When Herodotus saw the majestic remains of ancient Egyptian civilization in the fifth century B.C., he wrote, "Wonders more in number than any other land and works it has to show beyond belief."
Ever since, men have marveled at the vast learning of the ancient Egyptians and at the confidence and beauty of their artistic expression in different materials - marble, gold, silver, bronze and precious jewels.
The achievements of classical Greece in sculpture, engineering, metalwork, cabinetry and the working of precious stones can be traced back in a direct line to their beginnings in ancient Egypt. And, as we follow the time line in the other direction all these glories are also woven into our modern civilization.
As historian Jean Capart put it, "Our final conclusion may be that Egypt reveals the knowledge of one of the sources - perhaps the source - from which the great river of beauty has flowed continuously through the world."
The Greeks and Romans knew well from whom they had borrowed. Egypt's civilizations, sustained for over 2,500 years, was already so old in Herodotus' time that the Greeks viewed Egypt much as we view the ruins of classical Greece today.
Many of the great treasures of ancient Egypt are commemorated on stamps issued in the Middle East. And for those who care to practice archeological excavations on stamps, the search at one remove can be almost as exciting as searching for the real thing.
Raymond Schuessler is a writer who collects Middle East stamps.