Mummies, Pyramids, and Science!

– Egypt and Radiocarbon Dating –

I love it when a story like this comes up in the news, “BGU Scientist Sheds Light On Ancient Egypt,” (Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, The Jerusalem Post, Jun. 21, 2010).

Using all available resources to answer archeological questions is fascinating, even if we still don’t end up with a solid conclusion. Putting science to use within the confines of its capabilities is positive, rather than toying with genetic material we don’t completely understand, we can try to better understand the history we already know.

Ever since The Mummy (the 1999 Brendan Fraser version), I’ve had a soft spot for Egyptian history. Actually it dates back further than that. Long ago, my parents went to a display of King Tutankhamen’s funerary objects and bought a souvenir booklet. I remember pouring over the images as a child, alongside, oddly enough, a coffee table book on African animals and another with images of Great Britain.

“Wonderful things”

I once discussed this fascination with a friend who was likewise enamored with ancient Egypt. We came to the conclusion that along with an interest in Biblical events of the Exodus, we thought Egypt had some of the prettiest ruins of all the ancient civilizations. The latter was not a serious, academic conclusion, but people have gone on to study a subject for worse reasons than that.

Egyptian paintings, carvings, and buildings are very beautiful. They have a stylistic element; static, yet fluid and graceful that stands apart from the realism of later Greece and Rome and the frightening, super-detailed elements of Assyrian creations. I think Egypt strikes us as at once other worldly (and the ancient Egyptians certainly thought they were, hence mummies) and cosmopolitan.

“If you build it, they will come”

And yes, those Pyramids – that’s the real cause of much interest. Who would go to all that trouble? What cultural influence and ideologies pushed a man (albeit a Pharaoh who thought he was a god) to spend all that wealth, manpower, and time constructing such a memorial when he would have been off conquering half the known world as did the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans at later dates?

I guess we’ll have to wait a while for an answer to that. In the meantime, keep your historical curiosity alive and maybe someday you’ll be the one to tell us why!

– Amanda Stiver

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