Photo courtesy of the Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Paris.

In 1799, Napoleon invaded Egypt, taking with him a retinue of explorers and scientists charged with documenting this new, ancient terrain. Among the entourage was the architect Jean Baptiste Lepère, whose engraving of the interior of the Ptolemaic temple at Philae, near Aswan, was published in Description de l’Égypte (1809–1826). Lepère vividly captures the various ways in which the temple becomes, literally, a microcosm, the universe writ small: Plant-like columns grow from the temple floor, sun-disks hover over its doorways, and kings make offerings on its walls.