This year's Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Egyptology was given by Jochem Kahl on the subject of the city of Asyut. He started by setting the scene with a thematically appropriate quote from Amelia Edwards, who visited the city in 1843. She described how as she approached it looked like a fairytale city on the Nile, but on arrival she was much less impressed with the prosaic reality of the modern city.
In July Anna Garnett came to talk to us at the Essex Egyptology Group about pottery from Amarna. Garnett has recently become curator at the Petrie Museum and is also working on analysing the pottery that has been found at the Amarna Stone Village, which is the work she was telling us about during the first part of the meeting.
At the beginning of June Sergio Alarcón Robledo came to talk to us at the Essex Egyptology Group about the work he's doing as part of the Polish-Egyptian Mission at Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el Bahri. His talk was in two parts - first the theoretical underpinnings, then the practical work he's been doing at the site. And after the formal talk was over he also showed us some unpublished imagery he's been making of various tombs.
At the beginning of April Manon Y. Schutz came to talk to us at the Essex Egyptology Group about beds in Ancient Egypt. She's a D.Phil student at Oxford University, and beds in an Ancient Egyptian funerary context are the subject of her thesis. She has chosen to look at the funerary context because most of the evidence of beds that survives is from tombs. Her talk was divided into two parts - first an introduction to the topic of beds in Ancient Egypt, and then an overview of beds throughout Ancient Egyptian history.
In February Carol Andrews came to talk to the Essex Egyptology Group about Ancient Egyptian jewellery - in particular that worn by women. She structured her talk as an overview of the various types of jewellery and for each type she looked at both the archaeological evidence and at the artistic representations of the jewellery. Men wore as much jewellery as women, and in fact there are very few if any forms that were specific to women.
At the November meeting of the Essex Egyptology Group Vincent Oeters talked to us about the Step Pyramid of Djoser - in particular the inside of it. He doesn't himself work on the Step Pyramid, but while he was working (as an archaeologist) nearby he was able to go into it three times (with the permission of and accompanied by an Inspector from the Ministry of Antiquities, as it's not generally open to tourists). And one of those times he was also allowed to take photos! And it was those photos that formed the core of his talk.
At the beginning of August Yaser Mahmoud Hussein visited the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about his work on very early sites at Abydos. He is an Antiquities Inspector and archaeologist, and has been Field Director of the excavations at the Early Dynastic Cemetery at Abydos since 2008.
The last part of this chapter of the Middle East book covers the end of the 2nd Millennium BCE, it first looks at the return of Assyria as a power in the region. Then it talks about Bronze Age Collapse which occurs in the 12th Century BCE and ushers in what is sometimes called a "dark age". The big powers (Egypt, Assyria) wobble but many of the smaller states suffer a severe crisis. The power vacuum this leaves sets the stage for the "Age of Empires" as the next chapter of the book refers to it.
At the end of 2015 the British Museum put on an exhibition about the Celts, looking at both the original culture in its historical context and the way it was later re-imagined. The overall take home message from the exhibition was that the ancient people we now call Celts probably didn't think of themselves as such, and the modern peoples who we call Celts don't necessarily have that much to do with the ancient Celts.