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During the last half of the 1700s and throughout the 1800s, British ships roamed the worlds oceans, exploring and colonizing many exotic lands. Although primarily driven by commercial interests, most also carried a Naturalist and an Artist onboard, in pursuit of serious scientific objectives as well as trade. Exploration of the incredible ruins of Ancient Civilizations found in Egypt, the Mid East, Cyprus, and many other lands were scientifically and artistically documented. These discoveries frequently prompted further scientific interest and exploration.

Artifacts from these far off lands caught the imagination and interest of the public, with exhibitions and permanent displays at various national museums and galleries. Public and private "mummy unwrapping" parties were popular events. From the early 1800s on, a fascination with the Ancient Egyptian Civilization became evident (known as "Egyptomania", which lasts to some extent to this day!), affecting art, fashion, and architecture. Quick to sense a marketing opportunity, various commercial slide makers began offering slides with specimens of related interest... the more sensational the better! These slides were limited only by the maker's ingenuity and their connections to obtain good specimens. The somewhat rare slides pictured below illustrate the wide variety of specimens that were produced to cater to this interest, by both professional and amateur mounters. 

This slide c. 1880s, a dry mount of iridescent decomposed glass flakes from Cyprus shows fascinating colours and surface structure using a combination of transmitted and incident lighting. Probably from either a Greek or Roman glass perfume bottle, as extensive ruins from both cultures are found across Cyprus (1500BC to 200AD).

Rush Straw ~ From Egyptian Brick ~ 3500 years Old. Interesting slide mounted by an amateur, c. 1880
An "Egyptology" themed slide by C.M. Topping, c. 1860s, thin section of stone "Fragment of Egyptian Pyramid"
One of Cleopatra's Obelisks or "Needles", shown where it stood in Alexandria (left), before being transported to London (right) in 1878. The 2nd one was moved to New York in 1880. The pair, originally quarried from Red Syenite in 1460 BC, stood in Heliopolis until they were moved 800 miles down the Nile to Alexandria in 12 BC by the Romans. The slide, by Wheeler, is a thin section of Syenite from the Obelisk.
A variety of Egyptian Mummy related specimens, all made by C.M. Topping, during the period late 1840s to 1860s. From left to right, "Mummy Cloth", "Wood from Coffin of Mummy", "Hairs from Coffin of a Mummy" (actually hairs from Dermestes beetles), and thin sections "Bone of Mummy".
"Wood from Coffin of a Mummy" (slide above, 3rd from left), imaged in transmitted light between crossed polar filters (Polariscope). Below, a "Mummy unwrapping" exhibition.

Papyrus, a material similar to thick paper, was made from reeds and used by ancient Egyptions as a writing surface. These 2 slides by C.M. Topping are of an unused sample (far left), with the 2nd showing a piece of ancient document, c. 1000 BC. Also, imaged below in transmitted light. On the right above, a papyrus document with hieroglyphics.

On the left, another specimen of Decomposed Glass... this one from the ruins of Pompeii, long buried and forgotten under layers of lava and ash from the massive volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.  The slide is c. 1880s by Watson & Sons of London.

Pompeii was initially rediscovered in the late 1500s, with significant excavations begun by 1748. Some work had been done earlier, but periodic earthquakes have always created delays and setbacks.

The 2 thin section mounts of Lava on the right, both by Wheeler c. 1870s, provide some important context. Mount Somma is the remnant of the original large volcano, erupting catastophically in pre~historic times (about 25,000 years ago) and then collapsing. The partial caldera wall is visible on the left in image below. The active peak cone of Mount Vesuvius (on right) has grown out of the central collapsed area in the period since.

Above, a further selection of slides showing interesting specimens from Ancient Civilizations

Slide to the left, "Fossil Bone Man ~ from Guadaloupe" is an early mount by E. Wheeler, probably c. 1860s. It illustrates some fascinating pre-Columbian history. Discovered near Moule, Guadaloupe Island in the Caribbean in 1805, they were thought to be the first fossilized human bones ever discovered. They appeared to be embedded in a hard limestone, and received worldwide attention. Instead, the bones and burial sites have recently been dated to approximately 2000 years old, with the site part of a fairly advanced civilization stretching across many Caribbean islands, originating from South and Central America.

The 2 slides above left, "Section of Human Bone from a Bog in Ireland" were both made by C.M. Topping in the mid 1840s. At the time, several "Bog Mummies" (as they were called) had been found and relocated to the British Museum for study. Many others have been discovered since. There is evidence that most were offered as ritual sacrifice, and date from approximately 2000 years ago. They are also found in bogs in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Northern Germany. Bogs have conditions that provide a kind of natural mummification.