Memories of Egypt return to dust
How could a civilisation with almost 3,500 years of history, which influenced Western culture, with temples and monuments in the centre of Rome, whose goddess Isis was worshipped as far as England became foreign? Its achievements forgotten, its culture turned into exotic folklore, its words enigmas?
What made ancient Egyptian memories return to dust?
- 4,000 years old pyramid destroyed Peru is a country with 13,000 archeological sites, and this chapter illustrates how greed, short term profit for long term losses, might not get the attention of the monuments blown up by extremists, but nevertheless is as a dangerous threat for the survival of the heritage of mankind.
Assyrian treasures saved, stolen & destroyed
The Assyrian Empire build palaces, in Khorsabad, Nimrud and Nineveh, and like the other civilisations of Antiquity, their buildings and memory disappeared under the sand.
This chapter tells the story of their rediscovery in the 1840's.
Then intolerance and greed lead a new extremist group to proudly destroy, blow up and hammer antiquities, while at the same time profit from them on the black market.
- To reach eternity, aim for destruction, or creation? Qin Shi Huangdi gained his power by destroying, burning the books, and burying alive the scholars. But it is historians who write books and create for posterity the image of the Emperors, so the first Emperor's cruelty led them to deny him the place in eternity he wished for. In the absence of an elixir to cure death, the only other way to reach eternity is in building a tomb to keep on living, eternally, in the underworld.
Greek miracle broken, melted & recycled
An accessible chapter on the importance of ancient Greek statuary.
And for the first time, not only explaining how and why the statues were melted and broken, but quantifying how many would have existed in Antiquity compared to how many of the masterpieces created by the great artists of Antiquity, Pheidias, Polykleitos, Praxiteles, Lysippos etc remain today.
Obscurity fell upon the valley of shining light
Imprinted in our collective memory, the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001 still needs explanation.
From Alexander the Great, this chapter tells the story of the “valley of shining light” -Bamiyan-, and the numerous efforts to prevent the destruction of the Buddhas.
- Destruction & survival of the books of the Maya A story of the clash of cultures between the Maya and the Fransican friars, with Diego de Landa's auto da fé of books. History is usually one sided, here the reader discovers the testimonies of the local Maya complaints against the friars, the trial and complaints of the King of Spain towards Diego de Landa, and Spaniards complaints against the friars. With an introduction to the quest to crack the Maya glyphs.
The regression of humanity's knowledge
As books are the natural enemy of those attempting to impose their intentional ignorance on mankind, they burn them, denying all of us the means to live longer and more fruitful lives.
From the libraries of Antiquity, to the loss of books being quantified, and tales of books and people burnt, the story of the regression of humanity's knowledge caused by intolerance.
Dreams of El Dorado & golden cities
The story of the quest for gold, from Christopher Columbus to Hernán Cortés and the gold of the Aztecs, Francesco Pizarro and the gold of the Incas, the Seven Cities of Cibola and El Dorado.
How 180 tons of solid gold and 16,000 tons of silver arrived in Spain in the first century of the discovery of America.
- Cover up that bosom which I can't endure to look on The very first time a human carved the image of another, 35,000 years ago, it was in the nude. From the very inception of art, the nude was one of the defining aspects of mankind's creativity. But nudity has been attacked and censored for millennia, and still is today. The reader discovers the lost masterpieces of art destroyed for being nude.
Hercules & David lost in gardens
A chapter about two lost Michelangelo statues, his first creation, a marble Hercules, and a life-scale bronze version of David, both lost after being displayed in French gardens.
The story also illustrates the dawn of Michelangelo's artistic career, whose reluctant father “would never suffer his son to be a stonemason”.
- Paradise lost in the Pacific ocean Following the quest for an earthly paradise, and the ideal of the 'good savage', islands in the immense Pacific Ocean seemed indeed to be paradise. This chapter describes how in Mangareva friars led by brother Laval turned it into a theocracy and rejoiced that “our little mission succeeded at recreating the innocence of earthly paradise”.
- Lost memories of mankind First, a reminder of how slender was the chance to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic system. The reader is given is a survey of a selection of ancient scripts still awaiting their Rosetta Stone, Proto-Elamite, Linear A, Etruscan, Zapotec, Isthmian, and potentially the only script known in the Pacific Ocean, Rongorongo.
- Nazis stealing & destroying memories The story of the Nazi art looting might seem to be a widely known story, this chapter goes beyond that, with a reminder that Hitler was an artist, the power of propaganda, and ends with the lengths with which the Nazi machine not only killed, but intentionally erased the memory of millions.
From utopia to nightmare
Soon after the Russian Revolution there was exaltation and optimism for a utopian new world and new man.
But soon this idealism faced a new reality, as Stalin and later Mao reformed thoughts so the masses would only think as one. Along the way, the destruction transformed the utopia into a nightmare.
Survival of a masterpiece, the Parthenon
After chapters about destruction, the following chapters are about the treasures that survived destruction.
The longest chapter of the book describes at length the history of the construction, assaults and survival of the Parthenon.
Ancient Rome recycled into building materials
A chapter in two parts, one describing what happened to the 424 temples, the 3,785 bronze statues, and the marble statues too numerous to count, as it was said there was at least one marble statue for each Roman.
Then a description of the Pantheon of Rome.
- Leonardo da Vinci treasures abandoned, destroyed & forgotten This chapter not only pays tribute to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, but tells the fate of his books, as “many other drawings that remained abandoned in trunks in the villa's attic”, where humidity, insects and mice feasted on the drawings and sketches of Leonardo.
Van Gogh given to the chickens
This chapter is not only about the paintings destroyed or the one having survived being used as a chicken coop door, but also serves as a homage to the man, Vincent, and to his younger brother Theo.
The reader will wonder at his last few years when, instead of his problems, and not thanks to them, he still managed to create 350 masterpieces.