Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Once, in College Part One, I was mistaken for a tour guide at the Museum of Natural History in Cleveland. I was there with my boyfriend, and we'd gotten to 'the body room' as I called it as a kid. We were standing in front of the re-articulated skeleton of a Woolly Mammoth and I was telling him how they used to hunt those fuckers back in the stone age. You can read the methods in a book, but until you stand under the tusks of one of those suckers, 'run up and hamstring it with a stone axe' really doesn't mean much. After, wow. Our ancestors were either really hungry, or really crazy. (Probably really hungry. The run-up-and-hamstring method was only used if there were no cliffs to chase them off, or blind canyons to block them into, but it was done.)

I'd noticed an unusual number of people standing around but it was a Saturday and didn't think much of it. After I got done, my boyfriend and I were kind of standing there chatting, and some lady asked which exhibit I was doing next. It took me a minute, and then I finally said "Oh. Um. I'm not a guide, I just took an anthropology class last semester." I think someone muttered it had been too good to be true, and the crowd dispersed and the boyfriend and I stood there, rather bemused.


As for the Acrobatic Dancer's boobs... well, I'm not sure the artist was painting from an actual model. I think he was doing it from memory. (And as we know, in mens' memories, boobs always defy gravity.) Take another look.

Now, when I was a teenager and could do that, my boobs would not have drooped (I know, send hate mail to the Gmail account). However, due to the extreme arch, I would have looked like I had no boobs at all. I was pretty thin. And so is that dancer. I think we have Idealized Boobies.

The other reason I suspect he was painting from memory? Look at her earring. Ancient Egypt didn't run to anodized aluminum. And even if it did, the weight of the hoop would not allow it to stand UP from her ear while her head was upside down - it would droop back over her ear in a normal, gravitational sort of way. The earring was most likely gold, so even if cast by lost-wax and hollow, it'd still have been way too heavy to stand up like that.

Probably painted from memory. (I am such a geek.)

After yesterday's blog post, I came up with another reason to paint this, by the way. It's possible it's a portrait. See, the worker's village (known to modern archaeologists as Deir el-Madinah - we don't know the ancient name) was on the west bank of Luxor/Thebes, near the Valley of the Kings. Also on the West bank are all the mortuary temples belonging to all those kings buried in the Valley. (You had to keep worshipping them in the afterlife.) The West bank is so full of funerary temples, mortuaries, and other stuff that back in the day, the place must have been just teeming with priests, priestesses, and other temple workers. The temples employed dancers and musicians for festivals, so it's not totally out of orbit to think perhaps someone in the Workers' Village had a wife, sister, daughter, or other female relative, working as a dancer in one of the temples. And so he painted a picture of her, dancing and honoring the gods, because he was proud of her. (It's possible. Dancing, as an employee of the temples, was very likely a respectable living. We're not sure what their attitude was, but it's safe to say - given their brother/sister marriage custom - that their ideas of sexuality and social rules were not the same as ours.)

So anyway. Another thought. I think too much. But I've got nothing else to blog about. The Russian Prime continues. I spin when I'm utterly bored by the Russian Prime, which is most of the time now - second sleeves are brutal, particularly once you've hit the elbow and are headed to the home stretch. I've SO done this before.

I think I'm knitting sweaters sleeves-first, from now on. They can act as gauge swatches, plus, duh, the sleeves will be done that way.


amy said...

I feel your pain on the sleeves. After FINALLY finishing one sleeve, three nights later I was able to start the second one. Sleeves are even more interminable when you get next to no knitting time.

Anonymous said...

Sleeves and socks, the same issue with me. One gets done and the other languishes.


Barbara said...

You're not a geek, Julie, you're educational and enthusiastic. I love your blog and love the instructive posts, although an equal potion of Goob stories and pictures would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Alwen said...

I grabbed the Acrobatic Dancer's picture and rotated her, and she could certainly be a portrait. The Egyptians (heck, even the Victorians) were not as ZOMG!boobs!!11!eleventy! as still-Puritan America.

Speaking of mastodons and mammoths, some kids just found a Jefferson's mammoth vertebra in a field fairly near me.

Amy Lane said...

I wrote a short story once about reincarnation... the subject being reincarnated went from being a tom-cat to an Egyptian princess--she got pregnant from a peasant and was stoned to death. Several times.

I think if I revised that story--I'd add that picture--I'mt totally fascinated now! (Story is on my website--called 'The Cosmic Joke'

MLJ1954 said...


I have been doing sleeves as swatches ever since I read it in one of Elizabeth Zimmerman's books. She said something clever like you have to knit the silly things anyway, you may as well make it useful knitting.

Love your discussions on history and art.