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Egypt Archive

Jon Bosworth
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Reviewed by:
John Bert Lott
Vassar College
November 2004

This site presents an impressive array of modern photographs of archaeological sites and material culture from ancient Egypt. Photographs of specific monuments are organized by historical period (Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms), and by the collections of specific museums (Cairo, British, Ashmolean, Petrie and Louvre). A collection of 19th-century images of Egypt is also included.

This site is useful primarily for finding images of particular monuments for illustrations or teaching aids. The heterogeneous and selective nature of the site does not lend itself to historical or archaeological research—neither of which is listed as the purpose of the site. There is no doubt that the majority of the site’s images are of the most well known monuments of Egypt (pyramids, temples, etc.) rather than more work-a-day sites such as the humble but significant “workman’s village” of Deir el-Medina from the New Kingdom.

The images do not depict commonly photographed views of pyramids, but instead offer admirable, detailed shots of rooms, passageways, architectural oddities and related material finds. These include Vyse’s Hole on the Great Pyramid at Giza, made when an English officer, Howard Vyse, tried to uncover a lost entrance to the Great Pyramid using dynamite.

The treatment of the New Kingdom Osireion (precinct of Osiris) at Abydos is particularly useful since it contextualizes detail shots within a view of the larger complex. A map nicely contextualizes the treatment of the complex at Karnak, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The commentary that accompanies most of the photographs doesn’t include general background information, but is sufficient in many instances to help students understand what they are looking at.

The lack of detailed context and a search function means that students cannot be turned loose on this site without background information and specific instructions. Nevertheless, the site presents high-quality, detailed shots from multiple perspectives that allow for close comparison of major Egyptian monuments. I would encourage students to incorporate observations based on the images into their work.

A more detailed exercise might involve having students examine a series of images—the pyramids at Giza, for example—without any background readings. Then, students could use the images alone to postulate about the society that built them. This exercise could provide entry into discussions of economic surplus or of political hierarchy and control, for example, based on the students’ own deductions (whether correct or incorrect). I have also used a similar set of pictures in connection with a detailed textual description of a monument to demonstrate how these two ways of learning about a single site differ. I gave half the class the text and half the images and then had them present their conclusions about the site. We then discussed how and why the two groups came to different or similar conclusions.

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