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“Understanding ‘Composite’ Forms of Egyptian Divine Beings”, Jordan Miller

At the beginning of March 2022 the first in person meeting of the Essex Egyptology Group since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic took place! Our speaker was Jordan Miller who is doing his DPhil at Oxford University (he was in the gap between submitting his thesis and doing his viva when he spoke to us). He opened by telling us that one of his hooks into Egyptology when he was younger was the amazing imagery – both captivating and confusing. And from this came his interest in these composite divine beings that is the subject of his talk. The composite forms seen in Egyptian art are most famously human bodies with animal heads. But you do also see other examples like a mix of two or more animals, or of a human or animal with an inanimate object as part of their body. An example he showed us of… Read More »“Understanding ‘Composite’ Forms of Egyptian Divine Beings”, Jordan Miller

“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

“Religion in the Ancient World” Glanville Study Day & Lecture 2018

This year’s Glanville Lecture in Cambridge was given by Jan Assmann who is an expert on the religion of Ancient Egypt, and to go along with the lecture there was a study day which had 6 speakers (including Assmann) who each told us about a different topic to do with religion in the ancient world. (Well, the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern portion thereof.) Glanville Study Day: “Religion in the Ancient World” “Egyptian Concepts of Cosmogony and the Origins of Philosophy” Jan Assmann The day started off with Jan Assmann’s first talk, about the theology of Ancient Egyptian ideas about the creation of the world/universe. His key point was that the Ancient Egyptians believed the world evolves from a transformation of god rather than being created by god. It is not chaos then cosmos, instead there is pre-existence which has continuity with existence. The canonical cosmogony (theory of the origin of the universe)… Read More »“Religion in the Ancient World” Glanville Study Day & Lecture 2018

In Our Time: Akhenaten

Back in the summer while In Our Time wasn’t airing new episodes we dug back through the archives and found a (rare) Egyptian related one that we didn’t think we’d listened to before – about Akhenaten, which aired in 2009. The experts on the programme were Richard Parkinson (British Museum), Elizabeth Frood (University of Oxford) and Kate Spence (University of Cambridge). (As it’s so old affiliations of the experts have probably changed.) They started with a little bit of scene setting and overview of Akhenaten’s reign, placing him in context. He was one of the Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty in the New Kingdom period. This was a particularly prosperous time in Egypt’s history, Akhenaten’s father Amenhotep III in particular can be considered as ruling over a Golden Age. When Akhenaten came to the throne he seemed much like a conventional Pharaoh. He initially used the more traditional name Amenhotep… Read More »In Our Time: Akhenaten

“At the Gate of the Ancestors: Saint Cults and the Politics of the Past at Abydos” Janet Richards (Sackler Lecture at the British Museum)

The 2015 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation Distinguished Lecture in Egyptology was given by Janet Richards, on the subject of saint cults in general and specifically the one of Idy at Abydos and how that fits into the wider sacred landscape there. The lecture was part of a colloquium about Abydos in general, which I didn’t go to (although J did) and I remember the lecture as including a lot of references back to things they’d discussed in the colloquium. I’m rather more reliant on my notes than usual when writing this up – as it’s nearly half a year since I went to the talk at the time of writing (and you’re reading this at least 2 months after that). Richards is interested in saint cults in ancient Egypt, but in the introductory part of her talk she contextualised them for us in more modern terms (which was very… Read More »“At the Gate of the Ancestors: Saint Cults and the Politics of the Past at Abydos” Janet Richards (Sackler Lecture at the British Museum)

“In Quest of Paradise: Accommodating Death in Islam” Lisa Golombek

The third lecture of the Charles Wilkinson lecture series from 2013, “In Quest of Paradise: Accommodating Death in Islam” was given by Lisa Golombek, and I think was the weakest of the three lectures. I’m not sure if this was down to me not having as much context – I know more about Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia than I do about the early centuries of Islam. But it also felt a little shoehorned into the overarching them – Golombek had to start off by explaining that Muslim burials don’t contain grave goods, nor are they supposed to have decoration or external tombs. So not promising ground for a talk in a series about the art of burial! Golombek did find two themes to talk about, however. One of these was the shrouds that the people are buried in. In high status burials these are not just plain cloths, they have… Read More »“In Quest of Paradise: Accommodating Death in Islam” Lisa Golombek

“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)