‘Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt’ – Dr. Chris Naunton: Hosted by Taunton Literary Festival and the Egyptian Society Taunton

The Egyptian Society Taunton joined Brendon Books for the 8th Taunton Literary Festival 2018 and we were delighted to have Dr Chris Naunton as our guest speaker for the event.

With his usual relaxed and friendly manner Chris talked to us about the perennial questions regarding ancient ‘Lost Tombs of Egypt’ – those which might yet be found.
Beginning by looking into why Egyptologists suspect there are many more to be found, he took us through the known Pharaohs and Queens – listing those whose tombs have not yet been discovered.

Chris showed how Egypt has provided the world with some of the most sensational archaeological discoveries in history: from Tutankhamun, to the ‘Royal Cache’ and the secret reburial of the mummies of pharaohs like Ramesses the Great.

We might think that there couldn’t possibly be any more discoveries like this, that archaeologists have surely found everything there is to find; however, Chris then went on to say that this is not the case.  He showed that large areas of even the most famous archaeological sites, such as the Valley of Kings, Saqqara, and Alexandria remain unexplored and the tombs of some of the great ancients; such celebrities as Imhotep, Nefertiti, Cleopatra and Alexander the Great, have never been found.

He talked at length about the dramatic Amarna Period, when on the death of Akhenaten his legacy was deliberately, all but destroyed, and therefore, there are tombs in the area of Amarna yet to be established.

The talk was fabulous!  Chris is an excellent and engaging speaker and the event was a great success, after which Chris was very happy to sit and sign the many copies of his book that were sold as part of the day.

The committee of the Egyptian Society Taunton with Dr. Chris Naunton

Thank you Chris – we very much look forward to having you back with us here at Taunton.

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Female Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt – Prof Aidan Dodson

Once again, we had an interesting visit by Aidan Dodson, this time talking to us about the female pharaohs of ancient Egypt, as apposed to the Great Royal Wives of the male Pharaohs.

Hatshepsut is a very well-known ‘Female King’, however, there are more than just this one example across the centuries of the ancient empire.
During the history of ancient Egypt, four women are known to have assumed the full titles of a king – Sobekneferu, Hatshepsut, Neferneferuaten and Tawosret.

In his presentation Aidan detailed their careers and reputations, and explores the reasons for their assumption of the normally-male office of king.

It was a different look at the powers behind the thrones in ancient Egypt – and very illuminating; and as the last lecture of the season, gave us a great deal to ponder about women in positions of power.  Great stuff!

Thanks again Aidan, we look forward to your next visit.

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Digital Saqqara: A New View of the Late Period/Early Ptolemaic Sacred Animal Landscape of North Saqqara – by Scott Williams

Scott came to speak  at Taunton, recommended by Prof. Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University.  Combining his different areas of expertise, Scott had recently digtalised Saqqara during the Ptolemaic Period

He began by recounting that the site at North Saqqara has a history of use dating back over 5000 years, and the site represents the principal necropolis of Memphis, once the capital of ancient Egypt.  During the Late (747-332 BC) and Ptolemaic (332-30 BC) Periods, the necropolis served not only for human burials, but the northern area of the site became a nexus for the burials of millions of sacred animals.

Scott explained that although detailed research has been undertaken on the sacred animal funerary installations, the wider sacred landscape has been overlooked.

During his talk Scott talked of the relationship between the sacred animal monuments, the topography and their place in the sacred landscape – all of which has been made possible through the application of 3D digital technologies and his brilliant representation of Saqqara and the area around the Serapeum.

It was a brilliant talk – his images were captivating and brought ancient necropolis alive and right up to date – in a way that nothing else could achieve.

Fabulous Scott – I do hope to hear you speak again and soon, Thanks.

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Mummies of the Manchester Museum by Dr Campbell Price

800px-The_Manchester_Museum (1)Campbell is one of my very favourite speakers – lively, energetic, enthusiastic and informative; and as Curator of the Manchester Museum is in the perfect position to give us a great insight in the Museum which holds some 20 mummies and coffins.

In this lecture Campbell presented the latest research on aspects of this collection for the understanding of ancient Egyptian expectations about the afterlife.

Campbell illustrated some of the highlights of the mummy collection and gave us some fascinating insights into the research and what exactly was revealed by it – much of it most unexpected, some of it amusing, and all of it fabulous.

This was a great lecture – typical of Campbell’s style, and which me wanting more!  Come again Campbell – please!

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Art for the Afterlife: Tomb Paintings in the British Museum by Lucia Gahlin

This meeting was held in Exeter at the Devon Archaeological Society, where once again, Lucia has delivered an excellent lecture.   For this talk, Lucia talked about art for the afterlife – focusing on tomb paintings now in the British Museum.

800px-TombofNebamun-2The Ancient Egyptian élite of the New Kingdom (c.1550 – 1069 BC) had elaborate scenes painted on the walls of their rock cut tombs on the West Bank at Luxor.  Highlighting the famous and beautiful 18th dynasty Theban tomb of Nebamun Lucia discussed how they portrayed their idea of paradise, and how they hoped to be remembered and sustained for eternity.   Magic and art combined to create a sacred space for rebirth into the ‘Other World’.

Lucia discussed the meaning of these colourful tomb paintings.  She showed us some wonderful examples of extremely fine ancient Egyptian art, and how they came to be in the British Museum.  She also went into detail to explain and enlighten us on the themes found in non-royal funerary art of the New Kingdom.

As always with Lucia, I enjoyed every word and just loved the examples she chose and what I learned from them – thank Lucia, Look forward to hearing you again.

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Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey – by Kris Strutt:

New Discoveries and Challenges in Mapping the Changing Nile Floodplain at Thebes:

800px-Nile_Flood_plain_limits_(2009)Kris came to our group to give us an entirely different sort of lecture – based around the Textual and archaeological resources of the movement of the Nile and how is has migrated across the floodplain over the last 4000 years; changing its relationship with temple and harbour sites on both banks.

Using us his data from the recent geophysical and topographic survey methods Kris showed us how the survey for the project investigated the changing pattern of waterways and related building complexes, assessing how the landscape functioned through time.

Results of the project have revealed a complex record of changing channel migration; and a relationship between the temples of the West Bank & the proximity of ancient channels of the Nile.  It was quite fascinating to see the changes.

Kris also outlined the survey methodology, some of the latest results, and told us of some of the methodological challenges revealed by the project.

Whilst this talk could have been rendered dry and academic, Kris more than successfully avoided this and instead delivered a truly fascinating, different and broad-ranged talk.

Thanks Kris – hope we can hear you again one day – and soon.

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Egyptian Hieroglyphs – Maiken Mosleth King, Bristol University

I have just undertaken and completed the above course, and how very challenging it proved to be!  Maiken put together a great course, and even though a complete novice in the subject, I enjoyed it, learned and lot; and above all, realised how very complicated are Egyptian Hieroglyphics – and how very much more there is to learn!!

I take my hat off the all those who can read and understand the texts.  I especially raise it to Jean-François Champollion, who in 1822, using the then recently found Rosetta Stone, (written in 3 different languages: ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics, ancient Egyptian Demotic, and classical Greek) was finally able to finally break the secret of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Building on some of the texts interpreted by other early linguists, and using his extensive knowledge of languages, including Greek and ancient Egyptian Coptic, Champollion finally succeeded in breaking the code of hieroglyphics – a lost language for around 2000 years. Incredibly, only 2 years later, he published ‘Summary of the Hieroglyphics System’, and the world could finally begin to translate, interpret and understand the fabulous, long-lost world of ancient Egypt!

Clearly the world of Ancient Egypt owes a great deal to those early people, and especially to Jean-François Champollion!  Well done, that man!!

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Reflections on Queen Tiye – Dr. Robert Morkot, University of Exeter

Dr Robert Morkot came up from Exeter to talk to us about Queen Tiye – and it was a really good and informative lecture.

Amenhotep III’s Great Royal Wife is one of the most prominent of Egyptian Queens; and Robert posed the questions: ‘What do we know about her?’ and ‘What do we know of her role in this most important of reigns?’   And I soon realised that I knew less than I thought I knew!

Robert took us first through her family tree; what is known and the theories of her origins.  He then took us through what is known of her life, and the influence and what power she had as the Great Royal Wife of the mightiest pharaoh – Amenhotep lll of the mightiest Dynasty – the 18th, in the 3000 years of Empire.

In his talk, Robert also considered the temples built for her, by Amenhotep lll – one of the most prolific and greatest builders in the history of ancient Egypt; and her iconography, which continued to influence images and attitudes of queens in succeeding dynasties and for years to come.

A fascinating and insightful lecture – thank you very much Robert.

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Images of Eternity – Dr. Campbell Price, Manchester Museum

This was yet another great day; hosted by the Kemet Klub in Bristol, with the terrific Campbell Price, talking about ancient Egyptian statuary; one of his favourite subjects and areas.

Seated Scribe – Saqqara

In his own lively, enthusiastic style he took us through the centuries of statuary and imagery of Ancient Egypt – informing us of the meanings, the changes in style, intention and beliefs inherent in the making of images and statues; along with the eternal expectations for them.

Campbell gave us a day full of new learning, delivered in his usual bouncing, enthusiastic way.  And adding to this really enjoyable day – the usual coffee and cakes were dished out in very generous quantities by the ladies of the Kemet Klub.

Thank Campbell and the Kemet Klub for another lovely, and very informative course.

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‘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!

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