Friday, September 17, 2010

Peter Der Manuelian

The Harvard Crimson

It was in his fourth grade history class that Peter Der Manuelian ’81—Harvard’s first Egyptology professor in over 60 years—first became enamored with the splendor of ancient Egypt.

“You know how you battle against school all your youth?” he asked, sitting in his office in the Semitic Museum.“I remember that being the first time I was actively interested in something—the scale of Egypt, the monuments, the beauty of the language, the art styles.”

Raised in the Boston area, Der Manuelian says he feels lucky to have grown up in a city with a museum whose ancient Egyptian collection is as extensive as the Museum of Fine Arts’s. When he matriculated at Harvard, he ended up concentrating in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, the same department in which he currently teaches. His thesis was on Amenhotep II, an athletic New Kingdom pharaoh he describes as “the world’s first super jock.”

This fall, Der Manuelian, who had been teaching at Tufts University, is offering a new General Education course, Societies of the World 38, “Pyramid Schemes: The Archaeological History of Egypt.” So far, 165 students have enrolled in the course. Der Manuelian said he expects to teach the course, along with several other more specialized classes, for the next few years.

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