Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Lost Temple of Isis

by Suw on August 19, 2003

I had the most astounding dream this morning – the sort that makes you attempt to go right back to sleep again as soon as you wake, trying to reclaim those now lost moments.

I dreamt that I was on holiday in Greece with my parents. We were in a large cave, accessed from a tunnel at the back, which contained a beautiful fine sandy beach and was half filled by the sea. The water came in through four tunnels which had been carved through the outer walls of the cave. The entrance to each one was framed by beautiful fluted archways, gothic in style.

Dad spread a large blanket on the sand, and I changed into my swimsuit and dove into the water. It was beautifully warm, and crystal clear. I picked the fourth tunnel, on the far right, to explore and as I swam towards it, sunlight streaming in through the archway illuminated a mosaic on the floor of the cave. The mosaic was the finest I have ever seen, each piece tiny, perfect and brightly coloured.

I swam through the short tunnel, and as it opened up into a new cave, my breath was taken away. Before me was a half-flooded Temple to the Goddess Isis, hidden for millennia and in almost perfect condition. The Cult of Isis must have laboured for years, carving the cave walls into towering column, each one intricately fluted, the roof of the cave carved into vaulting.

And it was a big cave, half open to the air on the sea side. As I swam, I saw perfect statues of Isis and Osiris, although they were dressed in Greek style. The columns and walls still showed evidence of the colour they had been painted. Below on the temple floor were more fine mosaics.

I was sure that I’d seen the Temple before from the outside, from a distance, on a previous boat trip through the Greek islands. I looked out of the seaward entrance at the nearby island, bleak and rugged in the fierce sun, and true enough a boatload of tourists puttered by. I knew I’d seen this place before!

There were a few other tourists here, looking at the Temple. Over where the sea lapped at the cave floor at a beach were a bunch of archaeologists and geologists. I went over to talk to them about the cave. One of the archaeologists was taking paint samples from the walls. She told me that the colours we saw weren’t original, that the walls had been painted over several times in the history of the Temple, like a house that had been repeatedly redecorated by subsequent owners.

She showed me the sample she’d taken, in it’s little vial, and with a scalpel she separated out the layers of paint down to the original – a kind of mauve with a shiny metallic Hammerite finish.

Then I went to talk to the geologists.

“So,” I said, “This is part of a horst and graben system is it? That’s why it’s sunk like this? Because obviously it wasn’t always at sea level.”

One of the geologists looked at me suspiciously.

“Well… it’s not that simple,” he said.

“Yes it is,” said another guy, who was obviously in charge of the team. He went on to draw out a simple guide to the local geology, and how the horst and graben geology had effectively sunk the temple. (Note: Greece actually is well known for its horst-graben systems.) We talked for a while, then they had to leave, so I swam back the way I’d come and that part of the dream was over.

I wish I had the artistic skills to draw this place. The detail in my dreams sometimes astounds me. I could draw every fold of Isis’ robes, every strand of her hair. The complexity of the carving of the columns and vaulting, the beauty of the mosaics. The colour, the bright deep blue of the skies outside, the faded paints on the walls. I even remember the diagram the geologist drew to explain the local horst-graben system.

I can only sit here, grasping futilely at the images as they fade in my mind, becoming fuzzier and less well defined as reality asserts its dominance and my dreams sink back into my subconscious. If only there were a way to record dreams. I wouldn’t need to write screenplays, just eat a lot of cheese before going to bed and record the results for the big screen.

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