‘Ancient Egypt: New Stories’ – Prof. Joann Fletcher: Hosted by Taunton Literary Festival and the Egyptian Society Taunton

Today we had the most fabulous day!  Joann Fletcher – as seen recently on BBC 2’s series ‘Immortal Egypt’ – came to talk in Taunton as part of the Taunton Literacy Festival; co-hosted by the Egyptian Society Taunton.  It was a very well supported event, the venue was lovely, and full of many enthusiastic fans and attentive listeners – and it proved to be a terrific day!

Joann gave a lively and fascinating talk; based on her latest book, she started with the very early rock-paintings in Egypt from around 20,000 ago, and finished in the final days of the empire.  Through the talk she included many extra enjoyable ‘nuggets’; such as the fact that Amenhotep lll  is her favourite pharaoh; Montuhotep’s wife bit her nails, Ramesses II had a penchant for dying his hair,  and the farmer Baki liked eating in bed.

She was relaxed,  humorous and down-to-earth and it all went towards creating a great presentation!  Joann was friendly and informative, and very generous with her time and knowledge; I think the Q & A’s could have gone on all day; and her book signing was a great success.

The Egyptian Society Taunton was very pleased when Joann agreed to come to Taunton and we were not in any way disappointed; and the committee of EST enjoyed its own moment of reward before the camera with Joann.

So, thanks EST for booking Joann and co-hosting the day; thanks Brendon Books who, very efficiently, staged the event and who along with EST, created such a memorable day in Taunton!
But above all – thanks Joann for coming – we really hope to see you here in Taunton again in the near future!

Posted in Egyptian Society Taunton, Prof. Joann Fletcher, University of York

The Egyptian Labyrinth: A Middle Kingdom Enigma – Prof. Dylan Bickerstaffe

For many years, I have wanted to know the truth and facts behind the fabled ‘Egyptian Labyrinth’ and this comprehensive lecture by Prof. Dylan Bickerstaffe did not disappoint!

Beginning with the Greek and Roman writers Dylan explained where the belief in a ‘Labyrinth’ arose; linking it interestingly back to Knossos and other neraby sites and cultures.

These writers were seemingly adamant that The Labyrinth was Egypt’s greatest wonder; as Herodotus said – ‘surpassing even the pyramids’.  
However, he posed the questions: if that was the case, what sort of building was it, who built it, and why?

In the modern era, it had vanished so completely that several explorers, including the famous/infamous Belzoni, failed to find it, so there is still so much not known.  Being so vast, so comprehensively written about in ancient times, yet almost entirely lost, no wonder it holds so much fascination today.

Dylan went on to trace the ‘rediscovery’ of the Labyrinth, and the excavations and finds made on the site, and the attempts by Petrie and others to reconstruct the form of this unique building.

And that was almost certainly, not a labyrinth at all, but was in fact a 60,000 Sq mtr Temple Complex of Amenemhat lll of the 12th dynasty.
We were shown how modern research has thrown light on the problem, and clues which may be found in surprising, yet familiar places.

Dylan’s talk was comprehensive, detailed and very interesting indeed, however, after raising as many questions as answers, it left me wanting to ‘know yet more of the truth and facts behind the fabled Egyptian Labyrinth’ 

Thanks Dylan, it was a terrific lecture – please come again!

Posted in Egyptian Society Taunton, Uncategorized

Tomb Security in Ancient Egypt from the Predynastic to the Pyramid Age – Dr Reg Clark 

Today we were lucky to have Dr Reg Clark, of Swansea University speaking at the Egyptian Society Taunton, as the first speaker in their 2017/2018 season. 

In this lecture Dr Reg Clark began by saying that this issue has been somewhat overlooked, as until recently most scholarly discussion of tomb security in ancient Egypt tended to be included only as part of a larger work.

He then took us, in fascinating detail through some of the main developments in the architecture and security of both royal and private tombs – from the early pit burials in ancient Egypt, through to the Fourth Dynasty pyramids and mastabas.

He discussed whether many of the familiar architectural elements in Egyptian tombs were in fact the result of this need to protect the tomb, rather than the consequence of monumental or religious considerations.

He also stated that the pyramid itself could in fact be about being the greatest possible mass and ‘footprint’ to cover and protect the entrance to the tombs – and that made me think!        

Having written my own talk on this period, I was aware of the changes – which I had viewed primarily as architectural developments, which indeed they were.  However, Reg’s approach that they were not just to reflect the status of the individual pharaohs;  they were also prompted by the desire to protect both the pharaoh and his funerary goods for eternity, gave me much food for thought.   

It was an original and interesting re-look at the funerary monuments, and one which I enjoyed very much indeed.  Thanks Reg.   

Posted in Egyptian Society Taunton

Two Egyptologies for the price of one!

Today I had a lovely day – with an unexpected extra treat!
I had returned to the beautiful Salisbury Museum to give a second talk to Salisbury U3A Archaeology Group – a group I really enjoy talking to as it is a lovely venue and they are very friendly and welcoming,  interact very well and ask great questions.
This talk From Nomads to Nation – The Settling of the Nile Valley’ looks at the movement of the nomadic people of the Savannah, down into the Nile Valley – and the culture, skills, religious and artistic influences which made possible the development of this amazingly long-lasting and complex ancient empire.

The morning was as enjoyable as I expected to be, and the group was very appreciative, but a further treat followed!  Talking to the group, I discovered that Lucia Gahlin was talking for The Arts Society Salisbury (ex NADFAS)  that afternoon and I immediately decided to stay in the hope of being able to attend Lucia’s talk.

I filled the spare time with a delightful lunch in gorgeous sunshine, in the grounds of Salisbury Museum Cafe, looking towards the glorious cathedral, whilst reading Joann Fletcher’s great book ‘The Story of  Egypt’; and to add the pleasure of the day – lunch was delicious.

I then made my way to the next venue, where I introduced myself and was pleased to be allowed in for Lucia’s talk; ‘Art for the Afterlife – Tomb Scenes and Funerary Goods’.  And yet again, Lucia gave a great talk (she has so many!)

I am very interested in ancient Egyptian ‘art’ – if ‘art’ is what we can really call it – so it was good to have the opportunity to attend this talk, and I enjoyed it very much.
In spite of studying the subject for quite some time now, and also being half-way through writing my own talk on the subject, I learned quite a bit, which was great.

But I also enjoyed being there: listening to a good speaker, on my favourite subject, in this beautiful city – on this lovely afternoon. Truely, my cup runneth over!

Posted in Lucia Gahlin, Prof. Joann Fletcher, Salisbury Museum

Writings from Ancient Egypt by Dr. Toby Wilkinson – Cambridge University

Well, I have just had such a treat – a lecture given by one of my favourite writers and Egyptologists – Dr. Toby Wilkinson.

Toby began by explaining that we usually silently read the writings and texts of ancient Egypt, however, they were not usually intended to be read in silence, but rather to be read out loud.

He then went on to make this lecture a series of readings of writings from his latest book ‘Writings from Ancient Egypt’  – and what a revelation it was.
Beginning with Akhenaten’s ‘Ode to the Aten‘, he then read ‘Wisdom Literature’, ‘Instruction Writings’, humorous pieces and much more.
It was wonderful, he read with style, humour, vigour, pathos and compassion and it was a most entertaining, revealing and very enjoyable afternoon spent with Toby and the Egyptian Society Taunton.  Great stuff indeed!

EST gave a copy of Toby’s book as 1st prize in their raffle and I was disappointed not to have won it.  Toby raised my interest to the point where I must own it, therefore I feel compelled to immediately buy it !  I am sure I am going to enjoy may happy hours reading it.

Posted in Dr. Toby Wilkinson, Egyptian Society Taunton, University of Cambridge

Egypt in the Wider World – Dr. Aidan Dodson of Bristol University

What a treat of a day this was!  We learn of life within ancient Egypt, we learn of events outside of the land of Egypt itself – for example trading, expeditions and wars – all from the Egyptian point of view.

However, in this day-long lecture, Aidan took us through several thousand years of interaction between Egypt and their wider world of the neighboring areas; Mesopotamia, Assyria, Palestine, Africa etc; the Hittites, the Libyans, the Nubians and the Mitannis – then moving on to relationships with the various Mediterranean cultures and peoples – from an international perspective.

Using many maps and documents, along with images from museums around the world Aidan gave us his own ‘guided tour’ through several thousands of years of the complex history of Egypt’s relationships with the lands of the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Aidan discussed the Amarna letters, which uniquely give 2-way information of correspondence between the 18th dynasty pharaohs Amenhotep lll and Akhenaten and their royal contemporaries; of which corresponding, contemporary records exists outside of Egypt.

It was a great day, well spent with Aidan and the Kemet Klub, and once again there was much to learn and much covered – generously provisioned with many scrumptious and delicious cakes provided by the Kemet Klub.  Thank you everyone, a worthwhile day all round.

Posted in Dr. Aidan Dodson, The Kemet Klub, University of Bristol

Sir John Soane’s Museum – Lincoln Inn Fields, London

I have just enjoyed a special weekend in London, spent with some dear friends from Australia.  We had limited time, but I could think of no better place to take them than to the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.  This is, without doubt, my favourite museum and is a wondrous cornucopia of, what feels like to me, idiosyncrasy and mania.

Sir John Soane was a ‘rags-to-riches story; and he became a successful and wealthy architect, who designed the Bank of England and many more splendid buildings.  He also spent his life and wealth indulging his passion for collecting ancient artefacts; which he did with great dedication and success; and the highlight of which is the unique and very beautiful alabaster sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti l of the 19th dynasty of the New Kingdom.

I had booked a guided tour of the museum and it was fabulous. My friends were fascinated and enchanted, and have since gone home to tell many of their own friends about it
– advising them that, should they find themselves in London, they too must make time for the delightful, curious, stuffed-full and unique home of a very interesting character – Sir John Soane.

We went on to enjoy lunch, a visit around the British Museum (where they asked I show them the Egyptian sections) and finished our day with drinks outside a restaurant in the lovely spring sunshine – and I was very pleased with the day I had given them.

However, without doubt, the highlight was the Sir John Soane’s Museum.  And as I have been known to say many times – if you have not been – then do go; you will love it!

Posted in British Museum - London, Museums and Visits, Sir John Soane Museum

The Senenmut Ceiling by Dr. Bernadette Brady

Senenmut Ceiling

Following on from the last month’s  great lecture on Senenmut,
Dr Bernadette Brady of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David came to talk at the Egyptian Society Taunton about the wonderful and beautiful Senenmut Ceiling.

Bernadette began by reminding us of how knowledgeable of the heavens were the ancient Egyptians – without which the pyramids could never have been built with such incredible accuracy; describing them them as ‘astronomy in stone’.

Discussing the Northern and Southern halves of the ceiling, we were taken on a fascinating celestial journey through the Stars Clocks and the seasons, stars and constellations, the duat and the decans; the  ‘Imperishable’ and ‘Wearying’ Stars.  And she finished by discussing Senenmut’s connections with Hatshepsut – and the tantalising indications of it to be found within the complex images on the ceiling.

This is the 3rd time I have heard Bernadette lecture, and as always, she was a riveting and compelling speaker.  She left me feeling in awe; of the incredible ancient Egyptians, our (to me) unfathomable heavens, and of Bernadette herself; clearly an expert in her field, she shares her vast knowledge so easily.  I do recommend her – do go to hear her speak if you have the opportunity – you will not be disappointed.

Posted in Dr. Bernadette Brady, Egyptian Society Taunton, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

In the Age of the Pyramids: Egypt during the Old Kingdom with Lucia Gahlin

Following directly on from Lucia Gahlin’s previous course ‘Macro to Micro’ in this 6 lecture course we were taken through life ‘In the Age of the Pyramids: Egypt during the Old Kingdom’.
Lucia broke this course into:
Settlement Archaeology – Towns, villages and settlements; Religious Archaeology – Shrines and Temples; and Funerary Archaeology of the Old Kingdom.  This has to be one of the most fascinating period of the entire 3000 years of Egyptian Empire and Lucia certainly delivered!

Beginning with transition from Khasekhemwy (last pharaoh of the 2nd Dynasty) to the pharaoh Netjerikhet;  now more commonly referred to as Djoser, the 1st pharoah of the 3rd Dynasty and builder of the world’s first pyramid, we studied the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom.

We looked at their pyramids and pyramids fields; the elite and their cemeteries, often clustering around the royal funerary monuments (and in particular, those of the fantastic 4th Dynasty and the Great Pyramids at Giza); and the various changes in monumental funerary architecture across the period.

Lucia discussed the excavations in the area on the Red Sea Coast at Ayn Sukhna (Suez area), in the southern Sinai Peninsula and the Northern part of the Eastern Desert (Wadi Araba).  Here, the ancient port of Wadi el Jarf revealed finds which date to the reign of Khufu (which may have been put in place during the reign of Sneferu), and provided evidence for the transportation of limestone, copper and turquoise from Sinai to the Nile Valley via the Red Sea.  How they built and stored their boats and how this port was of primary importance to importing materials and goods for the building of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza.

We were introduced to plans and monuments of settlements up and down Egypt, including the desert settlements.  There were discussion of defenses and fortifications of the borders – especially those on the border of Nubia in the south

The proved to be an extremely comprehensive course which went into the detail of life during the Old Kingdom and was brilliant!  However, having enjoyed 2 back to back lectures over the last 12 weeks, I now feel the need to stop and absorb all the fascinating insights Lucia has given us into what living in Egypt during those periods must have been.

Lucia and the Kemet Klub have done it yet again.  Thanks everyone!

Posted in Lucia Gahlin, The Kemet Klub, University College of London - UCL

Senenmut by Dr Campbell Price – Curator of Egypt and the Sudan, Manchester Museum, University of Manchester

Today, we at the Egyptian Society, and D.A.S Exeter enjoyed the most marvelous talk on Senenmut; given by Dr. Campbell Price.  I had seen him give on-line lectures for Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and had enjoyed them very much, yet this was even better.  And in spite of having heard a lecture on the subject only very recently, Campbell managed to made it feel entirely fresh and ‘new’.

Campbell delivered the talk on this ‘man in the life of Hatshepsut’ with infectious enthusiasm.  He told us of the man himself: his elevation within the court and his intriguing ‘relationship’ with the Female King and her daughter, Princess Neferrura; of his many statues and monuments; and of his two Theban tombs: a Tomb Chapel and his burial chamber which goes a long way underground and it seems intentionally located so very ‘close up and personal’  under Hatshepsut’s cult temple.

Campbell recounted the attempted removal of Hatshepsut’s memory from history – and many of Senenmut’s memorials in the process.  A puzzling end to a fascinating story – delivered with great style and enthusiasm.

It was an afternoon very well spent – thank Campbell, please come again!

Posted in Devon Archaeological Society - Exeter, Dr. Campbell Price, Egyptian Society Taunton, Manchester Museum