Travellers’ Graffiti at The Ramesseum, Luxor, by Roger de Keersmacher.
Selfpublished, 2010. €15 + p&p.
Since 1965, founder-member of ASTENE Roger de Keersmacher has been recording travellers’ graffiti along the Nile—and discovering who they were. Gradually he has published the results of this mammoth task as a series of more than a dozen ring-bound A4 illustrated books. His latest publication covers the Ramesseum at Thebes on the West Bank at Luxor; earlier volumes are listed below. For further biographical or bibliographical information, visit his website: www.egypt-sudangraffiti. be .
My first recognition of a traveller’s graffiti was that of John Gordon, high, high up on a column of the pillared hall at Karnak. I began to be on the look-out for graffiti, but it was often created by little-known travellers. However, Roger’s researches over the last nearly five decades have resurrected many of them from obscurity.
His latest book has colour photographs and black-and-white reproductions of the graffiti and includes a four-page bibliography of books and journals, including this Bulletin, leading one to the travellers.
Among the graffiti-makers—although some unskilled stone-cutters got someone else to carve their names—that same John Gordon appears frequently. Thanks to Roger we now know that he was a Scottish gentleman ‘above the middlesize, of stout athletic build and possessed of a hearty constitution’. There are many more familiar travellers. Henry Salt I like to think would not have carved his own name, but perhaps someone carved it for him—and, of course, Byron wrote his everywhere!
Frediani wanders distrait through other travellers’ accounts and recorded his presence. Giovanni Finati carved his name as AGIMVAMET. Irby and Mangles left their names everywhere, and it said that their fellow naval officer, Armer Corry, had his name carved by his British sailors. Belzoni’s name is in many places—but not Sarah’s. Often the elusive John Madox carved his. But there are many, many more travellers of whom even Roger de Keersmacher has found nothing, so only their name and the fact that they travelled remains.
Here at the Ramesseum is Wm. Boggis 1820; Hovzine told us that he came from St Petersburg in 1832. F. Iung (or Jung) came from Vienna, and Dixon visited from Boston, USA, on 29 January 1843. Count Puckler Muskau disgracefully carved his name on the very breast of one of the colossi at Abu Simbel—to the disgust of Lady Duff Gordon. He also, Roger tells us, purchased his very own Abyssinian girl as a travel companion.
Perhaps ASTENE members will be able to supply further backgrounds to Roger. We are asking him to bring copies of all his books to the conference in Oxford next summer.