Egyptology, Oriental Archaeology And Travel -- By: Joseph P. Thompson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:79 (Jul 1863)
Article: Egyptology, Oriental Archaeology And Travel
Author: Joseph P. Thompson


Egyptology, Oriental Archaeology And Travel

Joseph P. Thompson

Mr. Forster pursues his theory of the Sinaitic inscriptions with a confidence and enthusiasm worthy of better success. His “Voice of Israel from the Rocks of Sinai,” though it passed to a second edition in 1852, found little favor with oriental and biblical scholars; — curiosity was soon satisfied from an inspection of its plates, and it was left to slumber upon the shelves of libraries. The ambition to prove too much, and the confident boast of great philological and historical discoveries, prejudiced the reader against even the moderate claims to original merit that might be conceded to Mr. Forster in his specialty. Not content with ascribing the Sinaitic inscriptions to the Israelites in their wanderings, he claimed to have discovered in those inscriptions, and upon sundry monuments of Egypt, vestiges of patriarchal tradition, conveyed in alphabetic characters of “the one primeval language,” whose long-lost powers were now happily restored. This pretension was met with a scepticism little short of ridicule; and after a brief controversy with his reviewers, Mr. Forster seemed to have subsided into the oblivion of the primeval chaos. But with the ardor of thorough conviction, he resolved to lay before the scholars of Europe the means of testing his interpretations and theories in detail, by fac similes of the inscriptions upon which they are based. The British government, ever ready to second the explorations of scholars and scientific men, sanctioned a mission of two gentlemen, Rev. Pierce Butler, and his brother, the late Captain Henry T. Butler, to make further researches, and to collect fresh materials in the peninsula of Sinai. These commissioners took moulded casts of numerous inscriptions,—a process adopted also by M. Lottin de Laval, under the patronage of the Imperial government of France,—and from these, photographs and glyphographs were taken for the work before us.1 “The hieroglyphic tablets and the cursive inscriptions, accordingly, are all given as they stand upon the living rocks; on a greatly diminished scale indeed, but line for line, letter for letter, point for point. The fidelity of our materials, therefore,” adds Mr. Forster, “is beyond the reach of scepticism. This is one grand step towards the discovery of their contents.”

Since Niebuhr first brought to the knowledge of European scholars the

existence of the hieroglyphic tablets and other monuments upon the summit of Sarbut-el-Khadem, the theories of their origin have been almost as numerous as the archaeologists who have gone thither to inspect them. There is sc...

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