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“Music and Dance in Ancient Egypt” Suzanne Lax-Bojtos (EEG Meeting Talk)

On Sunday Suzanne Lax-Bojtos came to the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about music and dance in Ancient Egypt. She started off by reminding us that we have no idea what Egyptian music actually sounded like, because they had no musical notation. We also need to remember that Egyptian art is not representative of what is but rather symbolic of what they wanted things to be (in particular in a funerary context). However, with those two caveats in mind it’s still possible to glean quite a lot of information about the types of instruments the Egyptians played, and the sorts of contexts they played their music in. And Lax-Bojtos spent the rest of her talk showing us what we can learn, with the help of a lot of pictures. The Egyptians had a variety of different instruments available to them, and it seemed like most of them were… Read More »“Music and Dance in Ancient Egypt” Suzanne Lax-Bojtos (EEG Meeting Talk)

“The Eloquent Peasant” Linda Steynor (EEG Meeting Talk)

On Sunday Linda Steynor came to the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about a Middle Kingdom Egyptian poem called “The Eloquent Peasant”. She started her talk by telling us the plot of the story. This poem follows an Egyptian small market trader, Khunanup, who travels from his home on the outskirts of Egypt to the capital. The journey is not easy, and on his way there he has to travel along a very narrow path between the Nile and the farmlands. Partway along he meets a bully who has hung his washing across the path – in order to get past Khunanup accidentally walks on the washing (and his donkey eats a small amount of grain). The bully beats him, and confiscates his donkey & goods, an over the top response to such a minor transgression. Khunanup continues on to the capital where he petitions Rensi, the Chief… Read More »“The Eloquent Peasant” Linda Steynor (EEG Meeting Talk)

In Our Time: The Tale of Sinuhe

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On Sunday we listened to the most recent In Our Time episode – jumping ahead from where we’re caught up to because the subject of this weeks one was something J had been looking forward to hearing. The programme was about one of the surviving pieces of Middle Kingdom literature, called The Tale of Sinuhe. The three experts discussing it were Richard Parkinson (University of Oxford), Roland Enmarch (University of Liverpool) and Aidan Dodson (University of Bristol). They started off by putting it into historical context. The oldest version of The Tale of Sinuhe that’s been found was written around 1800BC (and was discovered approximately 4000 years later). This is during the Middle Kingdom era of Egyptian history, and the story is set about a hundred years earlier, still within the Middle Kingdom, near the start of the 12th Dynasty. The Middle Kingdom is the second period of stability in… Read More »In Our Time: The Tale of Sinuhe

“Dealing with the Invisible: Experiencing Egyptian Mythology” Garry Shaw (EEG Meeting Talk)

On Sunday Garry Shaw came to the Essex Egyptology Group to give a talk about Egyptian mythology. We’d originally had another speaker booked, but she’d had to cancel at fairly short notice (because she got an opportunity to do some work in Luxor) so Garry Shaw stepped in and gave us a talk related to his new book (The Egyptian Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends which is out on March 17). He started by explaining to us that the point of his book is not to retell the major myths or list the major gods of the Ancient Egyptians, but instead it is to look at how the Egyptians used their mythology to explain the world around them. And to try and provide a window into the worldview of your average Ancient Egyptian. The book is divided into three sections – “what happened before I was… Read More »“Dealing with the Invisible: Experiencing Egyptian Mythology” Garry Shaw (EEG Meeting Talk)

“Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt” Frances Boardman

This Sunday’s talk at the Essex Egyptology Group meeting was given by Frances Boardman. The title of her talk was “Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt”, and she gave us a broad overview of various aspects of Egyptian daily life. The style of her talk was very stream of conciousness (in a good way) so it’s hard to summarise – one subject would lead into another organically and you’d suddenly realise that where you had just been being told about education now you were thinking about hair conditioner recipes. The emphasis was on positive and entertaining subjects, an antidote to how we can often get bogged down in the details of how nasty, brutish and short life must’ve been. A lot of the information about Egyptians’ lives comes from funerary contexts or bureaucratic documents, but Boardman managed to draw out of this sort of data anecdotes and asides which brought to… Read More »“Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt” Frances Boardman

“The Lion in Ancient Egypt: An Elite Phenomenon?” Lyn Stagg (EEG Meeting Talk)

On Sunday Lyn Stagg came to talk to the Essex Egyptology Group about her research into the iconography & symbolism of lions in early Egypt. The era she is interested in is pre-Old Kingdom Egypt – including the pre-dynastic eras and the early dynastic (Dynasties 0-2). The generally repeated “explanation” of lion symbolism during that era is that the lion represented the King, based on the ideas of archaeologists in the 19th Century. Stagg felt that it was worth revisiting the lion artifacts that we have from this period of Egyptian history and seeing what conclusions can be drawn from a more modern assessment of them. She started by giving us some context for early Egypt, and for the provenance & original excavation of the objects she’s been re-examining. Generally the Egyptian state is thought to’ve come into existence at the start of Dynasty I with Narmer, but Stagg believes… Read More »“The Lion in Ancient Egypt: An Elite Phenomenon?” Lyn Stagg (EEG Meeting Talk)

“Ritual and Religion in Egyptian Mines and Quarries” Hannah Pethen (EEG Meeting Talk)

This Sunday’s talk at the Essex Egyptology Group was given by Hannah Pethen, on the subject of the ritual activities that took place at Ancient Egyptian mines & quarries. She had narrowed her focus a bit from the title of the talk – she restricted herself to the pre-New Kingdom era, and concentrated primarily on what’s known of the Middle Kingdom rituals after some introductory words about Old Kingdom & First Intermediate period evidence. Old Kingdom mining expeditions generally left behind some text explaining that the Pharaoh had commanded this expedition to be undertaken – normally using the Horus name of the Pharaoh, and not the throne name (the latter is the form one sees in a cartouche). In the First Intermediate period the local rulers of an area start to send expeditions under their own authority, and so the Pharaoh isn’t mentioned at all. And during this period the… Read More »“Ritual and Religion in Egyptian Mines and Quarries” Hannah Pethen (EEG Meeting Talk)

“Freemasonry and Ancient Egypt” Cathie Bryan (EEG Talk)

On Sunday Cathie Bryan came to the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about the influence that Ancient Egypt had on Freemasonry. She started by telling us a bit about Freemasonry & its origins. The modern Freemason movement starts around the early 18th Century & is derived in part from the groups or guilds of stonemasons that existed in the middle ages. Freemasonry uses the paraphernalia of the stonemasons trade (in particular the compass and square) in a symbolic fashion. Part of their mythos comes from a 14th Century document that sets out the history of masonry & the appropriate behaviour for masons, and this traces the history of masonry from Euclid via him “teaching the Egyptians how to be masons”. Obviously, as Bryan pointed out, this is now known to be more than a little impossible given Euclid lived a few millennia after the Egyptians built things like… Read More »“Freemasonry and Ancient Egypt” Cathie Bryan (EEG Talk)

EEG Trip to the EES

Last Wednesday a group of us from the Essex Egyptology Group went to visit the Egypt Exploration Society‘s offices in London. Once we’d all arrived Jo Kyffin started off with a half hour talk on the history of the Society & an overview of what they do nowadays. The Society started life as the brainchild of a formidable Victorian woman called Amelia Edwards. She was (among other things) a novelist & travel writer, and in the 1870s she visited Egypt in part for the warm weather and in part to write a book about travelling through the country. This book was called “A Thousand Miles Up The Nile” and was written in an enthusiastic (and very Victorian) style – Jo read us a couple of excerpts from it. Although Amelia Edwards never returned to Egypt she became very passionate about the country. While she was there she’d noted what poor… Read More »EEG Trip to the EES

“Metorites in Ancient Egypt” Diane Johnson (EEG Talk)

On Sunday Diane Johnson came to the Essex Egyptology Group meeting to talk to us about meteorites in Ancient Egypt. She’s a physicist who works at the Open University on meteorites, and is also interested in Ancient Egypt. She is combining the two by examining ancient iron objects from Egypt to see if they derive from meteorite iron & has recently published a paper about a bead found in a pre-historic tomb. Johnson opened her talk with a discussion of what meteorites are (in more detail than “rocks that fall from space”). There are three types – rocky, iron & rocky-iron. The iron ones are the ones with most relevance for the rest of the talk, and she briefly discussed their composition. Iron in meteorites is normally nickel rich, around 10%ish (I think she said) and the nickel rich vs. non-nickel rich patterning in the meteorite generally shows similar characteristics… Read More »“Metorites in Ancient Egypt” Diane Johnson (EEG Talk)