Egyptomania

One of the most captivating topics presented during this week’s readings is “Egyptomania”. The reading by Hassan (2010) discusses the role of “Egyptomania”, specifically within American culture.  Americans have long been fascinated by Egypt and this fascination has saturated almost every aspect of American culture from architecture and movies, to advertising.  However, this deep fascination and curiosity about ancient Egypt has led to misunderstanding, at best, and erroneous historical insights at worst.  Hassan sums this falsification best with the following quote:

 

“We have lost sight of Egypt so many times and have cast its character in the theater of history in various roles ranging from Hermes, a champion of wisdom, to Aïda in an opera about love and nationalism, but now we risk reducing  Egypt to statuettes of cats and lunatic fabrications to sell books and produce TV ‘documentaries’” (2010:268).

 

With this week’s readings and the aforementioned quote as perspective, I began to think about the role of archaeology in the culture of “Egyptomania”.  Archaeologists are in a unique position to offer a less biased position on Egyptian history.  The vast majority of movies, literature, and media culture offer incredibly biased views regarding ancient Egypt.  Even a large quantity of early historical texts discussing Egyptian history were penned by foreigners visiting the region and writing on very limited observations of the landscape, culture and people, such as Herodotus and Plato (class lecture 09/11/12).  Archaeological studies, however, are uniquely situated to provide a more well-informed subset of information regarding Egypt’s past.  Therefore, it is important to incorporate archaeological findings into the current history of Egypt as well as use these findings as a foundation for the construction of a more unbiased understanding of the country as a whole.  Using archaeological studies as a guide, we can begin to unite Egypt’s past and the present by implementing a less biased and ethnocentric approach.