Cleopatra & Bitumen of JudeaTuesday, April 24, 2018
|Jennifer Lines as Cleopatra - iPhone3G|
Bitumen of Judea
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bitumen of Judea, or Syrian asphalt, is a naturally occurring asphalt that has been put to many uses since ancient times.[vague] It is a light-sensitive material in what is accepted to be the first complete photographic process, i.e., one capable of producing durable light-fast results. The technique was developed by French scientist and inventor Nicéphore Niépce in the 1820s. In 1826 or 1827, he applied a thin coating of the tar-like material to a pewter plate and took a picture of parts of the buildings and surrounding countryside of his estate, producing what is usually described as the first photograph. It is considered to be the oldest known surviving photograph made in a camera. The plate was exposed in the camera for at least eight hours.
The bitumen, initially soluble in spirits and oils, was hardened and made insoluble (probably polymerized) in the brightest areas of the image. The unhardened part was then rinsed away with a solvent
Niépce's primary objective was not a photoengraving or photolithography process, but rather a photo-etching process since engraving requires the intervention of a physical rather than chemical process and lithography involves a grease and water resistance process. However, the famous image of the Cardinal was produced first by photo-etching and then "improved" by hand engraving. Bitumen, superbly resistant to strong acids, was in fact later widely used as a photoresist in making printing plates for mechanical printing processes. The surface of a zinc or other metal plate was coated, exposed, developed with a solvent that laid bare the unexposed areas, then etched in an acid bath, producing the required surface relief.
|World's first photogaph on Bitumen of Judea by Nicéphore Niépce - Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas|
Because I am a photographer of the last century I know who Nicéphore Niépce was and how he took what it probably the world’s first photograph, in 1826 or 1827 from his kitchen window.
In Mexico as a young boy of 15 when I played on the street my friend and I would break out pieces of tar from the concrete built streets and chew them like chewing gum. In Mexico it is called chapopote (from náhuatl chiapopotl). We were told by some elders that the stuff helped keep our teeth white.
I really never made the connection with bitumen of Judea until more recently.
A few years back (2011) I read Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff . In it I found out something most interesting about the sticky product. Cleopatra was a rich and shrewd woman. She was aware that the Roman fleets (particularly those of her buddy Marc Antony) used bitumen to caulk the planks and hulls of their ships. She also knew that most of the bitumen of the time came from the Roman Province of Judea. There was a problem in that the man in charge in Judea was Herod the Great. Cleopatra asked Antony to intercede for her so that Herod would cede the bitumen (of Judea) exploitation rights to her. And so it was.
With my preoccupation (with my Rosemary) on the affairs of the world gone Trump mad I have read about Alberta’s bitumen and wonder if their female Premier doesn’t have a little Cleopatra in her.
There are two extremes to this argument on the fate of that bitumen. Perhaps some sort of pragmatism will in the end resolve the problem and no asps will have to be imported.