Category Archives: Egyptian mythology and hieroglyphics

Lost University class videos — Egyptian hieroglyphics

Lost University HIS 101

Lost University HIS 101

I’ve been trying to find a way to watch the Lost University class videos without having to get a Blu-ray player. It didn’t seem possible. For a while, fans were posting them on YouTube, but Disney was pulling them down almost as fast as the fans could put them up.

But I just stumbled across a stash of the videos. I don’t know how long they will be available, so enjoy them while you can.

The two below are for the history class HIS 101 “Ancient Writing on the Wall,” which deals with Egyptian hieroglyphics (literally, “sacred script”) — the pictures we’ve seen so much of on the Island, that represent both ideas and sounds.

In the first class, Dr. Kara Cooney — Assistant Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA, LOST’s hieroglyphic consultant, museum curator, and major excavation team member — talks about Egyptian civilization, how hieroglyphics were used in temples and tombs, secret magical texts, and why these ancient artifacts must be preserved.

Link: HIS101Class1

In the second class, Eric Wells, Ph.D. student of Egyptology at UCLA, discusses the meaning of some common signs (symbols) that we may actually have seen in LOST, including the ankh and bird signs. He also talks about how to read hieroglyphs, and how the writing evolved.

Link: HIS101Class2

You can see more of the class videos here: Cypher80b’s Lost University videos.

High-resolution photo of Jacob’s tapestry

Jacob's tapestry (click for larger picture)

Jacob's tapestry (click twice for larger picture)

This is the tapestry that Jacob was weaving in the Season 5 finale. The photograph is another sneak peek from the Season 5 DVD set. I don’t know where the photo was taken — on the set? in the prop room? — but wherever it is, you can see the details on the tapestry very clearly if you click through to the larger picture.

The hieroglyphics are Egyptian, which is odd because the writing is Greek. Why does Jacob combine the two in a single tapestry? Is it possible he lived in both Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece during his supernaturally long life — and is now telling his own story through the tapestry, using weaving as a form of autobiography? Or is Jacob simply an inventive artist, the kind who likes to create something new by mixing bits of different cultures together?

For more info about what’s known, so far, about the tapestry, see Lostpedia.

Photo courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. ©ABC Studios. Season 5 DVDs go on sale tomorrow, December 8, 2009.

Anubis and the Smoke Monster hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphic in Smokey's Lair Episode 5x12

Hieroglyphic in Smokey's Lair Episode 5x12

This hieroglyphic was on what seemed to be an altar in the underground temple that is Smokey’s lair.

The snake-like creature on the left is probably Smokey itself. The creature on the right, whose hand is outstretched with an offer of something (food?) for Smokey, looks a lot like the jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis:



Anubis was the god who protected the dead and brought them to the afterlife. That certainly fits in with the world of LOST, with all its undead characters wandering around.

There’s been a big debate, among LOST fans, about whether the four-toed statue is meant to be Anubis or the goddess Taweret. I’d thought it was Taweret, based on the similarities of the headdresses, the toes, and Taweret’s mission of protecting pregnant women. The appearance of the Anubis hieroglyphic, though, in such a prominent place in Smokey’s lair, suggests that even if the statue is Taweret, Anubis must also play an important role in the history of the Island.

Editing to add: Answers people have given for “Other” in the poll are “It’s not offering, it’s welcoming,” “The Golden Apple of Discordia,” “Tootsie roll pop… ‘how many licks does it take’,” “Nothing – the hand is just outstreched towards the monster,” “Blessings,” “Nothing,” “A heart,” and “A heart to be weighed (judged).” Good answers!

Screencap (lightened and cropped) from Lostpedia, (c) ABC. Picture of Anubis via Wikipedia GNU FDL

Recap 5×12 Dead is Dead

Smokie shows Ben faces from the past

Smokie shows Ben faces from the past

Ben, still wracked with guilt over Alex’s death, has come back to the Island to be judged by Smokie, who he calls “The Monster.”

That name could just as easily be applied to Ben himself. Ben is a cold-blooded killer, as we see in both the present storytime and the past via flashback. In the present, Ben shoots Caesar point blank, after manipulating him into attacking John. In the past, Ben tries to kill Penny, who he has never even met, just to get back at her father. He shoots Desmond because he is in the way. Surely Ben is the real monster of this story.

And yet, it’s a testament to Michael Emerson’s skill as an actor that we don’t simply hate Ben. When he tells Charles that baby Alex is not an “it,” Ben seems human, even endearing. When he sees the vision of Alex in Smokie’s lair, and he says her name, the love, and longing, and sorrow, and regret in his voice is heartbreaking.

The episode is almost as much about Locke as it is about Ben. Being dead for a while seems to have done Locke a world of good. It must have been like a little vacation, if we can judge by how refreshed he looks! He’s got his Season One macho swagger back, his confidence, his smile, his twinkling eyes, and his ability to do a magic mind-meld with the will of the Island.

There’s a lot of talk about the Island’s will. Not only John, but also Ben, Widmore, and Alpert all have lines referring to “what the Island wants.” At times, they seem to equate “what Jacob wants” with “what the Island wants.” Does that mean that Jacob is the Island, in some sense?

We see Ben in several stages of his life, and along the way, a few mysteries are cleared up. Charles, with a lot of hair, visits Little Ben and tells him the Island saved his life. Young-man Ben, with a teenaged Ethan, takes baby Alex. Several years later, Alex is in a swing, and Charles is banished from the Island.

In the present, Ben appears freaked out that John is alive, and says that knowing it would happen is different from actually seeing it. Ben and Locke then take the Island version of a buddy road trip. They run into Sun and Lapidus. The latter has had it with dead men walking, and wants to leave Crazy Island. But Sun wants to stay and find Jin. Locke tells her he has some ideas for how she can do that.

Ben lies to Sun, and tells her that “dead is dead” and that he had no idea that Locke would come back to life. Or is it Locke he had lied to, earlier, when Ben told him he knew he would come back — and Sun to whom he is now telling the truth?

In any case, it’s off to the temple, an encounter with Smokie, and the appearance of undead Alex. Strangely, when undead Alex suddenly grabs Ben by the throat, out of all the many topics she could have chosen to discuss with her father during this rare opportunity for communication, she chooses to speak about John Locke.

She says she knew Ben was planning to kill him again, and that if Ben so much as touched John, she would hunt him down and destroy him. She orders Ben to listen to every word that John Locke says and to follow his every order.

That’s quite a good deal for Locke!

Earlier, when Ben was on the porch of his old home with Sun, he heard a rustling in the jungle. He said to Sun, “You may want to go inside. What’s about to come out of that jungle is something I can’t control.” He meant Smokie, of course, but then when it was Locke who walked out of the jungle, Ben’s statement still applied – John Locke is someone Ben can no longer control.

Mysteries solved:

Ben killed John to bring everyone together so they would come back to the Island (or, at least, that’s what Ben said).

Ben took baby Alex to save her.

Ben’s injuries when he boarded Flight 315 were from Desmond beating him up after Ben tried to kill both Desmond and Penny.

Unsolved mysteries:

What’s in the crate on the beach?

How did Ethan come to be with the Others?

Who is Ilana, really? And why did she ask Lapidus “What lies in the shadow of the statue?” and why did she knock him out when he couldn’t answer?

And who was Caesar? Was he just the innocent victim of Ben’s manipulations that he appeared to be? Or did he have a secret role on the Island as well?

Ben and the Smoke Monster (lightened) from screencap by (c) ABC

Michael Emerson talks about the statue, Alpert, Egypt, John Locke, and more

Here’s Michael Emerson (who plays Ben) in an interview last month with the Washington Post:

Liz: Will we find out what the deal is with the four-toed statue?

Michael: You are going to learn more about the world from which that statue came. I don’t think we’re going to see the statue again in context, but maybe. You’ll certainly know from whence it is a relic.

He also repeats the claim I’ve seen before (most notably in a Wikipedia article), that Richard Alpert is not wearing eyeliner:

Liz: Is Nestor Carbonell — who plays Richard Alpert — wearing eyeliner?

Michael: No. But he has a kind of genetic beauty that is a rare thing in men or women. No, that’s what he looks like when he wakes up in the morning. It’s hard not to study his face and admire it.

Ha! But Alpert has a dark line that goes straight across the bottom of his lower lid! Was he really born with that, or is everyone who makes that claim just pulling our leg?

Also from the interview:

Liz: Well you’ve probably just put to rest several theories about Alpert being a transplant from ancient Egypt.

Michael: Ah. Well, hold that thought about Egypt. That’s all I’ll say.

So whether or not Alpert is from ancient Egypt, the statue may very well be.

Emerson also says that he has “some crackerjack scenes — epic, vintage Ben and John Locke coming up — in ways you would never expect.” That’s great! The Ben-Locke pairing is one of my favorites.

There is lots more in the interview, including Emerson’s thoughts on whether Ben is purely evil, or if he’s a good person doing whatever it takes to reach his goal, and what kind of roles Emerson would like to play in the future.

I’m now totally convinced that the four-toed statue was based on Taweret

Here’s another picture, where the resemblance is especially clear:

Taweret, the hippo fertility goddess. in the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose, California.  Photo by Tom Fowler

Taweret, the hippo fertility goddess. in the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose, California. Photo by Tom Fowler

The round thing on top of this statue’s head is identical to the one on “our” statue. The ears are very similar. The toes — I count four.

It’s no wonder that in LaFleur we could see the statue only from the back — look how distinctive the front is! One glimpse of the front, with its pregnant belly and its hippopotamus face, would have given it all away.

Here are some interesting things about Taweret (sometimes spelled Tauret or Taurt) from the site Ancient Egypt Online:

Taweret … was a patron of childbirth and a protector of women and children….

Initially she was viewed as a dangerous and potentially malignant force…. She represented the … stars of Ursa Minor and Draco … who guarded the northern sky. The northern sky was thought to be cold, dark and potentially dangerous …. However, by the Old Kingdom she was seen as a protective rather than an aggressive force…. As a result, Taweret became a mother goddess and a patron of childbirth….

She was thought to help women in labor and to ward off evil spirits and demons who intended harm to mother or baby….

According to “The Book of the Dead”, Taweret guarded the paths to the mountains of the west which led to the underworld and could also use magic to help the deceased pass safely through that dangerous and frightening land.

Expectant mothers often carried amulets depicting Taweret to invoke her protection….

She was associated with so called “magic wand” or “magic knives” used during labour to ward off evil….

She was depicted as the combination of a crocodile, a hippo and a lion…. She had the paws of a lion, the back of a crocodile and the head and body of a pregnant hippo but with the addition of a woman’s hair. She often wears a short cylindrical headdress topped by two plumes or the horns and solar disk of Hathor, bearing the “Sa” (representing protection) or the ankh (representing life)…..

With so many things about Taweret relating directly to the story of LOST, I think there can be little doubt that the Island statue was based on statues of Taweret. The only remaining question is whether the writers meant for the Island statue to be a statue of Taweret herself (and if so, would that mean the Island was at one time populated by ancient Egyptians?) — or whether the writers used Taweret as a jumping off point, an inspiration to create their own original mythological being.

Photo of the Goddess statue at the Rosicrucian Museum (c) Tom Fowler

The giant four-toed statue

The statue as seen in 5x08 "LaFleur"

The four-toed statue as seen in 5x08 "LaFleur"

In the beginning of LaFleur, the Lost-ies were startled to see the back of this giant statue.

It is, of course, the famous four-toed statue that we first saw in the finale of Season 2.

From episode 2x23

From episode 2x23

This past December, producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, in one of the “Dharma Special Access” podcasts they made to keep us entertained during the long off-season, had promised that we would see the statue again in Season 5 — and so we have — and that we would see it even more extensively in Season 6.

So I guess we’re going to have to wait until next year for the mystery of the missing toe to be solved.

(The part about the statue starts at 3:40):

The statue reminds me of the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

I found a clearer picture of the statue, along with two pictures that compare it to possible inspirations: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, and Taweret, a goddess in the form of a hippopotamus who was a protector of women in pregnancy and childbirth (!). The resemblance of the Island’s statue to Taweret is striking. Both have similar toes and are wearing virtually identical headpieces. Take a look.

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