Plus:  Catching Up Em Hotep!

All the world is abuzz with the long-awaited release of the current genetic study of the Eighteenth Dynasty, particularly as it relates to the goose that continues to lay the golden eggs—King Tut.

Your humble scribe is still mulling over the subject before attempting his own contribution, but in the meanwhile, here are a few excellent pieces from some of the most excellent writers in the Egyptology blogosphere.  In the spirit of parsimony, I have narrowed my selection down to the three which I found to be the most unique in their approach and thought provoking in their implications.  Enjoy!

The Egyptians

In After Nefertiti, Tim Reid summarizes some of the questions inferred by the new data.  Who (and to a certain degree, what) was Smenkhara?  Are there some new inductees into the narrow circle of the Amarna Revolution?  Who are the most likely candidates for Tutankhamun’s mother?

News from the Valley of the Kings

In The Consanguinity Problem, Kate Phizackerley raises some questions about the reliability of some of the conclusions drawn from the genetic data.  In particular, she asks how confident can we be about specific relationships in a population where genetic variation has been so narrowed by inbreeding.  Is Kate revealing the elephant in the room—that the data may be more difficult to interpret than we are being led to believe?

And of Em Hotep?

Ok, so articles on Em Hotep have been admittedly few and far between in 2010, but that is no indicator of things to come!  The new year has brought a banquet of news from Egypt, a boon to be sure, but it has caused me to review my focus and mission with this website.

As the masthead says, we are all about Egypt(ology) for the curious layperson and the budding scholar, but what does that mean?  What I intend is to provide news and analysis about Egyptology—what we know and what we are learning—that is a cut above mass media but accessible to persons of varying levels of education and expertise.

In that definition I would include high school students who have a fascination with Egypt and her history, college students who may or may not be intending to focus their graduate studies on Egyptology, scholars who appreciate an interdisciplinary approach to this field, and the auto mechanic who spent a decade building a scale model of the Giza Plateau that fills her entire attic.

In other words, I want to provide news and reference material which is interesting and digestible to amateur Egyptologists without dumbing things down, while also providing articles that are relevant and enjoyable to those who are a bit further along in the field.

In order to approach this goal with both the tenacity and humility which it deserves, I attempt to pull from the most interesting and reliable sources, to explore the subjects and ask the questions I think will interest my readers, but to also know and honor my own limitations.  This means being inclusive on the one hand, and selective on the other.


When I first began Em Hotep I had a weekly feature called the Blogroll Roundup, wherein I would point readers to stories on other blogs which I felt were interesting and important.  My objective was also to “promote the Egyptology blogosphere in general.”  In this process I made some excellent connections with other professional and non-professional writers.

I also discovered that some of the writers I was promoting, quite frankly, wouldn’t give me the time of day!  For the last 4-5 months I have eschewed the Roundup format in favor of specifically promoting sites with whom I feel I have a more reciprocal relationship.  Call me petty, but time is money!

This brings me to the matter of the avalanche of news and my limited ability to weigh in on everything which I think you, Honorable Reader, would find of interest.  But I’m not big on link lists.  From the very beginning I was determined not to become a glorified version of Google news alerts.  I should be quick to clarify that I am not referring to those who provide links to stories which require more digging than simple news alerts  (hello, Tim Reid, Vincent Brown, and Jenny Hale!).

My point is this:  you will either find original writing and analysis on Em Hotep, or links to others who are doing the same.  In order to bring you, Honorable Reader, the stories which I think you will enjoy but which are not covered here, I will be including more topical compendiums of links such as the one above.  Thus inclusivity—I will be including more links to respected peers both to promote their work and to tighten my focus.  Which brings us to…


In order to remain true to my goals for Em Hotep I will be focusing on in-depth feature-length articles and reference material.  This is why my reference material on, say, the Great Temple of Horus at Edfu is more than just a rehash of the Wikipedia article with some of my own photography tossed in.  It begins with Dr. Nadine Moeller’s Tell Edfu Project and the implications of her work there, and then progresses on to the as-of-yet unfinished article on the Great Temple itself.  Speaking of that article…

Narrowing my focus will prevent me from landing in the situation in which I currently find myself:  five pots of stew on a four burner stove.  The Edfu series should have been finished by now, ideally with the article on the temple and maybe even an interview with someone from the Tell Edfu Project before everyone jets off for the 2010 digging season.

Blogging (I still detest that marginalizing term and use it under duress!) has certain occupational hazards, not the least of which is an obsessive-compulsive drive to “be current.”  That is all good and well within boundaries, but left unchecked can lead to burnout.  It can also result in immersing oneself in a new series before closing the open accounts.

Being inclusive of the work of one’s peers is a salve for that obsessive-compulsiveness.  So long as I am pointing you, Honorable Reader, to others who are covering the news which I am not, then I can be selective in my focus without feeling like I am shirking my duties.

And so

So my immediate goals are to finish up the open accounts, in particular, the Tell Edfu/Temple of Horus series, the Pyramid City series, and a series of articles I am cooking on the new genetic studies of the Eighteenth Dynasty.  Most of the research is already completed for these serials, all that remains is translating several stacks of 50+ pages of notes into several articles which might actually hold someone’s attention!

You may have noticed that I did not mention the Hemiunu to Houdin series.  That is because I consider Jean Pierre Houdin’s work to be significant enough that I don’t intend to ever actually finish covering it.  Of course, the current series will be completed, in fact, it is my highest priority.  But I genuinely think that his work on the Great Pyramid in particular and the Memphis Necropolis in general is the number one story in Egyptology.

This is a bold statement, and I can appreciate that not everyone shares my opinion, especially considering that Tut continues to lay golden eggs.  But Tutankhamun’s claim to fame is managing to stay hidden until someone other than a common grave robber discovered his tomb.  Golden treasures are a huge draw, and tracing the genealogy of the Eighteenth Dynasty and placing famous names on previously anonymous mummies are fascinating and worthy pursuits.

But the pyramids and other monuments of the Memphis Necropolis represent human ingenuity and resolve at their best.  Explaining how they were built does not just answer questions which have perplexed us for thousands of years, it shows that determined but otherwise ordinary human beings are capable of solving nearly impossible problems and achieving epic feats.  These are important things to remember about ourselves these days.

Another up-coming series will be a set of reference articles covering Abydos and what Egyptologists are up to there, partially inspired by David O’Connor’s new book Abydos:  Egypt’s First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris, which Amazon just delivered into my eager hands last week.

It may appear that I am off to a slow start in 2010, but I assure you I have been working like crazy!  Of course, I have myself to blame for this perception.  I spread myself too thin to keep fresh material rolling and was too self absorbed to point you, Honorable Reader, toward the work of my fellows in the Egyptology blogosphere.  Mea culpa!  Bear with me while I reorient the ship and I promise fun times ahead!

Your humble scribe has a few stories up his sleeve…

Copyright by Keith Payne, 2010.  All rights reserved.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 25th, 2010 at 2:50 am and is filed under New Kingdom, Egypt in the News, Mummies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 comments so far


I was wondering where you were. Glad to see you are still going strong and have some exciting things in store for us all. I know just how time consuming it is to write good posts and understand where you are coming from.

Looking forward to reading more at Em Hotep!

February 25th, 2010 at 3:59 am
Jean-Pierre Houdin

Hi Keith,
Blogs are time consuming, for sure !
So focusing on some topics will certainly give you an edge from generic blogs…
And you can count on my contribution to your project…
And I totally share you idea that pyramids will become an even more interesting topic in the near future

February 25th, 2010 at 6:14 am

Hello again Shemsu Sesen

Cool auto mechanic!

Thanks for the plug and for pointing me to Marianne Luban’s articles very interesting.

Em Hotep is a good resource and always a well thought out read. I look forward to your next article keep up the great work.

You have inspired me!

February 25th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Thanks for the feedback, folks!

In addition to the comments, I have received some valuable support, suggestions, and feedback via email, which is likewise appreciated. I feel that the Egyptology blogosphere is growing in both its scope and relevance, and it is exciting to be a part of that movement.

Em Hotep has been going through the growing pains that I think all serious blogs (still hate that word!) go through. It is an evolutionary process of figuring out what your mission is and where you fit in with others in the field. The serious blogs distinguish themselves from what Jean-Pierre called generic blogs by making unique contributions.

Getting overwhelmed, trying out new things that don’t always work, and even getting burned out occasionally is pretty much a universal part of that experience. What is important is whether you allow these things to discourage you, or turn them to your advantage.

Although I am a vocal critic of the “blog” label, one powerful advantage of this medium is its interactivity. Not only do our readers interact in near-real time with the writers and each other, a fully functional blog interacts with other blogs in near-real time. This is unique to our medium. The level of critical analysis we have seen this week regarding the recent genetic study would have taken months in the traditional media.

In fact, I would posit that this level of analysis and criticism would be impossible in the traditional media, where lay participation is relegated to the “letters to the editor,” a miniscule sample selected by the media itself—hardly interactive.

Traditional media is also a “one size fits all” endeavor, and the truth of the matter is that most people don’t really care whether fair credit is being given to all researchers in the field of Egyptology, or whether some of the science is being rushed in order to deliver entertainment. That is where we come in. Science can and should be interesting, even fun, but not at the expense of its own soul!

February 27th, 2010 at 10:31 am

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