New research unwraps the study of ancient Egypt
“Egyptian mummies may pull crowds, but focusing on them only as bodies means we overlook what was arguably much more important from an ancient Egyptian point of view: their wrappings,” said Dr Riggs, a senior lecturer in the School of Art History and World Art Studies at UEA.
One issue Dr Riggs raises is the gulf between what wrappings and mummification meant in ancient Egypt, and the emphasis placed on analyzing the bodies today, as if scientific techniques are the only way to gain new insight on the past. In many museums that house Egyptian antiquities today, techniques such as endoscopy, CT scans, X-rays and facial reconstruction focus attention on the body beneath the original, careful arrangements of linen. In earlier times, mummies were also completely unwrapped and dissected.
Not sure what to think about this. Yes, the wrappings were important, sometimes more so than at other times. For example, the Roman period mummies were wrapped in extraordinarily complex ways while the actual mummification wasn’t usually done very well; that tells you something about what they thought about mummies.
OTOH, then she says this:
“What I have found so surprising,” said Dr Riggs, “is that we have been asking the same questions, for example about race and disease, for over 200 years. Reading a report from the 1820s or the 1920s, or websites and news articles today, I couldn’t help but feel stuck in a rut, as if the only thing that had changed about research on Egyptian mummies was the technology we use, not the fundamental issues at stake.”
Really? People still think about “race” — which really no one even recognizes anymore as a ‘thing’ — the same way they did 200 years ago? Maybe certain segments that depend on race as a political issue do, but not many others do.
I suspect she’s probably coming at this from more of a PoMo perspective which kind of puts it all out of the realm of science anyway.