Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So you want to be an Egyptologist?

Well, one thing for sure, it's not the tomb raiding, treasure looting and torch scorching career of the Indiana Jones Hollywood series.

Eugene Cruz-Uribe and Nigel Strudwick have put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the subject: How to be an Egyptologist. Here are some highlights:

Studying an ancient language like Greek or Latin will give you practice in grammar and working with complex languages. But as important are modern languages, as they give you wide access to the scholarly publications about Egypt. My estimate is that of this literature, about 40% is in English, 40% in German and 20% in French, although this will vary widely for certain areas of the subject.

For historical reasons, presumably the Western domination of Egyptology, there is very little material in Arabic, other than that which is written for domestic consumption in Egypt. Where Arabic is of course useful is for working in the field, but the sort of Arabic taught at universities isn't always the best for that. Most Egyptologists tend to learn spoken Arabic on digs backed up by conversational classes at home.

Modern tourism in Egypt is both a boon and a bane. The money is great for the Egyptian economy, but the wear and tear on the monuments can be hurtful for preservation of the monuments.

Very few schools offer a specific major in Egyptology for undergraduates. It is most usual at American universities that you can major in Near Eastern Studies or Near Eastern Civilisations. At other institutions you may have to major in History or Classics and get a variety of Egyptian courses as chance may have it. In the US most Egyptology training is done at the graduate level leading to a PhD degree.

There are very few jobs available throughout the world, normally in universities and museums, which usually only become available when someone somewhere retires.

If you are looking into Egyptology to get rich, forget it. It won’t happen. If on the other hand you are passionate about Egyptology and are willing to work long years to finish the program with only small chances of getting a full time job at a University, then by all means follow your passion.

Read more at the link above.

Vincent has posted a video in his Talking Pyramids blog where Dr. Kara Cooney explains what it is to be an Egyptologist.

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