Thursday, November 18, 2010

Update: Results of the Oleson Lecture!

Salve - Spartacurtus here!  I received the following email from the SWTAS regarding their upcoming lectures. She asking for input regarding the upcoming lectures. I encourage you to voice your opinion!
The results of the Oleson lecture are in: he will be speaking on Herodotus, Aristotle, and Sounding Weights: The Deep Sea as a Frontier in the Classical World. Thanks to all who voted.

I have one final vote for next semester's speaker, and that is for the talk to be delivered by Dr. Lanny Bell, April 6th. 
He offers 6(!) topics, all of which are described in greater detail below.
IF you are an AIA member -- or, motivated by this notice, you plan to send in a membership application within the month -- and you have a preference for one of these six lectures, please let Nicolle Hirschfeld, Classical Studies, Trinity University (210) 999 -7125 know by Mon 29 Nov. 
Simply tell her one of these below:
Magic of Writing
Popular and Profane
Divine Kingship
Theban tombs 

If you are not an AIA member, please consider becoming one. But in any case, please feel free to continue attending the lectures, and inviting friends or family whom you think would enjoy hearing a real live archaeologist talking about his/her research.

Please bookmark our website for updates about lectures and other activities (fieldtrip, AIA Annual Meetings, volunteer opportunities):

Finally, I am beginning to plan for 2011-12. If there are archaeological topics or areas of the world which you would like to see included, please let me know. It costs approximately $1000 to bring in a lecturer; one of our wonderful members has already offered to sponsor one lecture next year. If you would like to sponsor all or part of a lecture, please let me know. 

Very finally, we would like to hire a professional to help us revamp our website. Please send me suggestions for the website and/or recommendations for a web-designer. Donations toward this project are also welcome.
Thanks! Nicolle

Nicolle Hirschfeld, Classical Studies, Trinity University 210.999.7125

You have received this notice because you are subscribed to the SWTAS mailing list. This list will not be shared with any other individual or organization. It will never be sent with attachments. To UNSUBCRIBE from this mailing list, please contact me. 

The Magic of Art and Writing in Ancient Egypt
Writing literally was an art in ancient Egypt; on the other hand, art was also, strictly speaking, hieroglyphic—in that images were employed not merely as decoration, but as symbols intended to convey ideas.  Writing (text) and art (iconography) were intimately related: they were complementary, each explaining, illustrating, or generally elaborating the other.  Hieroglyphs are among the symbols used in works of art, and we need to study the grammar and vocabulary of this art to learn to “read” the iconography of scenes as surely as we would read a text.  The magical power of representations, as well as the spoken or written word, consisted in the fact that the outer form or appearance of an item determined its true being or reality; and the whole essence or nature of a thing was revealed in its name.  Control over an object or being might be achieved through the recitation of its name, as surely as by the imitation of its shape; conversely, the absolute destruction of the person or thing resulted from doing away with the name or image.  The most abstract cosmogony describes the Creation by Ptah through the Word or Utterance, expressed in the assigning and speaking of names.  The possession of a secret or hidden name was a means of preserving one’s identity and independence, as in the myth of Isis and the Secret Name of Re.  The power of representations, as well as the word explains the phenomenon of defacements and replacements on monuments.  In historical contexts, the Egyptians observed that things change, but they always remain essentially the same.  They seem to have been particularly interested in the repetition of events, those that conformed to mythological prototypes, as established at the Beginning of Time—these were real.  Other occurrences that were random (i.e., unpredictable or unique)—those unusual, distinctive, or specific events with which we are particularly concerned on the 6:00 news or in our morning newspaper—these were unreal and were normally not worth recording or commemorating.  The Egyptians saw the course of history against a mythological background dominated by certain fundamental themes; actual events were particular instances of great movements or tendencies.  So the victor gets to write the history, and we must be extremely cautious about taking any report or representation too literally.                
Tutankhamun: The Life and Death of a God King
The Son of the Sun, Tutankhamun (1334-1325 BCE) was a god in his own time; but he was also a mortal on earth.  While the contents of his tomb tell us a great deal about his divine status, what do they tell us about his life and death—his human side?  What did he really look like?  Who were his parents?  How did he die, and how old was he?  Who controlled him while he was on the throne?  Did he have any children?  What role did his widow Ankhesenamun attempt to play in the selection of the next king?  What was his relationship with his successor, the aged Aye.  Did Aye switch tombs with him?  Why was his tomb equipment so richly provided, including personal gifts donated by important officials and courtiers; and where did it all come from?  The new traveling Tutankhamun exhibitions present an occasion to reexamine some of these issues, even though many of them are not yet completely resolved.

Popular and Profane Experiences with the Sublime: The Temple as a Social and Cultural Focus in Egypt
One’s first impression of an Egyptian temple is that it was the exclusive domain of the gods, the king, and the priests.  The distinguishing characteristic of the temple precinct is that it circumscribed and limited architecturally a site that was regarded as fundamentally unlike the mundane space into which it was set; for the temple was constructed precisely at the interface between the sacred and the profane.  This boundary was described symbolically in the consecration of the very ground on which the temple was erected, and concretely by a series of imposing, progressively more restrictive enclosure walls which surrounded and protected it.  The sanctuary was located mythologically at the exact center of the Universe, where the Primordial Event of Creation had occurred; here the earthly or temporal world and the divine celestial and infernal worlds met and were linked via a miraculous portal.  In such a cosmic setting, what role could the ordinary population possibly play?  And yet temples were formally designated as “places of supplication and hearing the petitions of gods and humans.”  The temple was not irrelevant to daily life; in fact, it was fully integrated into the life of the surrounding community.  The lecture examines human aspects of the New Kingdom temple (1570-1070 BCE).  Because of the focus that the temple provided in their lives, the people of Egypt have always been active on its peripheries.  In antiquity they even participated in public processions during annual festivals, when they were introduced into the less restricted courtyards and ceremonial halls of the temple.  In the role of “congregation,” they took part as both adorers and witnesses to the dramatic success of the important rites conducted there.  In political terms, these festivals constituted symbolic display, staged to reinforce the king’s power and position as head of society.  Finally, it will be noted that ancient Egypt is still an important component of modern Egypt, and there has been considerable cultural continuity in the past 3500 years, particularly in the realm of folklore and popular belief.   

Napoleon and the European Discovery of Ancient Egypt
The most enduring accomplishment of the ill-fated Napoleonic Egyptian campaign of 1798-1801 was the publication of the great 19-volume Description de l’Egypte (1809-28).  The French expeditionary forces included a large contingent of skilled artists and able scholars whose assignment was the documentation of the surviving ancient and medieval monuments, as well as the flora and fauna of the country and every aspect of modern life.  The resulting excitement caught the popular imagination, producing the first major wave of Egyptomania since Roman times.  The international academic interest which was generated led to the establishment of many great Egyptological collections, museums, and research institutions around the world and the birth of modern Egyptology.  The discovery of the Rosetta Stone, of course, provided the key to the decipherment of the hieroglyphs in 1822.  But the extensive records made of the condition of the pharaonic monuments have also proved invaluable in the long term for reconstructing the architecture and decoration of temples and tombs that have since been seriously damaged or even largely destroyed.
Mythology and Iconography of Divine Kingship in Ancient Egypt
Divine kingship was one of the fundamental tenets of ancient Egyptian religion.  But how could the ancient Egyptian people really have believed their kings were living gods?  Nevertheless, they must have; for the king, the priests, and the privileged ruling elite—who would seem to us to have benefited most from this idea—could not possibly have been successful in cynically deceiving their people for more than three millennia!  In fact, few of us realize the extent that religion and politics have been inextricably intertwined in the person of the King throughout human history; the king either was a god or functioned as a divinely appointed agent of God.  Anthropologists and historians of religion have documented such phenomena in many cultures from different time periods all over the world.  In order to begin to appreciate the doctrine of the king’s divinity, we must project ourselves into the world of the ancient Egyptians and examine their beliefs from within their own cultural perspective.  A solar incarnation, the Egyptian king ruled as the Sun, manifesting its powers; and when he died, his divine spirit rejoined the Sun, while his transfigured body was buried in a tomb where the drama of the sun’s nightly rebirth was reenacted.  By the time of the New Kingdom (1570-1070 BCE), the dogma of divine kingship exhibited a high degree of sophistication.  The King was the physical offspring of the Creator by a human woman—the Mother of God.  The lecture investigates several symbolic representations of the king’s divinity.  The Hellenistic and Roman empires adopted many features of Egyptian iconography, and bequeathed them to the West—particularly through the efforts of the Church Fathers of Alexandria, as they struggled to explain the nature of Jesus the Christ as both Son of Man and Son of God.  Essentially, there were always two kings on the Throne of Horus at the same time.  First there was the mortal king, who had gained control of the throne and ruled from it on behalf of humankind; as High Priest, he made offerings to the gods for his subjects’ sake.  Then there was the abstract King, a theological conception and political symbol, who was regarded as the living incarnation of immortal Kingship; as heir and successor to the gods on earth, he was the recipient of his own offerings.  Normally, these two aspects of divine kingship were represented in a single god-man, a hybrid being with two natures—uniquely and ideally suited to be the Intermediary between the human and divine worlds.

The Romance of Archaeology—NOT!: The University of Pennsylvania Museum’s Theban Tomb Project
The unpublished Ramesside private tombs at Dira Abu el-Naga South are located on a ridge along the road running between Hatshepsut’s Temple at Deir el-Bahari and the Valley of the Kings.  This site has been investigated previously by two University Museum expeditions.  There, in large rock-cut tombs with commanding views of the whole Theban plain, were buried some of the most powerful officials of the realm under Ramesses II (1270-1212 BCE) and his immediate successors; these noblemen include three High Priests of Amun-Re of Karnak, a Third Prophet, two Viceroys of Kush, and two Commandants of the Troops of Kush.  A tier of much smaller tombs of lesser officials, mostly priests, is located on a lower terrace.  The abandoned tombs were inhabited into modern times, first by Christian monks and then by Muslim villagers.  The lecture will concentrate on excavation techniques, the architecture and decoration of the tombs, and efforts undertaken on behalf of their restoration and conservation.  Some of the most significant artifacts associated with the use and reuse of the tombs will be featured. 

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