Looking at the Visual Clues: Q&A with Dr. Francesca Tronchin on the Archaeology of Lost

10 05 2010

Hello there Lost fans! I’m super excited to bring you this Question and Answer session that I did with Francesca Tronchin, Doctor of Archaeology and general expert on most things rad and badass. 

When I read about the upcoming “Across the Sea” episode specifically that it was going to be an hour-long flashback that focused on the MIB and Jacob I started to think about where on the earth it might take place how this country or city may have informed their world view.  I thought about use of all the religious iconography on the show and that led me to wonder if Dr. Tronchin would have the time to answer some questions.  Lucky for me she is a HUGE Lost fan and agreed to my line of (often clueless) questioning. 

So, enough of my rambling… Here it is: 

My Crazy Lost Theory: What do Jake’s (I don’t like him and call him Jake now.) clothing choices say about his heritage? His sandals and simple cloth shirts that I assume he makes.

Dr. Tronchin:  I haven’t seen anything in his wardrobe that suggests a specific culture or region. Perhaps just a generic “homespun” look, a hearkening back to “simpler times”? 

 MCLT: I seem to recall a FB status last year where you were talking about Jake’s sandals being Greek or Roman?  Am I hallucinating (again)?

Dr. Tronchin:  That might have been about the statue’s sandals? Can’t remember exactly.

MCLT:   Speaking of… ‘Jake the weaver.’ Aside from being perhaps a metaphor, what does it say about a person who knows how to weave intricate textiles such as these? Does this give us any clues to who he is and where he’s from?

When, where and why did Jacob pick up weaving as a hobby?


Dr. Tronchin:  In Greek mythology there are a couple of famous weavers: Arachne and Penelope. Arachne was turned into a spider for getting “too big for her britches” and challenging Athena to a weaving contest (classic tale of hubris and divine retribution). Penelope is the model housewife, so to speak. She spent 20 years weaving, waiting for her husband Odysseus to come home. But she was tricky: she said she would pick a new husband from the many suitors courting her as soon as she finished weaving the burial shroud she was working on. But at night she would unravel all she had woven during the day.

MCLT: an interesting parallel could be drawn here between Jacob and Penelope. He has said that he is going to pick a replacement for himself out of a pool of “Candidates” that he plucks from around the world. He has been doing this for how long? Perhaps it is Jake who is weaving and unraveling… stalling, but for what?  Who knows? 

Dr. Tronchin:  In the Greco-Roman world, weaving was pretty much the purview of only women. So this is odd that Jacob would be so great at it. I can’t think of any cultures where weaving was the man’s job. (Fishing nets, made by crochet, are an exception.)  That is interesting about Jacob weaving & un-weaving to postpone his decision about the candidates.

MCLT: But of course he does finish the tapestry as we saw in the tunnels under the temple.  But Metaphorically it works and makes me wonder if there is someone special that Jake is waiting for. I’m wondering now, if Jake perhaps has a Penny or a Sun or a Claire? 

Dr. Tronchin:  Seems like most of the dudes on the show have some kind of female constant!

What is very cool about the thing J is weaving in the picture below is that it is a hybrid of Greek and Egyptian elements. The text is Greek, of course, with the Egyptian eye of Horus, etc. below. That mixture of Greek & Egyptian smacks of Alexandria, the great city in the Nile delta. Has anyone translated the Greek? theoi, or ‘gods’ is the only word that jumps out at me. But my Greek is way rusty right now. But even so, they used a xi for an epsilon…weird.

MCLT:  The did actually translate the texts on Lostpedia…  and here we have another Odysseus reference.  From the finished tapestry there are three sentences and they read as translated: “may the gods grant thee all that thy heart desires” & “may the gods grant thee happiness” are from The Odyssey and the last, according to Lostpedia: A third passage is at the bottom of the tapestry. The part that can be seen reads, …Σ ΜΟΝΟΙ ΤΟ ΤΟΥ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΥ ΤΕΛΟΣ ΕΟΡΑΚΑΣΙ (sic). In lower case, it should read …ς μόνοι τὸ τοῦ πολέμου τέλος ἑωράκασι (transcribed as “…s monoi to tou polemou telos eōrakasi”) which seems to be the following quote misattributed to Plato: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” If so, the word missing could be ΘΑΝΟΝΤΕΣ or ΤΕΘΝΗΚΟΤΕΣ, in lower case, θανόντες (transcribed as thanontes) or τεθνηκότες (transcribed as tethnekotes), meaning “those who have died”. 

MCLT:  Why would a blonde haired, blue-eyed dude be so obsessed with the Egyptian culture? Is there any archaeological proof of Blondes in Egypt? When did Blondes start showing up in  Egypt.  

Dr. Tronchin:  I don’t know about blondes in Egypt. The only thing I can think of are the Celtic invasions into the western part of North Africa or the Gallic invasions in Asia Minor.

MCLT:  Some Lost fans have sighted that there may be a connections between the dog worshiping cult of the Canary Islands (home of confused Catholic Richard) and the Anubis of Egypt.  Are there any reliable academic sources that could confirm this connection?

Dr. Tronchin:  I know nothing of religious practices in the Canary Islands! But I would find it very difficult for there to be any actual connection, unless explained by science fiction!

MCLT:  If you could, please take a look at this blog I wrote about the island statues:


In your opinion, do you notices any differences that could point to there being more than one statue on the island? 

 Dr. Tronchin:  I think you found some very subtle differences! But I don’t know if I could say they indicate two different statues.

MCLT: Also, the feet:

Is this foot: 

The Foot Sayid discovered from Desmond's boat.


The same as this foot:

The foot under which Jake Lives.


The same as this foot?

Perhaps in the Altiverse, Jake is a merman and lives under this foot?


Dr. Tronchin:  OK, this is very weird. You’ve got there a left foot, a right foot, and another left foot!

The weirdest thing about the statue for me is how it splintered like balsa wood when the Black Rock hit it! Not that I think that has any special significance…

MCLT:  And what do you make of Jacob’s Amazing Technicolor Lighthouse from an archaeological standpoint?

Show Runner's Homage to Alexandria or Jeremy Bentham?


Dr. Tronchin:  It looks a helluva lot like the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the [Ancient] World. Or at least what most people think it looked like–the actual lighthouse/pharos no longer exists. So there is another Alexandria connection. The city in the Hellenistic period came to be a great center of learning, thanks to the library there, etc. It continued to have this association with science and study into the Late Antique period.

Note from MCLT:  Dr. Tronchin had this to say following our interview:

I  forgot to mention the ‘panopticon’ to you. (Just Google it.) The correlation with Jacob’s (?) lighthouse will be obvious. Plus, the original panopticon was designed by…Jeremy Bentham!

Dr. Tronchin’s comment, after I perused the wiki page on Panopticon that is,  got me thinking about lots of things. So many things that I was forced to write an entire blog about it…  I will put it up sometime in the next 30 hours or so.  It will be called: “The Longest Con: Why Hurley is NOT psychic” or something of the like.  Look for it.  Now… back to the interview! 

MCLT:  Going back to the Egyptian stuff… how ‘bout that Smoke Monster?  We were given a hieroglyph, if you can even call it that, of the monster below one of the grates that it travels though 

Egyptian Smoke Monster? What?


but to me, the seated position of Anubis as well as the positioning of the monster reminded me of this:

or Mayan Vision Monster?


A tablet inscripted with the Mayan Vision Serpent. I’ve always thought that Jacob and The Smoke Monster/Man in Black were partly based on the Aztec Gods Quetzacoatl and Tezcatlipoca (smoking mirror).  But descriptions of the Mayan Vision serpent make it sound like it has the same ability for people to communicate with their ancestors though it which is kind of what the smoke monster does when it appears as people who have died on the island.  Thoughts?

Dr. Tronchin:  The connection with the Mayan image might be another bit of hybridity introduced by the writers. Maybe we are to think that both Mayans and Egyptians inhabited the Island, thanks to Jacob’s interventions? 🙂 Hey, they both built pyramids!

The pose of Anubis is weird in that image. Usually he is depicted as standing (with the jackal head on a man’s body) or lying down like a dog.

The Snake Monster image has no precedent in Egyptian iconography, as far as I know.

MCLT: There are many ways of dealing with dead bodies on the island. The Survivors of Oceanic Fligh 815 bury their dead, while the Others tend to burn their dead.  What ancient civilizations burned their dead and who continued to do so after Christianity took hold in parts of the world? Also, are there any cultures besides the Vikings that burned their dead and set them adrift like The Others did for Colleen’s funeral? 

Dr. Tronchin:  The Greeks (and the peoples of the Bronze Age Aegean before them) did some cremating from time to time; they were kind of inconsistent about it, but generally used cremation. The Romans simultaneously engaged in inhumation and cremation burials after the advent of Christianity. Cremation had been the standard, but inhumation was popular even among Pagans. It seems to have depended on individuals or families.

I can’t think of any other Viking-like funeral ships. Although there are a series of ships buried around the great pyramids of Giza, Egyptians weren’t pushed out onto flaming barges or anything.

MCLT: Speaking of the dead.  It seems that the Others are very concerned with making sure they get all their dead.  We’ve seen them did up bodies and drag them away (perhaps to perform more funerals like Colleen’s) and then we saw (inside Jake’s Chamber) Ilana take Jake’s ashes from the fire pit.  Thoughts?

Dr. Tronchin:  This is a HUGE thing in classical cultures, especially Greek. It’s all over Homer’s epics. There are entire (modern) books written on the subject of reclaiming the dead, bringing bodies off battlefields, spirits wandering around unhappy because their bodies aren’t where they are supposed to be, etc. Bodies/cremated remains have to be put in a cemetery or some other space where the family members can come and mourn them, remember them, make visits on special anniversaries. Even though Greek and Roman concepts of what the afterlife really looked like are rather murky, one thing is clear: you just don’t leave bodies unburied.

MSCL: Do you remember Last of the Mohicans?  “They stay as they lay!” (That just popped into my head and has nothing much to do with the conversation here… that movie has just been inappropriately invading my rational thoughts this week) 

Moving on!  We have also seen the Others use black ash as protection from the smoke monster on a few occasions.  Are there any cultures who use the ash or even the ashes of the dead as protection? 

Dr. Tronchin:  Ash Wednesday, the Catholic thing? I know nothing about it, really. Just the only thing that came to mind.

MCLT: Palm sunday encompasses placing ashes on the foreheads of followers as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned. As far as Ashes as protection, apparently the ashes of a Vampire act as sort of a morning after pill if you’ve been bitten by a Vampire.  (You drink the ashes to prevent turning into a Vampire.)  I bring this up only because this season they introduced the idea that the island is sitting on a Hellmouth and for anyone familiar with Buffy… well… There you go. 

MCLT: And lastly, a big religious question: I jokingly mentioned “Jacob’s Amazing Technicolor  Lighthouse and I was wondering what similarities can be drawn between the stories Joseph and his father Jacob from the Hebrew Bible to Lost’s Jacob and the Man in Black?  Could Joseph’s time in Egypt be an explanation for all of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the statue(s) on the island?

Dr. Tronchin:  I’ve got no idea! Old Testament stuff really isn’t my gig. Now ask me something about the Aeneid, and I might have something intelligent to say 🙂

I had come to assume over the course of the past few episodes that the Egyptians (or “Egyptians”) who were on the Island got there because of Jacob, that he somehow pulled them out of the Mediterranean and into the South Pacific. Maybe because 4000 years ago they were the most advanced culture on earth and he wanted to see how they would fare?

MCLT:  And this concludes our Q&A with Dr. Tronchin.  It will be interesting to see what happens this week on Lost and find out where MIB and Jacob really came from and if it is indeed Alexandria.  Fingers crossed.  And thanks again to Dr. Tronchin for lending her valuable time to aid in My Crazy Lost Theories.




3 responses

10 05 2010
Now my LOST passion is, well, found « Francesca Tronchin

[…] Looking at the Visual Clues: Q&A with Dr. Francesca Tronchin on the Archaeology of Lost […]

10 05 2010
Courtney K.

Well done! Very interesting!

10 05 2010
Tweets that mention Looking at the Visual Clues: Q&A with Dr. Francesca Tronchin on the Archaeology of Lost « My Crazy Lost Theory -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Francesca Tronchin, Francesca Tronchin. Francesca Tronchin said: In which I use my geeky powers for television analysis: http://bit.ly/dyAhQt and http://bit.ly/9dUMU1 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: