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