1st Millennium BCE

“Pyramids and Elephants: the Kingdom of Meroë” Robert Morkot

At the beginning of July Robert Morkot gave a talk to the Essex Egyptology Group (and guests) via Zoom. He’d previously visited us to talk about the 25th Dynasty of Egypt who were from Kush, and this talk followed on from that to tell us about the culture in what is now Sudan after the 25th Dynasty were forced from Egypt in the mid-1st Millennium BCE. Morkot explained that he wanted to give us an overview of a huge span of time (from 700 BCE to 350 CE), and show us lots of photos of Meroitic artifacts. Not much modern work is being done on the culture of Meroë compared to Egypt – many of the people who work on the region come from Egyptology and tend to work on New Kingdom sites in North Sudan. He began by giving us the geographical context of Kush and Meroë, and talked… Read More »“Pyramids and Elephants: the Kingdom of Meroë” Robert Morkot

“Perceptions of Seth” Ian Taylor

Photo by John Patterson, of a (heavily restored) statue of Seth & Horus (not shown) crowning Ramesses III now in the Cairo Museum

At the beginning of December Ian Taylor, one of the members of the Essex Egyptology Group, talked to us about the subject of his PhD: Seth. He began by talking about the modern image of Seth*, before turning to the evidence for how the Ancient Egyptians thought about this god. The common modern perception of Seth is as the dangerous enfant terrible of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon who brought death to the gods by murdering Osiris & came into conflict with Horus by usurping the throne. This comes to us by way of Plutarch, whose “Isis and Osiris” was the only version of the myth known before the translation of hieroglyphs. *As an aside Taylor mentioned here that while the name of Seth is different in different places and at different times he was going to stick to using “Seth” throughout his presentation. In Plutarch’s text Seth along with his… Read More »“Perceptions of Seth” Ian Taylor

“Travellers and Pilgrims Under the Last Pharaohs: Recent Investigations by the Oxford Expedition to Elkab” Luigi Prada

Map of el Kab with sites labelled

At the beginning of October Luigi Prada visited us at the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about the work he has been doing at the site of el Kab as part of the Oxford University Expedition there. Map of el Kab with sites labelled He began with an overview of the site, to give us context for his work. el Kab lies halfway between Luxor and Aswan, about 2 hours south of Luxor. It’s one of the oldest cities, and was continuously inhabited from the Paleolithic through to the Roman Period. The ancient Egyptians called the city Nekheb, and its patron deity was the vulture goddess Nekhbet (meaning “the one of Nekheb”) – she was also patron goddess of the whole of Upper Egypt. The Greeks called it Eleithyiopolis (which is what Google Maps labels the city, see above) and the Romans used the name Leucothae. There are… Read More »“Travellers and Pilgrims Under the Last Pharaohs: Recent Investigations by the Oxford Expedition to Elkab” Luigi Prada

“Pharaonic Purification Scenes in the Graeco-Roman Period” Konstantin Ivanov

At the beginning of September Konstantin Ivanov visited us at the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about scenes showing purification of the Pharaoh in Graeco-Roman period temples. He began by talking about why he was studying these scenes. Firstly because they are telling us something about an important part of Egyptian culture – purity was a requirement before someone could enter the temple, so the Pharaoh must also be purified when he comes to the temple. And secondly he thought this was a good area to investigate because not a lot of work has been done on these scenes. Gardiner published on the subject in 1950 and that’s still the most cited text. It’s even cited by people discussing Ptolemaic Period temples, despite Gardiner explicitly staying he’s not covering that period! As well as that gap there is also new evidence available, so Ivanov did a large scale… Read More »“Pharaonic Purification Scenes in the Graeco-Roman Period” Konstantin Ivanov

“Missed and Underrated Criteria for Authenticating Egyptian Artifacts” Marcel Marée

At the beginning of June Marcel Marée came to talk to the Essex Egyptology Group about the criteria he uses to authenticate Ancient Egyptian artifacts and detect modern forgeries. A lot of people bring artifacts to the British Museum to be authenticated, including art dealers, and so he’s interested in improving and systematising the authentication process. Often experts rely on intuition, but that relies on such a breadth of knowledge that not many people can be sure they are right. Artistic merit is also often used as an indicator of authenticity, but that’s a dangerous criterion to rely on as pieces that look like they are good quality are not necessarily old (nor vice versa). In this talk he laid out the criteria he looks at when he’s examining an artifact – he said that he looks at several criteria because one is rarely sufficient to determine whether or not… Read More »“Missed and Underrated Criteria for Authenticating Egyptian Artifacts” Marcel Marée

“Ancient Egyptian and Nubian Leather Technology” Lucy Skinner (EEG Meeting Talk)

At the beginning of February Lucy Skinner came to talk to us at the Essex Egyptology Group about her work on leather technology in Ancient Egypt and Nubia. She’s been a conservator working on leather for years, and is now doing her PhD at the University of Northampton and the British Museum. Earlier in her career she worked conserving leather items from Europe as well as from Egypt & Nubia. The European leather is generally waterlogged, so the dessicated leather from the Nile Valley is very different to work with as a conservator. There are other differences too, and she became interested in why it’s so different and how it was made. Skinner told us that the main questions that her PhD research is focused on are: what animals were used to make Ancient Egyptian and Nubian leather? what processing techniques did they use? is Ancient Egyptian leather different from… Read More »“Ancient Egyptian and Nubian Leather Technology” Lucy Skinner (EEG Meeting Talk)

“The Coffins of Nespawershefyt and Pakepu at the Fitzwilliam Museum” Helen Strudwick (EEG Meeting Talk)

Inner Coffin of Nespawershefyt

At the beginning of December Helen Strudwick came to talk to us at the Essex Egyptology Group about two sets of coffins that are part of the collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where she is curator. She chose these coffins as the subject of her talk because she has recently been working on them a lot and they make for an interestingly contrasting pair. During her talk she showed us many pictures of the coffins she was discussing and pointed out interesting features of the decoration. The first set of coffins she talked about belonged to a man called Nespawershefyt, who lived during the 21st Dynasty (c. 1000 BCE). The coffins are of a type called “yellow coffins” because they are predominantly yellow in colour. The set consists of five pieces: an outer box with a lid, an inner box with a lid and a mummy board. The… Read More »“The Coffins of Nespawershefyt and Pakepu at the Fitzwilliam Museum” Helen Strudwick (EEG Meeting Talk)

“Papyrology and the EES: Riches from Rubbish Tips” Margaret Mountford (EEG Meeting Talk)

At the beginning of November Margaret Mountford came to the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) (of which she is Chair of the Board of Trustees) and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (on which she did her PhD). She began by talking about the history of the EES, which she framed as a very early exercise in crowd-funding! In 1873 Amelia Edwards visited Egypt for a cruise down the Nile, and when she came back wrote a best selling book about her trip. She was appalled at the state of the Egyptian antiquities at the time, and at how they were deteriorating rapidly due to both neglect and vandalism. Mountford told us that Amelia Edwards was one of those rather formidable Victorian spinsters who when they saw something that needed done went out and did it. And so rather than just write letters about how… Read More »“Papyrology and the EES: Riches from Rubbish Tips” Margaret Mountford (EEG Meeting Talk)

“Tending to the Dead: Rites, Texts and an Embalming Workshop at Saqqara (Part 2)” Ramadan Hussein (EEG Meeting Talk)

This is the second half of Ramadan Hussein’s talk that he gave to us at the Essex Egyptology Group in February – the first part is here. During this part of the talk Hussein told us about the exciting new discoveries that he & his team have made at Saqqara which have now been announced by the Ministry of Antiquities (see also the Tübingen University announcement). Ramadan Hussein on site at Saqqara in October 2016 Hussein said that they have continued to excavate the area to the south of the three tombs he discussed in the first half of his talk. As a reminder, on top of the main shaft they discovered the remnants of a basic superstructure and then to the south of this was a chapel for offerings. The initial discovery for this further excavation was a small shaft the size of the side shafts of the tombs… Read More »“Tending to the Dead: Rites, Texts and an Embalming Workshop at Saqqara (Part 2)” Ramadan Hussein (EEG Meeting Talk)

“Kings from Kush: Egypt’s 25th Dynasty” Robert Morkot (EEG Meeting Talk)

In May Robert Morkot came to the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about the 25th Dynasty – kings from Kush. Chronologically the 25th Dynasty is in the Late Period at the end of the Third Intermediate Period. Kush is also referred to as Nubia, and is in the north of modern day Sudan stretching from Aswan to Khartoum. Nowadays this area is mostly desert but the rain line has changed and it was a much more fertile region during the time of Kush. Morkot prefers to use the term Kush instead of Nubia because it has fewer connotations. There are modern Nubians and it’s not clear whether or not they have continuity with the 25th Dynasty era people. (Although old habits clearly die hard as he used Nubia & Kush pretty much interchangeably through the talk.) Morkot told us his interest in the region & period started when… Read More »“Kings from Kush: Egypt’s 25th Dynasty” Robert Morkot (EEG Meeting Talk)