem like the people in a different scientific discipline than he is were being stupid.

Quite honestly, it could be either or both.

I want to run over all those articles about this thing with a giant CITATION NEEDED stamp.

Science journalism has so much to answer for.

At any rate, I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend time reading these older books and widening my understanding of ancient Egyptian culture as well as some of the people who were formative to Egyptology. This research trip was made possible by the folks who support me via Patreon, and I am so, so appreciative of them! They’ve put up with a lot of lag from me, but next month I’ll be able to get back on track and start sending them chapters again.

If you would like to read more about my research finds, I’ve been blogging about them on Patreon for all patrons. I have a few more research posts coming this week. If you’re interested in seeing them, click on over!

A photoshopped image of tempest standing next to a camel with the great Pyramid in the background. An arrow points to Tempest, under it are the words This Could Be Me!

Want To Help Me Reach My Research Goals?

When I was in college I spent three weeks traveling the UK for a class that traced how mythology, folklore, history, and conquest all blended together. Toward the end, our teacher was able to get us special access to Stonehenge, meaning we could walk around inside and not have to settle for only getting tourist close.

All my life I’d seen images of Stonehenge, heard from experts and visitors about how impressive an achievement it is, read about the height and weight and makeup of the stones. But it wasn’t until the moment I was standing next to them, touching them, and craning my neck up to see the top that I grokked the magnitude of the accomplishment Stonehenge represents. I had to experience the truth of those facts myself before I could begin to understand them.

It was a key moment for me as a writer. It helped me realize how important experiencing a place is to being able to convey it on the page–for me.

Today we have so many tools at our disposal to help put us in places virtually. Google Earth is a treasure, Flickr and Facebook and the millions of photos you can find there from every angle are priceless, 3D modeling and 360 degree photography are everything. Still, I know myself, and I know that it’s hard to really capture what it’s like to be somewhere unless I’ve been there or been in a similar space. And there aren’t many places on Earth similar to the Great Pyramid in Giza.

I’ve wanted to go to Egypt on a research trip for many years, but events have made be wary to go until now. Yes, there’s still instability and unrest, but I think the time is finally right for me. So, I’m trying to gather funds for a trip.

The main way I’m doing this is through my Patreon. My first goal is to get to $700 per month. The next goal is $1000. I need to get to my first goal at least in order to save up enough for Egypt.

I’ve picked out a tour in May of 2018 — it’s a group package that includes all the sites key to my novels, including two sites not usually included in tourist packages. In order to go, I’ll need at least $5500.

If you are inclined to help me get to this goal, consider becoming my patron. There’s a $1 month level and everything. If you’re already a patron, or just do not have the wiggle room in your budget, would you tell your friends about my Patreon? All boosting of signal is helpful.

I’m also applying for grants and fellowships (SLF, Tiptree, etc.) to help fund this. If you know of any that I should be aware of, please do let me know.

I know I’m taking a big leap here, especially as I am not a proven novelist. I want very much to get this right, especially in later books in the series where a sense of place is key to the structure and worldbuilding. No matter what happens with these trips, I’ll keep writing and using the tools I do have to get this novel on paper and out in the world.

Come for the giant steampunk scarabs, stay for the matriarchal culture

Let Me Sum Up: May 2017 on Patreon

A summary of the content my Patreon patrons got for the month of May plus what’s new for patrons plus a kitty.

May was a weird month for me. A ton to do, a con to attend (and help organize), and writing to worry over. I ended up being stalled for most of the month due to brain weasels, but did manage to get all the May content complete and up… if a little late. I’ve discovered that having deadlines is somewhat useful for me, but what’s more useful is having people who are as forgiving about lateness due to brain weasels as they are eager to read what I’m writing. Once again I say: I have the best supporters.

Here’s what they got to access last month:

Read Along ($10 per month and up)

Section 2 of the book starts here! Patrons at this level got to read:

Sneak A Peek ($5 per month and up)

I had a hard time getting section 2 of the book started, so I had several scenes that ended up being cut or completely rewritten. I posted a few of them for the patrons on this level as well as a background sketch.

AMA ($2 per month and up)

In this Q&A post I answered a question about whether I’m an architect or gardener/discovery writer.

All Patrons ($1 per month and up)

Last month my new podcast, ORIGINality, debuted. I posted a link to the first episode here, but there was also a secret, members-only episode we recorded for folks who joined the Relay podcast network. That super secret episode is also available to my patrons!

Other Posts

This post is public, though it’s likely only of interest to people who’ve been reading the novel in progress: I’m Changing A Character’s Gender, Here’s Why

New Stuff

I’m adding new patron content over the next couple of months. June’s new thing is Writing Exercises, which I explain here.

So far I’m on track with June content, and there are more chapters and background sketches coming. Thank you to everyone who stuck with me through the turbulent month of May! And thank you to all the folks who just started supporting me. You give me a reason to keep writing.

Oh, I almost forgot, here is your kitty:

Bast statue with kittens at her feet

A gold statue of egyptian goddess

In Search Of: Consulting Egyptology / Khemitology Scholar

I’ve reached a point in my research where I could really use the services of an Egyptologist, Khemitologist, or someone studying Egyptology at the graduate level or above. Someone I can ask specific questions, such as “what is the exact translation of these words?” or “Did doors in the New Kingdom have hinges or not?” The type of questions that I can’t find for myself with my limited research skills but would likely be very easy for someone studying this stuff to find.

I would likely need to email this person every now and then over the next year (one or two emails a week tops, and sometimes not more than a couple times per month).

I don’t know what kind of compensation is usually offered for this kind of thing (if any), so I’ll just say I am willing to offer some if asked and it’s negotiable.

If you are such a person, or if you know such a person who might be willing, please contact me or have them contact me through this form. Thanks!

Support me on Patreon and read my steampunk ancient egypt novel as I write

Let Me Sum Up: April 2017 on Patreon

Last month I made a significant change to my goals over on Patreon. Not the amount, but the why. Now I’m not looking for support in general as I write my steampunk Ancient Egypt novel, I’m looking to fund some upcoming research trips I have planned. Since I am writing historical fiction, albeit fantasy-infused, I have a ton of research that needs doing, plus I need to set foot in Egypt at least once in my life in order to capture the sense of place the way I want to. To that end, I published a post about how I’ll use the money donated on Patreon, which you can read as it’s public.

As to what my patrons got to read last month:

Read Along level folks ($10/month) got chapters four, five, six, seven, and eight, which brings me to the end of section 1 of the book. I’m planning on 5 sections, we’ll see if that happens.

Folks on the Sneak A Peek level ($5/mo) also got to read Chapter Eight as well as two interludes that I’m trying to fit somewhere in the structure but don’t know exactly where they’ll go yet. I also posted a glimpse into the very first draft of this novel when it was a short story (ahahaha ahahaha AHAHAHAHAAAAAA ohgodIwillneverwriteanythinglessthan6000againwillI).

All patrons got to read a background scene exploring the history between my main character and her sister.

And there are a few interesting tidbits about my writing process in the Ask Me Anything posts for folks on the AMA tier and above.

As to what’s coming up in May: More of the same! I’m moving into section two of the book where all the DRAMAAAAAA happens. And the lesbian sex. This month’s background work is going to involve a ton of research into how a minority population successfully oppresses and marginalizes a majority population. Not exactly full of sunshine, I know.

One thing that will be on the more fun times end is that I am thinking of doing a class called Writing Practice based on some stuff I’ve noticed in the last couple of years teaching Writing the Other courses. The class will be entirely devoted to writing exercises with feedback from peers. The goal is to come up with one new exercise for every day and the class will last 30 days. But first I need to do one writing exercise every day to figure out which ones I want to use. A bunch of my efforts will likely end up in the patron content for May and June.

To those of you supporting me currently: Thank You So Much! I hope you’re enjoying the content.

To those of you still eyeing all this warily, I have some ideas for more things I can add to what patrons at different levels get that won’t take away from my writing time. Perhaps even the aforementioned writing exercises.