City Lit Blog

Egyptology: an introductory guide

Story added 12th Oct 2017

Fascinated about Egyptology? Or simply curious about the subject?

Here, Rosalind Janssen explains why it's such a fascinating area to explore...

Egyptology - an introduction

Egyptology sounds as if it might all be about Pharaohs, tombs, and treasure, but that’s not how I know it. My own research interests resolve around the ordinary Ancient Egyptians, their everyday lives, and domestic artefacts such as pottery, household furniture, and food remains.

It is understanding the mundane daily aspects of childbirth, hooliganism, adultery and divorce, retirement and the experience of old age, and then relating it to the contemporary world that makes my brand of Egyptology so fascinating.  

If you managed to live to the age of one in Ancient Egypt you were very lucky indeed, and if you then got to a grand thirty years that was old age. Errant schoolboys were spending too much time in the local pub of an evening and drinking a lethal combination of beer and lager. Cases of adultery even saw a father and son sleeping with the same woman, while divorced women were legally entitled to take out all the property they had brought into a marriage. The Egyptian state was paying its employees pensions in grain which, being transferable to other relatives, were far more flexible than those enjoyed by retirees nowadays.

No wonder then that I often refer to what I do as ‘The Archers of Antiquity’, because when I combine the archaeological record with the daily life written texts, it gives me an amazing glimpse into the minutiae, namely the gossip and concerns of a remote era.

It’s one that is of course often different, but yet at the same time comfortingly alike.

Rosalind's Pharoah cupcakes!

Pharaoh cupcakes! (Nichola Tonks)

Classical languages and civilisations courses

About Rosalind Janssen

Rosalind Janssen is an expert in Ancient Egyptian textiles and the author of the Shire Egyptology publication on the subject. She has also co-authored 'Growing Up and Getting Old in Ancient Egypt', and writes on the history of Egyptology.

Rosalind was previously a curator at UCL's Petrie Museum and then a lecturer in Egyptology at the Institute of Archaeology. She now holds a lecturing post at UCL's Institute of Education, and currently teaches Egyptology at City Lit, and also for Oxford University.