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TwtS – really the final instalment

August 17, 2018

Having left you with a cliff-hanger I shall move swiftly on with the papers and not expound about anything other than the papers. No fluff and nonsense here. Oh no.


So Sara was up after Liam, talking about obelisks and graveyards. It turns out that Sara has been fascinated by Egypt since the age of 5 having asked to be mummified when she died and her mother refusing on the grounds of expense, I’m hoping that Sara has given the idea up now* and her studies aren’t leading up to a DIY attempt. That would be worrying. She didn’t talk about self-mummification anyway, so that’s a hopeful sign. Instead Sara discussed how eighteenth century cemetery obelisks were in the classical style and how in the nineteenth century this shifted to the Egyptian style. Going beyond art history Sara’s paper argued that obelisks were about safeguarding personal legacies, a safeguarding that became unsettled with the nineteenth century with the popularity of resurrection/buried alive/zombie literature.

Egyptomania coincided with the rise of the Victorian Garden Cemetery, places such as Highgate and Kensal Green. This ability to purchase a plot was new for the 19th century, prior to this there had been no guarantee that bodies would remain in their original place as space was at a premium. The new cemeteries gave families (those that could afford them) a focal point for mourning, for visiting, for maintaining the identity of the deceased and retaining the relationship with them.


But, it also created tension, this relationship, this legacy, required the dead to remain dead and in the media as well as sensational literature there was the endless recycling of stories of the dead walking or people being buried alive. Sara suggested that the re-use of Egyptian iconography reflected the idea of guarding the living from the dead, keeping the dead in their place**

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Novels such as The Jewel of Seven Stars disrupt the proper status quo, someone or something is attacking Trelawney and the tension of the tale lies between subject and object as well as the differences between Sergeant Daw and Dr Winchester. This tension continues with the unwrapping of the Mummy as it shifts from a thing to a person and as the mummified hand claws its way back into the living world – the dead world becoming present in the live one.


Sara suggested that the fear Victorians had of being forgotten after death underlies this novel, we can see this fear in cemeteries – the graves and their inscriptions – and within the book Terra’s name is erased from her pyramid, she has been obliterated, expunged, forgotten. The original ending, where Terra was the only one to survive, was too unsettling and uncanny


Madeleine’s paper certainly echoed the unsettling and uncanny:


Guess who didn’t take any notes? But at least this time my photos of the slides are legible.


The final paper of the day was from Aidan Dodson. I appear to have taken few notes or photos of slides – what can I say? It was very hot. I do know that Aidan was talking about Myth Nefertiti and how everything we think we know about Ancient Egypt dates, pretty much, to the mid-nineteenth century. This was when Queen Nefertiti was first discovered by the West and while many of these ideas have now been dismissed by academics, particularly those of her fall from favour and erasure from contemporary ancient Egyptian history, the mythology around Nefertiti continues in popular presentations.

Tracing the history and interpretations of of Amana, Aidan discussed how ideas of the city have been changed and modified by Egyptologists.

However, history is highly mutable, ‘facts’ change and while Egyptologists are, sometimes, happy to alter the story this is not the case with popular presentations. Rather, audiences prefer, or are understood to prefer, fixed historical narratives based on classical or early modern sources.

While I appear to have been suffering from heat induced inertia during Aidan’s paper, I did at least have the sense to note down Dominic Montserrat’s Akhenaten: History, fantasy and ancient Egypt so at least I can follow up the fascinating argument Aidan presented.

The conference was then closed by Ellie doing a wonderful job of drawing together all the separate strands presented in this exploration of the reception of ancient Egypt’s myth, magic and mysticism. Reflecting on the ways Egypt has been used in religion – from Elliot to Stoker with a sidestep into graveyard iconography and their meanings.


Egyptology has always attracted fringe interests, always been open to interpretation by ‘amateurs’ who repurpose it in ways ‘professionals’ might never think of – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


But there has also been a playful approach to the mythology of ancient Egypt – literally in the case of video and board games – and this playfulness is reflected by professionals as much as amateurs

Or this playfulness and re-use can be disguise, using clothing to magically change ourselves or present ourselves as something to be decoded, just as Ancient Egyptian myths can be decoded in the works of Lovecraft and Stoker. Taking ancient Egypt out of its original context and repurposing the imagery/mythology/magic can be Orientalism, can be cultural appropriation, but equally it can be playful, can invert stereotypes, can be used to question the status quo, it can be many, many things.

As I’m sure is obvious from these mammoth posts, I thoroughly enjoyed the explorations presented at TwtS 2018 and I am very much looking forward to Tea 2020 – they’re skipping next year because of the International Mummy Congress (? Have I made that up?) – since I seem to be a biennial attender that will suit me just fine.


*I know people change and what you want as a child isn’t necessarily what you want as an adult, but despite all the things I have decided against – I’m not a presenter of Animal Magic or a steamroller driver – I’d still like be a zoo keeper and to have Muttley as my pet dog.

**As I’m typing this I’m thinking about Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co books where the living have to be forcibly protected from the dead. See, I wasn’t wasting my time (avidly) reading them, it was research!


Another #CFP for #SAA 2019

August 15, 2018

There is so much activity happening in the HARN universe! Please see the call for papers from HARN member Thea De Armond. If you want to go to the SAA meeting this year, there’s very little reason you couldn’t present a paper.

What Have You Done For Us Lately?: Discrimination, Harassment, and Chilly Climate in Archaeology

The conjunction of social justice and anti-discrimination movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo has been hailed as a watershed moment for historically marginalized people. Archaeology has likewise felt the reverberations of these broader political movements. Consider, for example, recent discussions of fieldwork and harassment (e.g., Nelson et al 2017; Alpert Nakhai 2017, 2018), as well as meditations on the potential impact of the current political climate on archaeology worldwide (González-Ruibal et al 2017) and efforts to define inroads made by—and future avenues for—social justice in archaeology (“State of Field,” Joukowsky Institute, 2018).

This session builds upon this moment in time by considering the current status of underrepresented groups—women, queer people, people of color, Indigenous people, disabled people, low-income people, &c. (as well as those whose identities cross-cut these categories)—in archaeology, both academic and professional. We welcome papers on a variety of topics related to discrimination and harassment, including bias in the workplace, intimidation and/or assault in the field, inequities in publication practices, ethical public engagement, the role of activism in archaeology, and other related topics. We are particularly interested in concrete solutions to discrimination at a variety of scales—from day-to-day interactions to fieldwork best practices, in addition to the little-explored (but exceedingly important) topic of structural and institutional discrimination.

Please email abstracts to,, and / or by 5 pm PST on Aug. 30, 2018.

#CFP: #SAA–Society for American Archaeology Panel

August 13, 2018

HARN administrators James Snead and Kate Sheppard are organizing a panel at the SAA annual meeting in April 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. If you’re interested in joining and are able to travel to the conference, please see the below call:

Panel: Collections, Objects, People, Places: Global Histories of Archaeology in the 21st Century

Histories of archaeology are increasingly concerned with the complex contexts within which engagement with the material past has taken place over time in diverse national, regional, and local settings.  The Histories of Archaeology Research Network (HARN) was established in 2008 to provide a “meeting place” for researchers from diverse disciplines to discuss these issues, with the ultimate goal of “positioning” the history of archaeology within broader scholarly debates. The papers in this session address the original goal of HARN, which is to bring together ideas which share a concern with contingency, locality, and identity within frameworks of archaeological practice.

We will be accepting 7-10 papers total.

Please send abstracts of 250 words to James and/or Kate by 27 August, 5pm Pacific Standard Time.

We hope to hear from you!

TwtS – the penultimate instalment

August 10, 2018

I’d kind of forgotten about this, or rather I knew I had promised another post but then the school holidays arrived ad I forgot everything that wasn’t necessary to (my) immediate survival.

As you may recall I had said I had a shocking revelation for you. You will be unsurprised to learn that it isn’t really that shocking, but it is mortifying and, for me, disappointing. So, without further fluffing, I missed Jasmine Day’s keynote about Margit Labouchere’s letters to Howard Carter. I know! Gutted! Hopefully someone will summarise in the comments or the abstracts will soon be on the TwtS webpage[i]. Can I just say I was really looking forward to it, especially after missing part of her Skype talk back in 2016? I am obviously doomed not to hear Jasmine, it’s clearly my version of the Mummy Curse. There are some who will argue that it is simply co-incidence and, given Jasmine was on first session in both 2016 and 2018 and I have a tendency to oversleep/get lost/develop cracking headaches, it’s unsurprising that I missed her talks. I know better. Mummy Curse for sure.


Anyway, I staggered into the conference on the Saturday with a horrible headache so my impressions of the papers I heard in the morning are sketchy and my apologies to Michelle Scott and Nolwenn Corriou because although I was physically present, mentally I was many miles away waiting for the drugs to work. This was particularly annoying because the bits I heard were utterly fascinating.

Michelle was talking about how the popular appeal of Egyptology is as strong as the academic, particularly the detective aspects – bodies without tombs, tombs without bodies, bodies and statues without appendages, Egyptology is often about discovery, recovery, and particularly, absence. The traces of the material existence of something now lost: in this case King Djer’s arm. Petrie excavated the Early Dynastic Royal Cemetery at Abydos in 1901 and discovered the mummified arm, he assumed it was the arm of a woman because the jewellery was ‘feminine’. This interpretation was challenged after the discovery of Tutankhamun. In the excavation report it was the gold that was emphasised rather than the mummified remains, and indeed the plates of the jewellery – gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli and amethyst – formed the frontispiece of Petrie’s report.

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(Photo taken from because my photo of Michelle’s slide was illegible. You’d think I had a hangover my photos are so bad, oh if only!)

The jewellery is now on display at the Cairo Museum, but the mummified arm is lost and now only exists in photographs. Michelle discussed how the agency of the image has been used to construct ancient Egypt in both popular and academic accounts, how our visual image of ancient Egypt is largely the result of Harry Burton’s photographs of the Tutankhamun excavations and prior to these there was a very different idea of Egypt’s past.


(See what I mean?)


She also discussed the fragmented body as a site of remembrance, how certain body parts have been seen as more ‘significant’ than others, and how museums are changing their approach to displaying human remains.


It was a packed paper: photography, detection, interpretation, agency, alterity, relics and religion – it was undoubtedly even more detailed than I’ve presented here, but you get the idea.


Nolwenn, my huge apologies to Nolwenn, who’s absorbing paper about She Who Sleeps (Sax Rohmer, 1928 – yet another one I’ve not read) has been filtered through my headache. By this time I’d recovered enough to just be incredibly stupid so I didn’t take any notes or photograph any slides because, get this, I was sure I’d remember what was said. Yup, 2 months later, with no prompts, like that was going to happen! I’m really sorry Nolwenn, I’m not going to do you justice here and I’m going to have to largely re-produce the abstract.


Nolwenn was talking about Orientalism and the construction of the Orient through Victorian and Edwardian fiction, in particular She Who Sleeps[ii]. The plot of Rohmer’s novel is that when the hero lands in Cairo he is somewhat disappointed not to discover the Orientalist fantasy he’d imagined. However, buying a piece of papyrus which he deciphers leads him to a tomb and a mummy and the adventure he craves. None of which is real, it all the invention of an actor Paul Ahmes who tricks the hero and the reader into believing that this is a classic mummy story with the requisite revived mummy and beyond the grave love story.


Quoting Nolwenn’s abstract ‘What this novel highlights is that, as Edward Said showed it in his study of Orientalism, the Orient is a construction for and by the West. Within this narrative, forged objects are just as relevant as authentic artefacts insofar as the imaginary that they convey is the same as that which is projected onto genuine antiques. The fake antique artefacts that are used to build the plot of Rohmer’s novel contribute to this construct while emphasising its fictional character. Perhaps unwittingly, Sax Rohmer points out the notion that the representation of Egypt and its past is in fact manufactured by the West, much like the Egyptian “antiquities” produced in Birmingham and sold in the streets of Cairo.’

Check out Nolwenn’s Academia page and there’s an open access edition of her paper about mummy fiction, imperialism and gender here.

Thankfully I was somewhat revived by lunch because I was chairing the next session and I don’t think Liam and Sara would have appreciated super stupid me being in charge. Unfortunately, because I was in charge, my notes are sketchy, but at least I have some notes and know that both Sara and Liam were presenting papers about obelisks.

Liam’s paper, discussing pagan monuments rehoused in Christian culture, considered the Theodosian obelisk – aka The Mighty Shaft of Istanbul. Despite the name, Theodosius was probably not responsible for moving the obelisk from Karnak to Istanbul because it was first taken to Alexandria and it was probably Constantius who retrieved it from Alexandria and had it moved to Istanbul. Disregarded in Alexandria, it had fallen (or been pushed) over, and was just lying in the dirt. In Constantinople it became a focal point. The Emperor Julian wrote about the obelisk and mentioned sects worshipping there, since Julian was the first pagan emperor it’s intriguing he used such terms.


(If you enlarge this and squint you can just about read it, yes, I was still taking photos like a drunk, sigh)

Liam explained that the obelisk has not been interpreted inter-disciplinarily, classicists have tended to consider it alongside those others taken to Rome,


whereas Egyptologists have looked at in isolation focussing on translating the hieroglyphs despite it missing up to a third of its inscription and Byzantinists have looked solely at the added Christian base and as a source of information about the Emperor.


Yet this ignores the context of the obelisk and its history. Obelisks were common military expedition spoils, they were seen as extension of Roman power and their presence in Romanised environments granted them rehabilitation through association with imperial power. But they were also seen as having magical power, their symbolism and re-use could harness other potent forces: Constantine – the first Christian Emperor – in the clearest example of this association of symbolism, designed his burial place as a tomb at the centre of 12 obelisks which represented the 12 disciples. And there were many other examples, but I am running out of time for this post so I’m going to pause here and return at a later (hopefully not too later) date and round up 2018’s Tea.


[i] It has just occurred to me that if the abstracts do go on their webpage then these conference reports of mine are utterly redundant. But hey, when has that ever stopped me?

[ii] Sax Rohmer was the pen name of Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, writer of many, many books including the Dr Fu Manchu series. It is ironic, if not poetic justice, that someone who made a living by objectifying the Chinese died of complications as a result of contracting Asian flu.


August 8, 2018


Fran Allfrey, King’s College London

I research the reception of Sutton Hoo, the Anglo-Saxon burial site unearthed in 1938 (with the most famous discovery made in 1939).

My PhD thesis examines newspaper coverage of the excavation in 1939, television documentary presentations of the treasures, stories told in museum display, the impact of the ‘Sutton Hoo Society’ and how stories were told about the site, treasures, and 1980s-1990s dig, performances at the National Trust site, and ethnographic research with visitors at the site.

In particular, I pay attention to times when Old English poetry or other early medieval literature is brought into contact with archaeological remains and sites.

Welcome, Fran, and many thanks for joining our community!

Women’s Classical Committee Wikipedia Project

August 7, 2018

Katharine Shields of University College, London has written to us to draw our attention to this:

Women’s Classical Committee Wikipedia Project (#WCCWiki) workshop and editathon at UCL on September 20th (provisional details here). We should have an Eventbrite page for registration soon, too.

Once I have more details from #WCCWiki I will post them here.

technical updates to legal threats by convicted criminals (and family members) against expert witnesses in antiquities cases

August 6, 2018

conflict antiquities

Just in case feed-readers don’t otherwise see, I’ve made some technical updates to the post on legal threats by convicted criminals (and family members) against expert witnesses in antiquities cases.

First, I’ve added a note on the court system. Although the Three-Member Court of Appeals hosts appeals, it also serves as a court of first instance in some cases In other words, it hears cases in its court, as well as appeals against the verdicts of other courts. This was a trial, against which there may be an appeal.

Second, I’ve added a note on overturning verdicts. One of the points in the legal letter appears to offer a way for Christos Tsirogiannis to free himself from the legal threat of defamation proceedings, by stating that he perjured himself under duress, thereby accusing the Ministry of Culture and/or the Prosecutor in Greece of malicious prosecution. This would make the case…

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