Egyptology 101

As a Classics student I have a close and deep understanding of the world of ancient Egypt. Hmmm….

I probably have about five books on Egypt including a satisfyingly enormous Konemann coffee table book, a Teach Yourself Hieroglyphs and a copy of the oh so handy Book of the Dead with English and Hieroglyphs. I seem to remember the bookseller that sold me that last one joking they were offering a free plastic bag with every occult purchase. Ha.

But we all know about Egypt, right? That whole curse that struck down the excavators of Tutankhamun’s  tomb, Cleopatra and her little golden outfits, the way the aliens came down to help in the building of the pyramids… (warning: some of the previous examples may be inaccurate).

Plus we all know what Egyptologists look like:

Though considering the amount of time spent in the sun and the number of languages that are handy for an Egyptologist to know (French, German, Arabic, Ancient Greek, Demotic, Coptic, Middle and Late Egyptian …etc), surely you’re more likely to look like this (or the female equivalent):

On the other hand, this is an entirely realistic portrayal of an archaeologist:


Though I have some concerns about his methodology, which seems to involve destroying most of the surrounding structures of an ancient site to find one particular item. Not unlike the well-known German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. But that’s another story.

So despite small forays into Egyptian history (including a delightful course on Egyptian art by Piers Crocker), the fact remains that I don’t know much about Egypt. But somehow that makes it all so much more romantic, don’t you think? Let Cleopatra keep her sparkly bikinis and let ancient Egypt remain an imaginary world.

okay, maybe not quite that imaginary...

Some interesting random facts about Egypt:

My husband likes to point out that Cleopatra lived closer in time to us than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid. She was Greek, not Egyptian.

This probably already occurred to you but hieroglyphs often don’t mean what they look like they mean. Otherwise they’d be constantly saying things like ‘duck circle’, rather than ‘son of Ra’. But you probably already knew that… stork, stork, snake, beetle.

Tutankhamun was originally called Tutankhaten – Aten being the sun disc that his father somewhat controversially worshipped. He switched to the more conservative ‘Amun’ after his father’s death.

So there you have it. Egyptology.


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