Looking Forward to a New Semester

It is hard to believe that summer has already come and gone. While it may have been a roast for many of us here in southern Ontario, a new academic year stands before us once more. For me personally, the summer was a great change in pace compared to my last year as I passed my exams and my thesis proposal was accepted – woohoo! So for my year 4, I get to dive straight into my research, something which I have been waiting to do for a long time.

Our last weekend away before the Big Rush starts
Our last weekend away before the Big Rush starts

Inspiring the Minds of Tomorrow

Leading tutorials and marking written assignments belongs to one of the main activities of each semester. As part of my funding package, I normally am active as a teaching assistant (TA) for a course in my department. The past three years I have TAed courses from Egyptian history to Egyptian religion and Mesopotamian history. It is always a great honour to meet students from different backgrounds and witness, just what exactly draws them to take a course in Egyptology. We get engineers, biologists, and journalism students taking the courses and English is for so many of them not their first language. While it can be challenging at times to understand their writing, it is also so eye opening to see completely different perspectives. I myself as a native German speaker, who learned English after emigrating to Canada at the age of 12, can relate to the challenges of being an undergraduate student in a foreign country. Nevertheless, this semester I am also going to be a teaching assistant for an introduction to Egypt course at Ryerson.

What’s in Store this Fall?

After participating in a workshop on the digital humanities in May out in Guelph, I became very inspired in learning more about this exciting technological advance in Egyptology. Within my university, I also registered in 3D design and printing workshops and hope to soon become 3D-printing certified – more on that later.

The tiny 3D Printer that we got to toy around with
The tiny 3D Printer that we got to toy around with

I got to see the magic of a 3D-Printer up close and the potential, of course, is huge for so many various applications. Within the context of archaeology, especially within a conflict zone, there is some promising work being done to recreate artifacts that have been destroyed – such as the recreation of the Triumphal Arch from Palmyra in London, England. While there is still some debate as to the veracity of these objects, one cannot deny the accessibility these objects allow to those people, who cannot afford to travel to the ancient sites.

As you enter the ROM, a giant dinosaur awaits signalling the size of the museum's collections
As you enter the ROM, a giant dinosaur awaits signalling the size of the museum’s collections

I have also spent some time within the minerals and gems exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) getting to know what we have here in Toronto a little better. The last time I visited the collection was during a Friday Night Live event and there was hardly any space to manoeuvre. To be honest, though, visiting the museum during Labour Day probably wasn’t any better… In particular, I wanted to see several of the most common rocks from ancient Egypt up close. One stone in particular that was used as a pigment in later times and can also bear a blue colour is azurite.

Azurite from Bisdee, Arizona (ROM - M23265)
Azurite from Bisdee, Arizona (ROM – M23265)

At the ROM, they have a specimen from the area around Bisbee, Arizona, which shows the deep blue colour – something which made me ponder about connections to lapis lazuli. Blue is an intriguing colour, especially since recently I came across some research that suggests that the colour cannot be seen by some tribes and is, therefore, not entirely distinct in their language (1). Within the Egyptian context, a word for blue does not appear until the end of the Old Kingdom and even then the word comes from the term denoting lapis lazuli.

So in hindsight there is some exciting work awaiting me this fall and I hope to regularly post updates.

Notes

For a succinct overview of this debate, see this accessible article published in Business Insider on 27 February 2015: LINK.

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