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Egyptology at the turn of the century [podcast]

On 1 November 1922, Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team of excavators began digging in a previously undisturbed plot of land in the Valley of the Kings. For decades, archaeologists had searched for the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun with no success, and that November was to be Carter’s final attempt to locate the lost treasures. What Carter ultimately discovered—the iconic sarcophagus, the mummy that inspired whispers of a curse, and the thousands of precious artifacts—would shape Egyptian politics, the field of archaeology, and how museums honor the past for years to come.

On today’s episode, we discuss the legacy of early twentieth-century Egyptology to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

First, we welcomed Bob Brier—one of the world’s foremost Egyptologist, and an expert in mummies who is one of a few scholars who have had the opportunity to investigate Tutankhamun’s mummy—as he discusses his new book Tutankhamun and the Tomb that Changed the World and the 100 years of research that have taken place since the tomb’s discovery. We then spoke with Peter Der Manuelian, the author of Walking Among Pharaohs: George Reisner and the Dawn of Modern Egyptology, to discuss Reisner’s life, the rise of American Archaeology in Egypt, and the archeological field’s involvement in nationalism and colonialism.

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Recommended reading

To learn more about the themes raised in this podcast, we’re pleased to share a selection of free-to-read chapters and articles:

Earlier on the OUPblog, we shared an interactive map showing some of Reisner’s and Carter’s key discoveries. Included in the map are photos of some of the amazing artefacts as well as excerpts from Tutankhamun and the Tomb that Changed the World and Walking Among Pharaohs: George Reisner and the Dawn of Modern Egyptology.

From The Oxford Handbook of Egyptology, read about the nature of history and Egyptology.

You can read about the exploration of the Valley of the King’s prior to the late Twentieth Century in The Oxford Handbook of the Valley of the Kings.

To learn more about the phenomenon of Egyptomania that has spread through the 20th and 21st centuries, you can read a chapter from Ian Shaw’s book Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction.

Learn more about the discovery of Howard Carter’s letters confirming the theft of artefacts in this recent piece from The Guardian.

The greywacke statue of King Menkaura and the painted coffin of Djehutynakht, two of George Reisner’s discoveries mentioned by Peter Der Manuelian, can be viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Lastly, Bob Brier mentioned one of the most famous Saturday Night Live skits, Steve Martin’s “King Tut” song from 1978:

Featured image: “Howard Carter in the King Tutankhamen’s tomb, circa 1925” by Harry Burton, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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