The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Archive for the tag “Ancient History”

The Coptic Jesus text and fraud

As I mentioned a couple of days ago my first thoughts on this new text brought back memories of the so – called “Batson D. Sealing affair.” I misspelled the name previously. This was something that began in the late 80’s but hit the presses in 1991 after an article was published in Discussions in Egyptology 19 (1991). This was an elaborate fraud. The nom de plume Batson D. Sealing, obviously meant to be funny, was the supposed author of small piece in a New Orleans History Journal discussing a hand copy (no photographs of texts in this period) of a demotic Roman period Sayings of Jesus. The Journal really existed, but was not published in the year this fraudulent article appeared. Very clever. An amazing amount of effort went into creating this article, and then sending it for commentary to a journal in Oxford. All designed to embarrass someone. Robin Lane Fox commented on this in the Financial Times, 18 and 25 May 1991. It made a huge splash in British newspapers. I’ll try to dig up some of these articles. Meanwhile it is a sober reminder that scholars can commit fraud; and the “Sayings of Jesus” seem to be a special target of affection. I don’t mean to imply that this Coptic text is fraudulent, although I have my doubts about it. I’ll let Coptic scholars make the final determination.


Russian Academy of Sciences plans Fall conference on the state of Egyptology

Plans for a conference “Achievements and problems of modern Egyptology” has just crossed my desk this morning. It will take place from 29 September- 4 October 2009, at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow and will coincide with an exhibition “The royal cache. Secrets of the Pharoahs”  that will highlight Russian work on Theban Tomb 320. The following subjects will be covered:

  • origins and development of Ancient Egyptian state
  • policy and trade relations between Ancient Egypt and Middle Eastern Mediterranean countries
  • landscape archaeology, natural and anthropogenic factors in the development of the Nile valley
  • urban archaeology and peculiarities of Egyptian settlement sites
  • dynamics of development and transformation of Egyptian culture
  • cross-cultural relations in Egypt during Graeco-Roman period
  • new methods and technologies in archaeological research
  • history and culture of Coptic Egypt

More infomation can be viewed here

Re-thinking how we train Ancient History graduate students

There was a panel at the most recent APA meeting in Philadelphia, January 2008, that addressed some of the issues historians face in training the next generation.

The following people presented papers

Michele Renee Salzman. University of California at Riverside
Charles Hedrick, University of California at Santa Cruz
Richard Talbert, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Elizabeth Pollard, California State University, San Diego
David Potter, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Jonathan Edmondson, York University
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Commentator, Kurt Raaflub, Brown University.

There was the usual naval gazing, but there were also some useful suggestions that came out of the session. Many important periods and regions, Hellenistic history, the ancient near east, Egypt, to name just a few, were ignored. The “crisis” that is sometimes felt in Ancient History (by that, it is usually meant to refer to Greek and Roman history; historians of the Ancient Near East and Egypt, for example, are usually trained with near eastern language departments, and there the problems of doing history are far different) usually derives from the feeling of being irrelevant within the academy or in today’s world generally. This, I believe, does require some serious thought, especially when it comes to attracting bright undergraduates to the discipline. Walter Scheidel was quite right to point out that there is a tremendous variety of topics and approaches to these topics that exist within “Ancient History.” That variety requires a variety of responses that no one program can fulfill. Kurt Raaflaab’s summary makes fur suggestions: (1) foundation building before graduate school; (2) training ancient historians to be classicists and historians; (3) pooling resources nation- and continent-wide to offer additional training through intensive summer-seminars; and (4) networking to increase resources, knowledge, and connections.

All four of these, of course, are already happening. Like mountaineering or cycling that I also write about in this space, it is the case that good Ancient Historians make themselves. No amount of formal training is, theoretically, enough. It is really up to students to find their own way through problems and solutions. And it is up to the professors to attract really bright students and offer them the support that is required.

The papers (most of them) can be found  here.

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