Pedro Barbáchano

Omphalos

2019

Zeus set two eagles to fly in opposite directions. They crossed paths above Delphi, where Zeus placed the Omphalos (Greek for navel), a stone urn marking the center of the universe where the Delphic Oracle would be located. Greece therefore became the world’s center of gravity which defined a civilisation.


In the 19th century, two years before the publishing of Charles Darwin’s Origin of species, English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse published Omphalos, an attempt to reconcile theology and evolutionist biology. Darwin had demonstrated that some fossils were billions of years old, much longer than the thousands of years that the Genesis states the Earth to be. In response, the omphalos hypothesis proposed that in order to create a logical world, God had created men with navels (as Adam was represented in painting at that time), trees with growth rings and footprint and fossils much older than the moment of their creation. In other words, God created artefacts not meant to compose a present or a future, but rather to construct a past. More specifically, a past much older and much greater than the moment of their creation.


How does a civilisation tell itself its own history? How does a museum operate as a cultural treasure? Omphalos delves into a past set in dispute, not only in its understanding, but also in its chronology. Archaeological artefacts currently function as disputed touchstones of a past.

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities houses the world's largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, approximately 120,000. Since 1902 it is located in the heart of Cairo in Tahrir Square. 


In 2010, tourism provided revenues of $12.5 billion, 11% of the GDP and employing 12% of the workforce in official records (estimated to be more than a third in submerged economy). In 2013 after the political convulsions, revenues were less than half, the country struggled in absence of its core industry industry.



The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), currently under construction, is planned to be the largest archaeological museum in the world. Sited far from the center of Cairo, next to the Great Pyramids of Giza, the museum is part of a plan to revitalise a neighbourhood heavily depressed after the downfall of tourism.