Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bembine Tablet of Isis

The Jesuit scholar of comparative religion, Athanasius Kircher  (1602-80) author of the three door-step sized tomes Oedipus Egypticus (Rome 1652-56) were a favourite read of Sir Thomas Browne.

Browne alludes to Kircher's vast work which reproduces a copper-plate illustration of the Bembine Table, twice in his 1658 Discourse The Garden of Cyrus

Though he that considereth........ the crosse erected upon a pitcher diffusing streams of water into two basins, with sprinkling branches in them, and all described upon a two-footed Altar, as in the Hieroglyphicks of the brazen Table of Bembus will hardly decline all thought of Christian signality in them.

We shall not affirm that from such grounds, the Egyptian Embalmers imitated this texture yet in their linnen folds the same is observable among their neatest Mummies, in the figures of Isis and Osyris, and the Tutelary spirits in the Bembine Table.

Unfortunately for Kircher's and Browne's Egyptology, the Bembine Tablet has long since been identified as a syncretic Roman work dating from circa 250 CE and its not, as both antiquarians believed, a work originating from ancient Egypt. The best examples of art-work in Kircher's books can be found at this blog-page.

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