Nov. 17, UPenn Museum, Philadelphia. Anthropology Classroom 345, 3:30pm
Dr. John Baines, Emeritus Professor, Oxford University
Watery Landscapes of Ancient Egypt, Their Depiction, and Why They Mattered
Discussions of ancient Egyptian landscapes focus on Upper Egypt, with its narrow Nile valley and background of the desert and the escarpment. Patterns of preservation of sites indeed favor the valley and desert regions. Yet from prehistoric times onward watery environments are depicted, and by the third millennium they are often those of the delta. Such environments were integral to architectural forms and ritual settings. The delta landscape was much more enveloping for those who lived within it, while for travelers it lacked the relief and visibility of Upper Egypt. Its characteristics spoke to the importance of water and the river, to the impermanence that human society seeks to overcome, and to the perpetual renewal vouchsafed by the abundant growth implicit in water. These settings are crucial both ideologically and for elite pastimes, with their partly ritual associations.