ISLAND OF ISIS: Philae, Temple of the Nile by William MacQuitty

ISLAND OF ISIS: Philae, Temple of the Nile

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Second only to Abu Simbel among ancient Egyptian monuments threatened by construction of the Aswan high dam was the temple complex dedicated to Isis on the island of Philae; and this too will be safely re-erected by the end of 1976, thanks to an international effort spurred by UNESCO. In a far more attrative and orderly presentation than his 1965 Abu Simbel, McWhitty, a photographer and enthusiast, expands upon his immediate subject to explore the Nile and its many temples from its mountain source to the delta; explain Egyptian beliefs, myths, and rituals as the basis for understanding the worship of Isis; and relate the history of the Ptolemies, the last Egyptian dynasty, who build Philae around 250 B.C. What he fails to provide is virtually any background on the Egyptian artistic tradition, and in particular the information that Ptolemaic art represented its last gasp. But the photos (in color and black-and-white), the plans, and the text together give the reader a thorough acquaintance with Philae and the method of its reconstruction on a nearby island above water level. We learn, too, the end of the story of Abu Simbel--though the photo of those great rock-cut temples in their new false setting evokes thoughts less of Rameses than of Cecil B. De Mille. But with the Tutankhamen exhibit about to tour the US and another rescued temple rising in the Metropolitan Museum precincts, a spurt of interest in Egyptian antiquities is assured.

Pub Date: July 28th, 1976
Publisher: Scribners