这些雪永远不会融化 This snow will never melt
White Desert National Park, Egypt
Snow, in the desert? Not quite. Today we're in Egypt's White Desert, which gets its colorful name from an abundance of chalk, limestone, and quartz rock formations that give the sand its special hue. Tourists flock to this place to see these naturally occurring structures, honed over thousands of years into unique shapes through a process known as 'differential weathering.' Located about five hours to the southwest of Cairo, White Desert National Park is a lot more than just deteriorating rocks—it's also a protected refuge for several endangered animal species.
金色法老之墓 Tomb of the Golden Pharaoh
A century since Tut's tomb was discovered
A hundred years ago today, British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, better known as King Tut, in Egypt's Valley of Kings. Though they first uncovered the tomb of the 'boy king' on November 4, 1922, Carter and crew took years to excavate the burial site. What they found astonished the world. It was loaded with more than 5,389 artifacts, including a solid gold coffin, face mask, thrones, archery bows, trumpets, a lotus chalice, furniture, food, wine, sandals, gold caps to protect Tut's toes, and fresh linen underwear. Because you should always bring clean undies, even when you're crossing into Duat, the realm of the dead.
Though Tut is considered a minor pharaoh by historians, the discovery of his tomb was one of the most significant in the history of archaeology. The burial site was remarkably well preserved—unlike many neighboring tombs, it was untouched by grave robbers thanks to debris covering the entrance for most of the tomb's existence. In the 1960s, Egypt allowed the treasures of King Tut to leave the country for display, and the exhibit has traveled the world numerous times. Today, King Tut's death mask and sarcophagus are displayed here at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
今天不要让外表欺骗你 Don't let appearances fool you today
'Greetings from Giza' art installation by Jean Rene
In honor of April Fools' Day, take a moment to appreciate this trick of the eye created by French street artist and photographer Jean Rene, better known as JR. His cheeky public-art piece, installed in the desert sand as part of the 2021 'Forever is Now' exhibition, makes it look as if the detached tip of the Pyramid of Khafre magically hovers above its base.
Khafre is the second largest pyramid in the Giza complex, second to the Great Pyramid, whose capstone has been missing for all of modern history. (That's no joke.) The Great Pyramid's missing top has been the subject of much speculation and scholarly pursuit. This complex of pyramids was built around 2,600 to 2,500 BCE.
Visual illusions in art, a technique known as trompe l'oeil, is a specialty of JR, born in Paris in 1983 to a Tunisian mother. He always appears in public wearing a fedora and sunglasses, and has revealed very little of his identity. The enigmatic artist is most famous for making the glass-and-metal Louvre pyramid 'disappear.'
Unearthing a queen's lost tale
Almost 3,500 years ago under Queen Hatshepsut's reign, Egypt enjoyed decades of peace and flourishing culture, and this elegant temple is just one piece of her larger-than-life legacy. But the pharaoh who succeeded Hatshepsut forbade all mention of her rule, taking credit for her monuments and leaving her name all but unknown for millennia.
By the 19th century, many archaeologists had noticed a gap in the recorded succession of pharaohs. Through their efforts decoding hieroglyphics, cataloging artifacts, and finally excavating Hatshepsut's great temple in 1906, the greatest woman ruler of her time began reclaiming her place in the history books.
Isn't it lucky we have people willing to dirty their hands and dig up the truth? On International Archaeology Day, which happens every third Saturday of October, we're celebrating those who solve human history's mysteries: the archaeologists of the past, present, and future.
The interior of the Abu Simbel Great Temple in Egypt (© George Steinmetz/Getty Images)
A temple, preserved
These temples, commissioned by Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II around 1264 BCE, would not be around for us to photograph if it weren't for the efforts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A couple centuries after the Abu Simbel temples were completed, Ramesses' empire had collapsed and the sands of the Nubian region of North Africa began to consume them. European explorers 'discovered' Abu Simbel in the early 1800s, leading to massive efforts to excavate and preserve the ruins of the great pharaoh's monument to himself.
But it wasn't until the 1950s, when the Egyptian government began drawing up plans for the Aswan High Dam, that preservation of Abu Simbel and other historic sites took on extra urgency. Planners knew the dam would flood the banks of the Nile, submerging the temples. So, the United Nations' UNESCO branch set to work on a solution to keep Abu Simbel preserved and accessible. In 1968, UNESCO's first major project was to literally move the massive temples to higher ground. They succeeded, of course, safeguarding one of the world's great archaeological sites. Out of this effort emerged UNESCO's drive to protect the world's most important sites of both cultural and natural heritage. To date, UNESCO has protected more than 1,000 World Heritage Sites across 167 countries that are ‘irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.'
The interior of the Great Temple of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt (© Nick Brundle Photography/Getty Images)
It's not always sunny in Abu Simbel…
This tiny lakeside settlement's Great Temple of Ramesses II was positioned on the orders of that powerful pharaoh so the inner sanctum (in this picture, that's the small room at the very back) is lit by the sun only twice a year. On February 22 and October 22 (thought to be Ramesses' coronation and birth dates, respectively), the first light of dawn illuminates the sanctuary and three statues within: one of Ramesses, one of the sun god Ra, and one of the chief god Amun. A fourth statue depicting the underworld figure Ptah is permanently shrouded in shadow.
The temple is one of a pair resting on the man-made Lake Nasser's shores, the other honoring the pharaoh's wife Nefertari. When the Nile was dammed to create the lake in the 1960s, the whole complex was painstakingly moved to higher ground. While it's unclear if the relocation slightly altered the original timing of the Great Temple's solar alignment, tourists still descend in droves on the site every six months to witness the luminous event.
Abu Simbel temples on the west shore of Lake Nasser, Egypt © George Steinmetz/Getty Images
3,000 years of history
These massive temples - known today as Abu Simbel - were built in the 13th century BCE by the pharaoh Ramesses II. He left a legacy of monuments and temples across Egypt, many of which, like Abu Simbel, featured Ramesses II himself as the star attraction. But over the centuries, these temples were almost completely buried in sand and forgotten. It was not until the early 1800s when an explorer saw the heads of the colossal statues poking through the sand that the temples were again ‘discovered.’ Then, in the 20th century, rising waters of the Nile threatened to flood the site. The temples were disassembled and relocated to a nearby hill. The process took almost five years and required that workers cut the temples into pieces and reassemble them exactly as they were built 3,000 years ago. We think Ramesses II would approve.