Addressing a captivated audience, internationally acclaimed Egyptologist and author Dr. Bob Brier spoke on October 13 at Cairo’s National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) about The Luxor Obelisk and Its Voyage to Paris, written by Apollinaire Lebas, and translated from the French by Brier and Colette Fossez Sumner (AUC Press, 2021).
“To be honest, this is not my book, this is Apollinaire Lebas’s book; I merely translated it but I wanted to tell his story because it is a remarkable story,” said Brier in the introductory remarks to his fascinating and very well attended lecture and slide show, which was followed by a lively Q&A session.
“As [Egypt’s] Muhammad Ali was trying to curry favor with European powers, he gave away three obelisks to France,” explained Brier, referring to the upright obelisk in Alexandria and the two in front of the Temple of Luxor. “Enter Apollinaire Lebas, a young engineer from Ecole Polytechnique, who was given the job. He was a very capable man.”
The Luxor Obelisk and Its Voyage to Paris recounts the epic voyage of the pharaonic treasure to the French capital. Transporting the two-hundred-and-fifty-ton Luxor obelisk from Egypt to Paris was one of the great engineering triumphs of the early nineteenth century. No obelisk this size had left Egypt in nearly two thousand years, and the task of bringing it fell to Lebas, a man of extraordinary resolve and ability. On October 25, 1836 before two hundred thousand cheering Parisians, Lebas raised his obelisk in what is today Paris’s Place de la Concorde.
During his thirty-minute lecture, Brier also talked about how Lebas faced and overcame innumerable obstacles, including an outbreak of cholera among his team, in order to sail down the Nile and bring the Luxor obelisk to Paris.
As Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, Brier conducts pioneering research in mummification practices and has investigated some of the world’s most famous mummies, including those of King Tutankhamun, Vladimir Lenin, Ramesses the Great, Eva Peron (Evita), Marquise Tai (Chinese noblewoman), and the Medici family of Renaissance Italy.
In 1994 Dr. Brier became the first person in two thousand years to mummify a human cadaver using the exact techniques of the ancient Egyptians. This research was the subject of a National Geographic TV special titled “Mr. Mummy.” He has hosted several award-winning television specials for TLC, including “Pyramids, Mummies & Tombs” and “Mummy Detective.” More recently, National Geographic TV presented his research in a documentary called “Secret of the Great Pyramid,” which discusses a new theory of how the Great Pyramid of Giza was built. Dr. Brier’s research has been featured in such media venues as CNN, 60 Minutes, and the New York Times.