Livestreamed Events
 

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On indefinite hiatus

On Friday and Saturday afternoons I livestream Let's Plays of the games Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar. There may occasionally be a bonus livestream of a different game on Friday. Join me on Twitch or YouTube.

Pharaoh Fridays 

3:00pm-6:00pm (EST)

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On indefinite hiatus

Egyptologist plays Nebuchadnezzar 2:30pm-4:30pm (EST)

Upcoming Events
 

Building Cities, Building Games: Developers’ Inspirations and Intentions

ASOR Annual Meeting

Archaeology of the Near East and Video Games workshop

Chicago, Illinois, USA

November 17-20, 2021

Virtual conference

December 9-12, 2021

Learn more here:

https://www.asor.org/am/

Documents from this talk

Click here

In 2012, MoMA curator Paola Antonelli unveiled a bold exhibition of fourteen classic video games in the Applied Design gallery of the museum. This was the first time video games had been displayed as art, and the first time that they were broadly received in academia. Since then, video games have seen a rise in academic attention, and only recently academic interest in them exploded with the trend termed “archaeogaming”.

           

Archaeologists “academicizing” video games set in antiquity—certain of which have been around for 30 years—have mostly concentrated on the accuracy of the representation of antiquity, up to and including how any inauthenticity in its representation in pop culture damages the field. Such interpretations ignore probably the most important component of games: the developers themselves. These interpretations presuppose both that the mainstream audience is absorbing games (or movies & tv shows) as documentary, and that the game developers intend to present their creative projects as fact rather than as inspired by antiquity.

 

This talk is based on interviews with the developers of the city building games Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Builders of Egypt, and Sumerians, chosen particularly because they focus on the development of civilizations over time and therefore required more in-depth examinations of the anthropological aspects of Egypt or Mesopotamia. I discuss the developers’ inspirations, intentions for the games’ receptions, and views on the academic topic of and approaches to archaeogaming, as well as consider how the topic may be better served in academia by acknowledging developers’ roles.

Archaeology as a Foundation for Lore Building in the MYST Video Game Series

Antiquity in Media Studies (AIMS) annual meeting

"What Has Antiquity Ever Done for Us?"

Virtual conference

December 15-18, 2021

Learn more here

When the adventure game Myst (1993), created by Cyan, Inc., was released on CD-ROM, it completely changed the gaming industry. With the sequel Riven (1997), Myst turned toward becoming a game franchise that would grow to include a total of six single-player games and one massively multiplayer online (MMO), together with three novels. The games rely on a “found experience”, where the player encounters an object or situation seemingly with no context, for example the encounter with a single book in an empty black space at the beginning of Myst. One must then acquire data in the format of clues to solve puzzles and excavate the story of the game. 
 

The lore of the game centers around the history of an ancient fantasy city called D’ni built far underground below the New Mexico desert. It was populated for thousands of years by an alien race, the D’ni people, that had fled their collapsing planet. They arrived on Earth by “linking” there via magical books, such as the book that opens the game Myst. Following the arrival of the first human in D’ni, a series of events leads to two men destroying D’ni and killing a large percentage of its population, leaving only the ruins of an empty city. 


This is where the single player game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst (2003) and its associated MMO pick up the story. The MMO experience, which was meant to draw a larger gaming crowd, was problematic for Cyan since the game hinged considerably upon prior knowledge of the lore, something the target audience often did not possess. Their answer to this was to present the lore through the perspective of archaeology, where the player would be expected to learn about the ancient civilization through the archaeological process.


The premise of the game is another “found experience” where archaeologists in our current era encountered the ruins of D’ni and began an archaeological project there to research and restore the city. Part of the gameplay involves the player encountering primary sources in translation, as well as notebooks written by archaeologists that present historical and anthropological examinations of the ancient people. The game also incorporates application of in-game acquired knowledge of elements of GIS, archaeological survey, and spatial analysis both to solve puzzles and to aid in the city’s restoration.


This paper examines how archaeological methods were applied in the video game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and its MMO component to tell the story of a fictional and collapsed ancient civilization and how players learn and apply archaeological skills in order to complete quests in the game. 

Past Events
 

The Veneration of Amenhotep III and Lunar Cult during the Reign of Akhenaten

Exalted Spirits: Veneration of the Dead through the Ages in Egypt

American Research Center in Egypt

Cairo, Egypt

November 10-12, 2021

This will be a poster presentation

Click HERE for more information

In the 30th year of his reign, Amenhotep III adopted the epithet “the Dazzling Sun-disc”, revealing a marked increase in royal interest in solar cult. Additionally, Amenhotep III elevated lunar cult, and built in Soleb a temple dedicated to the celebration of his sed-festival and to himself in the form of a new lunar god, Nebmaatre, Lord of Nubia. At both Soleb and Sesebi, temple decoration displays Akhenaten’s veneration of his father as the moon god, and other evidence both at Malqata and Amarna reveal a continued royal interest in the cult of Amenhotep III.

 

The elevation of lunar cult during the reign of Amenhotep III is also demonstrated by new iconography and small finds, such as jewelry molds and representations of the moon god Thoth in sculpture and stelae. Such material culture turns up at Malqata, as well as in the private sector at Amarna. Moreover, Amarna’s neighboring city, Hermopolis, where Amenhotep III erected colossal statues of baboons, was dedicated to the moon god Thoth, perhaps suggesting a connection between the lunar city (Hermopolis) and the solar city (Amarna).

 

This paper examines the presence and impact of lunar cult, first elevated by Amenhotep III, in both the royal and non-royal sphere during the reign of Akhenaten, as well as explores degrees of religious continuity from the reign of Amenhotep III through that of Tutankhamun, whose jewelry is pregnant with lunar significance.

The Tragedy of Tushratta

Digital Hammurabi

Ancient History Day

Saturday, July 24

YouTube

View playlist

The founders of Digital Hammurabi is hosting a collaborative event on YouTube, showcasing several channels that feature content pertaining to the ancient world. My contribution is episode two of my series Ancient Lives on the Nile, "The Tragedy of Tushratta". 

The Tragedy of Tushratta examines the Amarna Letters sent between the Mitannian king Tushratta and Egyptian kings Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, and the dramatic events that unfold. View video here.

For the entire playlist, click the link on the left.

Representations of “The Other” in Ancient Egyptian Literature

Save Ancient Studies Alliance (SASA)

Summer reading group

Taught with Kate Minniti, PhD candidate

Tuesdays 11:00am EST

June 15-July 20, 2021

More info and RSVP

In the mainstream, ancient Egypt is often considered without a geographical context; however the Egyptians were strongly aware of their place within the world that was known to them. As with most ancient civilizations, the ancient Egyptian worldview centered around their belief that their land and peoples were superior to other lands and peoples. This worldview is exemplified in pharaonic art and literature, and these representations also permeated non-royal contexts.

 

Participants only need to register for each SASA Reading Group once. Once you RSVP you will receive a Confirmation Email, where you will find a link to the Live Syllabus for the Reading Group; with Zoom Meeting links, reading links, info on your Educational Ambassadors, and more!

Interview with Dominic Perry on History of Egypt Podcast

History of Egypt Podcast

with Dominic Perry

Podcast publication date

June 24, 2021

Visit History of Egypt Podcast website:

https://www.egyptianhistorypodcast.com/

Briana Jackson is interviewed on the subject of her dissertation, The Geographic and Social Spread of Aten Cult throughout Egypt and Sudan. She  discusses how Akhenaten installed places of Aten worship throughout the Egyptian empire, and how these newly established religious sites were interconnected across space and across the social hierarchy.

 

Also, Briana will discuss matters concerning her early inspirations, research experience, and career.

Listen here.

Akhenaten and His Aten Cult in Abydos and Akhmim

Naming and Mapping the Gods in the Ancient Mediterranean. Spaces, Mobilities, Imaginaries

 

Toulouse, France

February 10-12, 2021

See conference website for more information:

https://mappinggods.sciencesconf.org/

In 1352 BCE, in Egypt, a king named Amenhotep (IV) succeeded his deified father, Amenhotep (III) to the throne. Almost immediately traditional Egyptian art was changed by decree of the new king to display grotesquely shaped human figures, grand compositions of daily life and ceremonies, and, most importantly, the elevation of a “new” god called Aten, the sun-disc, seemingly to the exclusion of all other gods. Large temples dedicated to this god were erected in the state cult site, Thebes (Luxor), in and around the Karnak temple precinct. Later, Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaten, “He who is effective for the Sun-Disc”, and startlingly moved his capital to a virgin site in central Egypt, and called it Akhetaten, “Horizon of the Sun Disc”, modern Tell el-Amarna. Here, he and his family worshipped his personal god according to newly established practices that are pictorially described in wall reliefs in private tombs, as well as on the uniquely sized blocks (talatat) that formed the Amarna temples and palaces themselves. The practice and definition of Akhenaten's new religion and god continue to be hotly debated today, as scholars struggle to label Akhenaten as a monotheist, henotheist, atheist, or others. Most scholarship on the Amarna Period focuses exclusively on the Aten temples constructed at Amarna and Thebes, examining only the evidence at these sites to attempt to explain Akhenaten's religion. However, as I shall argue, this limits our understanding of who or what Aten was, how he was worshipped by the royal family, and whether he was worshipped by the common people. In order to expand our knowledge and inform interpretations of this religion, it is imperative to explore the evidence of the worship of Aten at the various sites outside Tell el-Amarna and Thebes where architectural evidence is found.

Standing temples, fragmentary remains of temple architecture, stelae, and other objects related to worship of Aten appear at many sites throughout Egypt and Sudan. My overall study examines the widespread dissemination of Aten worship in all of these cities, but this current paper focuses on the evidence of Aten cult buildings in the cities of Abydos and Akhmim. In this paper I shall present the evidence that suggests the construction of Aten cult buildings at these sites and offer possible interpretations that may help to increase our understanding of how Aten worship spread across space and across the social strata. One possible interpretation of the evidence I shall present is that the erection of Aten cult buildings may have functioned as a network that incorporated the worship of traditional deities (Osiris and Min) formerly worshiped at Abydos and Akhmim, and that these buildings were linked to specific cult buildings and architectural elements at Tell el-Amarna, the possible “hub” of Aten worship.

Humans Against Poor Scholarship (HAPS) interview

Digital Hammurabi

with Megan Lewis and Dr. Joshua Bowen

Live on YouTube

September 12, 2020

12:00 pm (EST)

CLICK to watch

In this interview, Briana Jackson speaks with Megan Lewis of Digital Hammurabi about her latest research for her dissertation, "The Geographic and Social Spread of Aten Cult throughout Egypt and Sudan." Briana was a recipient of one of the 2020 HAPS scholarships for PhD students, which is offered annually by Digital Hammurabi, thanks to generous donors.

Briana discusses themes of Aten religion and remarks upon the oft-argued monotheism (or not) of Akhenaten.