Guidelines for Site Report (and using the Class Wiki)

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As promised, here is the info for the course wiki (http://classwiki.matrix.msu.edu) and for the archaeological site report.

Firs, the guidelines for the archaeological site report.  Generally speaking, I would like it to include the following sections/content:

  • Intro
  • Introduction to location, geography, geology, setting, etc.
  • Discussion of excavations – both past and present
  • Results and significance of excavations
  • Conclusion – importance of site & excavations, how it fits into overall egyptian archaeology (and related to other similar sites), etc.

In terms of sources, I far prefer archaeological and egyptological sources (articles, books, book chapters, websites, etc written by actual archaeologists and egyptologists) as opposed to sources that write about the site from a generally uninformed or casual perspective.  I don’t care whether the sources are digital or physical.  Sources such as wikipedia, about.com, dictionary.com, etc, etc, etc are not not acceptable (wikipedia is always a good place to start, but it isn’t an acceptable authoritative source).  I would suggest looking to Google books as they seem to have digitized a lot of the early (early 20th century) Egpyptian archaeological sources.

Also, I’ve prepared a short (quick and dirty) screencast tutorial on working with the course wiki:

Wiki Tutorial

Also, here is a handy-dandy guide/cheat sheet for wiki formatting:

http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Help:Formatting

Its also likely that you’ll be including images in your site report (remember, images have to be cited as well).  Here is an intro on how you can do that:

http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Help:Images

Bonus Blog Entry

Over the semester we covered pretty much everything I would expect to cover in an Egyptian archaeology class. However, I feel that discussion of some pseudo-archaeology may have been appropriate. As I understand it, there is an entire course on this subject so it may not seem economical to cover it twice. But I feel that it still applies to our conversations in the class. We spoke about misconceptions of Egypt, and the effects of Egyptomania and these forms of pseudo-arch are a direct extension of that. My only other suggestion is in regards to the blog entries. I enjoyed the format and purpose of the blogs, but I feel that they may have served more of a purpose for the class if they were given a little more direction. For example a chosen prompt on which to write that corresponds to a specific idea covered in class. We were given liberty to pick a topic that we found interesting, yet that applied to our conversations about Egypt, and I think that was fine. It could be perhaps an option for those who can’t find anything better to comment on. But all in all the class was fun and enjoyable, and I gained plenty of useful knowledge (pertinent even to my field, as my final paper can attest to.)

Bonus Blog

I know it would not be very academic but one area or topic I wished we would have learned about or I would have looked into further is the Mythology that sometimes goes along with ancient Egyptian archaeology.  Just rumors and whether they are true or not and what crazy people started them in the first place.  I really did enjoy this class though.  I learned alot from the lectures and readings.  But also new ideas and ways of thinkings from the other students in class by reading and responding to blogs every week.  I hope everyone took as much away from this class as did.  Good Luck to everyone next semester or who are graduating!

Bonus Blog

I think that the most important aspect of Egyptian archaeology that we discussed in class is the pyramids. Besides being enormous feats of architectural genius for the time period, these structures offered a fairly steady time table with which to follow religious practices as well as pharaonic reigns. What they contain gives a clue to what was important to the people and also the royalty. The villages surrounding these pyramids that housed the workers who built it also gives a window into what life was like for the everyday Egyptian. The size and structure of a pyramid gives a hint as to how successful, wealthy, and powerful said ruler was. These structures have stood the test of time unlike any other and will continue to be a shining symbol for all to recognize the world that was and is Egypt.

Bonus Blog: The Nile River

I believe that the most important aspect of Egyptian archaeology is the Nile River. Without the Nile, this society would have failed to existed from the beginning. ‘The Gift of the Nile’ was Heroditus’ nickname for Egypt. Its inundations provided a lifeline for the citizens of ancient Egypt and allowed the society to pursue agriculture, advancing the growth of the empire. The Nile River also allowed Egyptians to access simple trade routes via boat, a practice that continued to lead to the expansion of Egypt throughout the centuries. The Nile River is also particularly interesting because of its historical implications. The Bible has stories of the Nile turning red and the floods that occurred.

Another aspect of the Nile River’s importance that is often overlooked is its use as a means of keeping track of time. Through the use of a Nilometer, a structure with marked points that the water would reach during inundation, Egyptians were not only able to create a decently accurate calendar for their time but also able to predict the floods that would occur to focus their activities around this process.

The Nile also created the Nile River Delta, a large patch of fertile land that Egyptians were able to exploit and use for agriculture. They were able to cultivate anything from wheat to fruit to barley that was used to create beer. This delta housed the locations of many of the most important cities in Egypt and allowed for the expansion of the empire outward as the years progressed. The Nile also allowed Egyptians to fish for meat and obtain necessary nutrients in the middle of the desert.

While it can easily be said that Egypt would not have existed without the Nile, it cannot be more simply put. For this reason, I believe that the Nile River is by far the most significant and important factor in Egyptian archaeology.

 

The Importance of Ethnicity

The most important topic that we covered in my opinion, was the concept of identity in Egypt. We briefly touched on the fact that Egyptians had isolated themselves for several centuries and had limited contact with those outside of their world. We begin to see the formation of an ethnic identity when foreigners began to interact with the Egyptians during the Middle Kingdom, as ethnicity is partially self ascription and partially an awareness of the how outsiders view oneself. The depictions of these foreign people are found on the walls of Egyptian tombs and temples. As immigrants migrated into Egypt and took on roles in the community scholars note the adoption of Egyptian cultural practices by those immigrants. This adoption of cultural practices creates an interesting discussion on what it means to be Egyptian and how we as anthropologists should determine ethnicity for an individual and a population.

This topic of the concept of ethnicity was the catalyst to my research paper where I was able to look deeper at the archaeological evidence of the interactions between the people at the border area between Nubia and Egypt.  This territorial area was not unique as there were likely similar cultural interactions between the eastern and western borders of Egypt as well as across the Mediterranean Sea. The extensive Hellenization of Egypt also illustrates how identity of individuals, communities and the entire region continuously evolves.

The ties to higher theoretical questions about Egyptian life in this time period are incredible important to consider. While studying the history of Egyptian anthropology scholars are now beginning to study the history of what it meant to be Egyptian. Both of these histories are incredibly dynamic and complex, but shed so much light on what life was like and how these people saw themselves and their foreign neighbors.

Bonus Blog

Over the course of this class we have learned about many interesting topics in Egyptian archaeology. Though everything covered in the course was of great importance, I personally believe the subject of language and its role in ancient Egypt was of particular importance. With great archaeological discoveries such as the Rosetta Stone and other pieces of text, the language of the ancient Egyptians has been preserved and a great deal has contributed to the understanding of the people of the ancient world.

The Rosetta Stone, currently residing in the British Museum, has been the greatest and most informative preserved text of the past, providing the world with three translations of the decree of the king. The text was written in hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. With the many exchanges of power over Egypt, language also changed and some forms of writing died out. This document is one of the only existing translations of the ancient Egyptian language thanks to the Greeks. Though the information in the document itself is not of huge significance to the history of the ancient Egyptians, the translation into Greek has helped scholars unlock lost scripts of the ancient world. Without this key to the past, it would be almost impossible for archaeologists and other researchers to decipher other surviving documents and texts that appears on the walls of ancient tombs and other significant archaeological remains. Not knowing much about the language of the ancient Egyptians would leave many mysteries of the past unsolved. If not for the Greeks and their contribution to the Rosetta Stone, a great deal of archaeological information would have been lost or misinterpreted. I believe that language and the role it plays in Egyptian archaeology has had a significant impact on the field of study and without it, the history of the ancient Egyptians would be completely skewed. I myself have seen the Rosetta Stone in person and it was astonishing to me to be standing in front of such an important piece of history. It is incredible to be able to experience such a great part of the past and get the full sense of its importance to the history of the world.

Bonus Blog: The Importance of Script and Language

After the semester’s worth of knowledge I have acquired from this anthropology course, I personally believe script and language to be the most important aspects of Ancient Egyptian archaeology. Without the preservation of the Egyptian language, the archaeology of the whole area would be FAR less developed than it is today. Together, language and script have put everything we know about Ancient Egypt into context as opposed to just placement in horizontal stratification.

One of the key factors in deciphering chronology for example, are the king lists carved into the walls of desert ruins. These king lists literally chart the succession of pharaohs in the Ancient Empire complete with gaps suggesting periods of embarrassment in reference to a specific ancestral line or time frame. With the ability to associate meaning with hieroglyphs archaeologists have been able to develop an understanding of the Ancient Egyptian culture in not only modern terms, but of those pertaining to the actual citizens of the time. The ability to understand a culture within its own context has always been a core priority in the field of anthropology, and archaeological finds including king lists have aided the study of Ancient Egypt extensively.

Another example perfectly demonstrating the value of language and script in terms of Ancient Egyptian Archaeology is, of course, the internationally known, Rosetta Stone. The analysis of Ancient Greek to Demotic then Hieroglyphs marked a huge turning point in the study of the Ancient Empire. The successful translation of the Rosetta Stone allowed archaeologists to place a value or meaning with hieroglyphs, which of course allowed those studying Egypt to acquire a much more robust knowledge of the civilization. Without the Rosetta Stone translation, the knowledge and understanding, and thus the society as we know i now would not have been possible.

The examples I mentioned above are only to that exist among a slew of other cases in which script and language prove themselves as imperative aspects to archaeological study. For this reason, I believe that script and language to be validated as the most critical aspect of Ancient Egyptian archaeology.

Final Post

My personal favorite topic of discussion in Egyptian archaeology dealt with the socio-political structure of ancient Egypt.  I chose this as my favorite topic because it has particular relevance for my future dissertation research.  For my dissertation I will be assessing trauma frequencies in a medieval cemetery from Nubia.  I also chose to write about the relationship between interpersonal violence and political instability in ancient Egypt and Nubia.  While doing my final paper research it was imminent to have a good understanding of the socio-political structure of Egypt in order to fully understand the fluctuating frequencies of traumatic injury within archaeological sites dating to different time periods.  What I discovered in my research is that there is a high correlation between high levels of interpersonal violence in Nubia and times of political instability in Egypt.  My research assessed archaeological sites from the Naqada II period (Hierakonpolis) all the way into the late Christian period (Kulubnarti) and I was able to link the fluctuating trauma frequencies reported from the archaeological record to the socio-political context of each particular time period.  For example, at the site of Hierakonpolis, dating to Naqada II, the rate of interpersonal violence was not particularly high, which was unsurprising as the cemetery population I was analyzing preceded the intensification of state formation in Egypt.  Likewise, when assessing the data from the city of Kerma, a Nubian sample dating to the Kerma Classique period, a high rate of traumatic injury was clearly observed.  Again, this trauma frequency correlated nicely with the ethnographic evidence of warfare and direct hostility between Egypt and Nubia which we discussed in class.  Overall, this class has helped give me a better understanding of ancient Egypt and its southern neighbor, Nubia.  This knowledge will contribute greatly to my future research on violence in Nubia.

Bonus Blog: Archaeologists and Context

I think the most important thing we covered throughout the class was the archaeologists who made these Egyptian findings and what they brought to the field. If they actually destroyed sites with ineptitude or in their rush to carry off sparkling treasures, I think it was important to frame great finds with the methods and intent of the people who were responsible. From times where there was a race to snatch treasures from the hands of other “archaeologists” to return them to the proper home country to times where new methods and respect for the modern nation of Egypt have led to new discoveries.

Going more in depth with the tomb of Tutankhamen from an archaeological perspective rather than a popular perspective provided a helpful contrast for me. Howard Carter made detailed drawings of the arrangement of items in Tutankhamen’s tomb which were especially meaningful since the tomb was undisturbed. However, the media was still heavily involved in this finding, leading to the mummy’s popularity. Maybe that means the site is especially well documented, but it also might mean that the focus of Howard Carter was more on the fame he would receive from the find than the effects the find would have in academia.

We spend a lot of time talking about the context of a find in time and place as far as the site goes, and I think the context surrounding its discovery is equally important. It reflects on the interpretations of the archaeologists and what may have been lost for one thing to be found. This is especially true for early archaeologists when there weren’t professional, accepted practices, but it can be applied today as well.  Archaeologists from many nations still dig in Egypt and have different things invested in the results of their dig. The Egyptian government oversees everything, and this only further complicates who all is involved for better or worse.

Bonus Blog: Importance of Mortuary Practices

The average person has at least a small amount of knowledge of ancient Egyptian history and culture, but what they do not know, is that this awareness came majorly from material artifacts recovered from tomb excavations. Though this idea seems to be repeated by anyone who has a passion for the field, it is still remarkable to me the amount of history literally written on the walls. The Egyptians were known for depicting scenes of daily life, writing out funerary texts to allow for a smooth transition into the afterlife, and much more on the walls of the rooms they were to spend eternity. Because their religious rituals delegated that the deceased be buried with everything needed in the afterlife, including the majority of his/her earthly possessions, we are able to physically handle their history. This is the reason that mortuary practices could be considered the most important topic to explore in this field of research.

Ancient Egyptian mortuary practices included mummification of the deceased. This was because of a religious emphasis on the importance of the physical body in the afterlife. If this aspect of the religion was not there, mummification of the deceased would not exist, therefor much of the evidence found by research done on these mummies would not exist. Through scientific analysis, such as X-ray and CT scanning, a wealth of information has been revealed about how these individuals lived and died. According to a British Museum article on mummification, these processes of scientific analysis have made it possible to “identify conditions such as Lung Cancer, Osteoarthritis, Tuberculosis, as well as parasitic disorders”. Without these preserved mummies, modern researchers would not have nearly as much information on the life and death of ancient Egyptian civilians.

The locations of these burial sites, situated in the desert west of the Nile, with incredible arid conditions, have allowed natural preservation of these ancient cities. The ancient Egyptians were also aware of this natural process, taking advantage when developing the artificial mummification process. The primary evidence for the Predynastic period, in particular, derives from burial sites. As Alice Stevenson states in her work on “Predynastic Burials”:

     “In Upper Egypt, there is a clear trend over the period towards greater investment in mortuary facilities and rituals, experimentation in body treatments [artificial mummification], and increasing disparity in burial forms and content between a small number of elite and a larger non-elite population.”

This reiterates the fact that mortuary practices illuminate more than just religious principles of the time, but also the socioeconomic transformations that were taking place. It was through cemetery sites such as Naqada and Hierakonpolis, that the Predynastic period was even recognized and classified.

Throughout ancient history, the Egyptians paid great care and attention when handling the disposal of the dead. Again, Alice Stevenson makes a point that “there is a general tendency to interpret these mortuary contexts as simply being for the benefit of the deceased and their afterlife, but the social significance of these practices for the surviving community should be acknowledged”.

Mortuary practices go a lot deeper than a simple religious context. It represents a “competitive status display, identity expression, and social memory formation”. Through their intricate processes, modern researchers can recreate the history of this mystical and mysterious civilization.  Little did they know, individual and societal memory would last forever.

Stevenson, Alice. (2009). Predynastic Burials. UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 1(1). nelc_uee_7937. Retrieved from: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/2m3463b2