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"Every part of Egypt is interesting and curious, but the only place to which the epithet beautiful can be correctly applied is the island of Philae... "

Robert Curzon, from 'Visits to the Monasteries of the Levant', 1834

This island, originally known as 'P-aaleq', meaning 'The Remote Place', was situated just above the first cataract of the Nile river on what was then the border of Nubia, and was the centre of the cult of Isis, one of the most important goddesses in ancient Egypt.

The reasons for the islands importance for the cult was that it was believed that this spot was where Isis found the heart of Osiris after he was murdered by Seth, and that after retrieving his ruined corpse, she buried him on the nearby Island of Bigeh.

The first temple to be built on Philae was that of Amasis Khunimbre in around 550 BC, who built the original Temple of Isis. This structure was improved over time, firstly by Nectanebo I, and subsequently by a series of Ptolemian emperors. The completed shrine consisted of an Outer Court, accessible to the pilgrims who gathered from all over Egypt give offering to Isis. This structure surrounded an Inner Court which was comprised of the Mammissi or Birth House, the fabulously decorated Hypostyle Hall, entry to which was reserved for the priesthood, and the Inner Shrine, which contained the statue of Isis, which was only to be looked at by the High Priest during his daily rituals.

The Temple of Isis was not the only place of worship on the island, with Ptolemy VII building the Temple of Hathor, the Temple of Arenauphis, built by Ptolemy IV as well as Temples dedicated to Horus and to the Emperor Augustus to the west of the main structures, as well as the Nilometer, where the river's levels were constantly watched. To the north of the main buildings lay the Chapel of Imhotep dedicated to the Vizier and Chief Architect of King Zozer, Imhotep.

in 500AD the Roman Emperor Flavius Anicius Justinianus, ordered that this network of temples were to be closed, in so doing destroying the last home of ancient Egyptian religion and hieroglyphic knowledge.

Philae was submerged when the Aswan Dam was created in the 19th century, sinking 2500 years of history under the waters of Lake Nasser.


Sometimes I’m in awe over what humankind can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

Yesterday, a spacecraft by the name of Philae successfully touched down on a comet after travelling a total of 6.4 billion kilometers orbiting around the solar system before it finally found its target. When you stop to consider that the Earth is mere 93 million miles or so from the Sun, that's quite the distance. Its journey started over ten years ago when it was launched into space aboard the mother ship called “Rosetta” which derives its name from the Rosetta Stone which was discovered on the island of Philae in the Nile River and used to decipher ancient hieroglyphics.

Philae itself is about the size of your run of the mill washing machine and weighs about 220 pounds. The comet it landed on is only about 2.5 miles (four kilometers) in diameter. I don’t know how fast it’s travelling and it boggles my mind about how many calculations and recalculations had to be done in order for the mission to be successful.

There was a bit of a scare yesterday when it was revealed that it “bounced” back into space twice before the harpoons that secured it to the face of the comet were successful.

The goal of the mission is to transmit data and images of the comet back to us mere mortals here on Earth and for us to decipher them.

I’ll be anxious to see what is revealed in the coming days, months and years.

Never in my generation did I think that something like this could be accomplished and a big hats off and thank you to the European Space Agency for even considering something like this.

I hope I did this feat justice and I’ll leave it to some of our more scientifically inclined contributors to hopefully fill in some of the more technical aspects of the mission.

All in all though, incredible, infuckincredible.

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