Monday, January 26, 2009

By the Horns

What did the Pharaoh’s wife say when he over paid a merchant? Egypt you!!!

For most of us in north central Alberta, buying an exotic plant is as simple as driving to the nearest garden centre and purchasing whatever is required. In ancient times, that trip took a little more time and energy.

The first recorded botanical voyage occurred some 3500 years ago on the orders of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt. She sent five ships to gather valuable plants, animals and precious goods from the Land of Punt (Now the countries of Ethiopia and Somali) on the Horn of Africa. This plant hunting expedition returned a couple of months later laden with all kinds of valuable wood and sweet smelling sap from the Boswellia (Frankincense) and commiphora (Myrrh) trees as well as vast quantities of ebony and ivory.

Not content to simply import the fragrant resin, the Queen ordered the ships back to pick up living specimens of the trees and bring them back to be planted at the arboretum at the Temple of Karnack near the modern day city of Luxor. Like all enthusiastic gardeners that experience success with a new variety, the queen celebrated the 31 surviving transplants by engraving inscriptions of her triumphs on the temple walls.

Unfortunately, the engravings of this premiere botanical event are all that remains of this bold experiment due to the incursions of her stepson and successor Thutmose III. Apparently this new ruler was a few inches short of a foot, as he sought to destroy her memory by destroying all of her gardens and defacing all of her monuments

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