Category Archives: Matters Archeological &. Egyptological//

Stele du Songe.

On Thursdays from 8 AM-12 PM, the five undergraduates studying Egyptology at Johns Hopkins would gather in the Near Eastern Studies room—nicknamed “the Fish Bowl”—of Gilman Library’s basement for four rollicking hours of uninterrupted Middle Egyptian text reading. Presented here, in a fairly regular manner, will be some of my favorites from that class.

STELA GEBEL BARKAL JE 48863, the Stela of Tanutamun, was not only one of the first recorded instances of a dream stela—thus, its rather dreamy French title, Stele du Songe—but was also one of the first stelae I translated in its entirety, from the first titulaire du roi (and trust me, I was never any good with king names), to the last congé est donné aux princes. Erected in Nubia during Dynasty XXV, the text was inscribed on sandstone, hence the rounded, somewhat cartoonish-looking transcription of the original (found above). My original notes, transliteration, and translation are hardly worth mentioning let alone reproducing, save that the text itself is a good study in Second Tense Prospective verbs, and the problem as to which adverbial phrase is being emphasized in this once controversial verb. Suffice it to say, adverbial emphasis pertaining to a once controversial Middle Egyptian verb is perhaps one of the most esoteric problems a person can have.

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The Impermanence of Obelisks.

On Thursdays from 8 AM-12 PM, the five undergraduates studying Egyptology at Johns Hopkins would gather in the Near Eastern Studies room—nicknamed “the Fish Bowl”—of Gilman Library’s basement for four rollicking hours of uninterrupted Middle Egyptian text reading. Presented here, in a fairly regular manner, will be some of my favorites from that class.

ABOVE ARE SOME PICTURES I took of the black siltstone obelisk of Nectanebo II, originally placed in the doorway at the Temple of Thoth at Hermopolis and now located in the Great Court of the British Museum. For the ancient Egyptians, obelisks were very heavy versions of the modern day political poster, their symbolism operating as a proclamation of the glory, power, and dedication of the pharaoh (truth be told, it didn’t really matter which pharaoh, because very few Egyptians knew how to read hieroglyphs); many obelisks contained inscriptions declaring that their permanence would ensure the might of their ruler. Continue reading

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A Random Smattering of Walls I Drew in Pompeii.

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Wörterbuch der Aegyptischen Sprache (of Doom!)

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On Thursdays from 8 AM-12 PM, the five undergraduates studying Egyptology at Johns Hopkins would gather in the Near Eastern Studies room—nicknamed “the Fish Bowl”—of Gilman Library’s basement for four rollicking hours of uninterrupted Middle Egyptian text reading. Presented here, in a fairly regular manner, will be some of my favorites from that class.

 

When people discover that I was an Egyptology major in college, they ask me why I didn’t continue my formal studies of ancient Egypt. After explaining my solid conviction that I have no desire to spend the rest of my days alternating between the basement of a library and the 115 degree heat of the Giza Plateau, I then add, “Besides which, I never learned German.” Most think this is a joke. It isn’t.

It was largely assumed, when one entered the graduate text reading classes, that the student was fluent in German. Discussions usually drifted – oftentimes mid-sentence – into unser Verstandis der Koenigslexicon, und sein Verhaltnis zur der grosser Priesten. This is because those who enter the (insanely rigorous) German academic system not only have to earn a Doctorate, they also have to earn a Professorship – a process that can often take many, many years, most of this time being spent on insanely specific and/or thorough investigations of pretty much any aspect of ancient life one could imagine (I once came across a dictionary of Egyptian nautical terms). Thus, most of the good scholarship in Egyptology comes from Germany. Continue reading

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Some Drawings &. (Extra-Terrestrial) Theories from my Pompeii Journal.

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In the summer of 2001, I joined the University of Bradford’s Anglo-American Project in Pompeii, working on a dig in Regio VI, Insula I of the ancient city. The purpose of this dig was to investigate the functionary evolution of structures and spaces in the centuries before the 79 AD eruption, while refining our knowledge of artifact preservation, eco-fact analysis, stratigraphic archeological methods, and electronic distance measuring (those funny, bright orange machines people use on the side of the highway). I predominantly worked in AA (Archeological Area) 163 and AA 170, drawing walls, sifting dirt, filling in countless Soil Sample Sheets, drawing more walls – all of this quite naturally being a ripe opportunity for fun! Continue reading

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Egyptologists from the Planet Vulcan.

Egypt0061On Thursdays from 8 AM-12 PM, the five undergraduates studying Egyptology at Johns Hopkins would gather in the Near Eastern Studies room—nicknamed “the Fish Bowl”—of Gilman Library’s basement for four rollicking hours of uninterrupted Middle Egyptian text reading. Presented here, in a fairly regular manner, will be some of my favorites from that class.

One of my favorite things about the field of Egyptology has always been Egyptologists who never studied anything Egyptian. These are the guys who show up at conferences at the Oriental Institute in Chicago dressed as Vulcans, who storm the stage in order to read from their manifestos about how Akhenaten‘s lost city was a secret portal for the Stargate and how we should all be preparing for his imminent return. What’s even more dangerous/fun is when one of these Egyptologists (and/or Representative of the United Federation of Planets) has a PhD. You hear Dr. So-and-so of Oxford University, and automatically assume he’s some sort of authority on the subject he’s talking about. Continue reading

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James Hoch’s Middle Egyptian Grammar, starring The Rock.

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On Thursdays from 8 AM-12 PM, the five undergraduates studying Egyptology at Johns Hopkins would gather in the Near Eastern Studies room—nicknamed “the Fish Bowl”—of Gilman Library’s basement for four rollicking hours of uninterrupted Middle Egyptian text reading. Presented here, in a fairly regular manner, will be some of my favorites from that class.

 

As a sophomore, I decided to enroll in Introduction to Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphs, a year-long, 600 level course that explored the grammar, morphology, and history of Dynasty XII and XIII Egyptian linguistics. However, at Johns Hopkins, the academic word on the street was to never take a course where the textbook looked like it had been assembled at Kinko’s. Chances were: Continue reading

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Papyrus Westcar, lines 6.7-6.13; involving Scantily Clad Oarswomen.

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On Thursdays from 8 AM-12 PM, the five undergraduates studying Egyptology at Johns Hopkins would gather in the Near Eastern Studies room—nicknamed “the Fish Bowl”—of Gilman Library’s basement for four rollicking hours of uninterrupted Middle Egyptian text reading. Presented here, in a fairly regular manner, will be some of my favorites from that class.

 

I figured I’d start with the Papyrus Westcar because, 1. I’m very rusty, and it’s very simple, 2. this portion makes liberal use of my favorite verbal construction, the sentence particle ‘h’.n (roughly translating to and sounding like, “And then…”), and, 3. an earlier section contains the first recorded instance of a joke (the Egyptians weren’t particularly well known for their humor, so I won’t include it). Continue reading

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Counting Sheep.

bullaSo how did writing begin? Counting sheep, of course.

Around 8,500 BC, trade among the ancient Mesopotamians grew more complicated, and merchants needed a record-keeping system to keep track of everything. They came up with a series of tokens, with each token representing a commodity—a jug of oil, a jar of perfume, a dog, a cow, a lion, or (very popular back then) a sheep. As this system became even more complicated and people amassed more property (and, therefore, tokens), merchants began to store their sheep-figurines in contraptions like the one pictured above, round ceramic envelopes called bullae. Continue reading

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Great Books, Half Read.

Welcome to Great Books, Half Read. May I say, from the get-go, that I’m embarking upon this enterprise half-heartedly. It sort of reminds me of when parents ask their children, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?”

A professor of Near Eastern Studies once told me that the invention of writing allowed us to enter into an unnatural dialogue with the dead and the faraway. A little reed stylus drawn across a clay tablet, and before we knew it, Puzurshulgi from Uruk could trade words (and love, and war, and religion, and advice, and goats) with Ashurshdigir of Nineveh. Imagine the possibilities! Continue reading

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