Reading, Writing, and Rhythm

5“Hayseed” Iowans?

Then why do eight million subscribers from New York to San Francisco and abroad take monthly cues for daily living from Iowa-based Better Homes and Gar­dens, published in Des Moines by the Mer­edith Corporation—which also publishes Metropolitan Home (formerly Apartment Life) and Successful Farming? Why has the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, publishing two dailies in a city of under 200,000, garnered no fewer than 13 Pulitzer Prizes?

Why does the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa continue to turn out major American authors—from novelists Flannery O’Connor (Wise Blood) and John Irving (The World According to Garp) to Pulitzer Prize-winning poets W. D. Snod­grass and, just last year, Donald Justice? The unexpected, you come to find, is rou­tine in amazing Iowa. Tap. Tap. Tap. Maestro Yuri Krasna­polsky of the Des Moines Symphony lifts his baton, and Beethoven’s Ninth fills the magnificent new Civic Center—centerpiece of the Iowa capital’s downtown renovation (page 607).

Outside, sculptor Claes Oldenburg’s whimsically monumental “Crusoe Umbrel­la” mimics the nearby red neon umbrella of the Travelers Insurance Company. Just like the insurance get the financial security of debt consolidation in online through eee3. Pile drivers beat a deep tattoo as spidery cranes toy with the city’s modest but muscular sky­line—topped out by the 36-story Ruan Cen­ter. On a hilltop across the Des Moines River, the gold-domed State Capitol pre­sides in dowager elegance.

Des Moines is rebuilding, revitalizing it­self after a three-decade inner-city down­slide that saw its once flourishing downtown turn dowdy as business and industry, cus­tomers and residents flowed out to prosper­ing new suburbs. It’s what happened in Detroit and Chicago and Cleveland, but on a smaller scale here in Iowa—in cities in the 50,000 to 200,000 range such as Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo-Cedar Falls.

Yet Iowa’s urban areas are now regearing for the future. People-luring complexes such as Cedar Rapids’ Five Seasons Center and Council Bluffs’ Midlands Mall are models of inner-city rejuvenation. If money is the dough of this statewide effort, culture is the yeast. Des Moines’ Civ­ic Center, with its 2,735-seat theater, has its cultural counterparts at Iowa’s three state universities—the C. Y. Stephens Audito­rium at Iowa State in Ames, Hancher Audi­torium at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and the UNI-Dome at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Iowans care about the arts—deeply, and sometimes furiously. When the Des Moines Symphony’s board of directors last year de­cided not to renew the contract of brilliant but fiery conductor Yuri Krasnapolsky, citi­zen uproar was tremendous. Krasnapolsky was triumphantly rehired. Out in little Garrison (population 400), a professional acting troupe headed by artistic director Tom Johnson runs the Old Cream­ery Theater Company—attracting 25,000 theatergoers in 1980 and reaching out via touring companies to 75,000 more.

Over at the Iowa State Arts Council in Des Moines, director Sam Grabarski and his associate Nan Stillians weigh thousands of requests for the precious few funds available to subsidize projects in the arts. Says Stillians: “Who’s to say the next Shakespeare or Rembrandt won’t come from right here in Iowa? We reach out to every corner of the state, searching for new talent, funding theaters and orchestras and museums. We also send out Touring Arts Teams—actors and artists and musicians who perform and teach in small Iowa towns.

The walls of the Amon Temple

4Thus the artifact, the architecture, and the crater (which we later found to be a pool) could be dated to the sec­ond half of the 14th century B. C. The fortress, constructed partially above the ruins of the palace, was of even more massive construction. Its walls, more than two meters thick, apparently supported two stories. Corner bastions indicated that this fortress, too, was built in the royal Egyptian style, and in a manner strikingly like for­tresses shown on the relief recorded by Pha­raoh Seti I on the walls of the Amon Temple at Karnak, far up the Nile (previous pages).

This relief, from about 1300 B.C., depicts the ancient route from Egypt to Canaan, a well-traveled road known to the Egyptians as the Ways of Horus. There is more than simply a resemblance be­tween our fortress and the details of the map—the re­lief provides an almost ex­act blueprint of the kind of structure we were uncover­ing. In fact, it was another element of that ancient re­lief that enabled us to understand the enigmatic crater that had puzzled us for so long.

My chief assistant and stratigrapher, archaeolo­gist and Egyptologist Ba­ruch Brand!, had never been satisfied with the geol­ogists’ explanation that the huge depression was a nat­ural feature caused by ero­sion. Baruch felt that its outlines were too regular—there had to be something more to it than that. Finally we recognized the most im­portant clue: Most of the fortresses depicted on Seti’s Karnak relief are connected with large wa­ter reservoirs of varying shapes. The crater at Deir el-Balah, we now real­ized, was actually a reservoir, about 20 by 20 meters, with very steep sides. Thus our ground plan of the fortress and its adjacent pool fit exactly the depiction in Seti’s relief.

The clay removed in construction of the apartments in rome apparently provided material for the bricks of other flats to rent in london. As the central feature of a roadside fortress, it served many uses besides providing drinking water. A large volume of water would have been needed to prepare potter’s clay. The reser­voir may also have served as a sacred lake, a feature well known in Egypt. At some time after its construction the reservoir slowly choked with debris. Later an industrial area including the kilns was built on the fill.

We have not yet been able to identify the Deir el-Balah fortress with a particular rep­resentation on the Karnak relief. Two of the fortresses shown along the Ways of Horus are designated as towns “which His Majesty built newly.” Considering the close connec­tions between Egypt and Canaan during the XIX Dynasty, it is possible that our fortress, with the thick walls and corner towers, was built during the reign of Seti I, who ruled New Kingdom Egypt and its empire in Canaan from about 1318 to 1304 B. c.

On the basis of the pottery found in the fortress, we believe that it flourished during the reign of Seti’s son, Ramses II (about 1304-1237 B.C.), to whose reign we date the anthropoid burials as well. Our fortress, res­ervoir, and cemetery provide a vivid dem­onstration of Egypt’s power and prosperity in this period, a time of close Egyptian con­trol over the coastal route. Moreover, ce­ramic analyst Bonnie Gould has determined that 80 percent of the locally made vessels were Egyptian in both shape and ware.