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The Heart of Ancient Egypt



Ancient Egypt Discussion Forum

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Blue Amenhotep III

Anubis Wall Sculpture

Who "Owns" Technology?

I am not an archaeologist. I've never surveyed a site nor catalogued artifacts; and I am an Egyptologist only by definitions of the most ephemeral sort. My only serious engagement in the subject of Egyptology was in the late 1950s when I spent my Saturday afternoons away from my Navy electronics schooling leafing through the pages of the Book of the Dead at a local public library. I probably understood less than two percent of the material, but I wasn't experiencing "common understanding." I had a sense that I was dealing with something much bigger than my everyday Navy life. Being motivated by mere facts and passing exams (or receiving research grants) have their limits, but an imagination stirred by wonder does not. Now, nearly sixty years later, my waning interest in electronics is kept barely alive by an occasional opportunity to make a few dollars writing about it. But the wonder--the excitement--of those days leafing through a translation of the Book of the Dead will never diminish. It's the kind of stuff that disserves the attention of serious lifelong learners.

Clearly, the academic world would not consider me to be an archaeologist or a member of its subset, Egyptologist. I don't either. However, I have the advantage of a certain perspective on people--academics and technologists in particular--that is born of decades of observation and direct participation in other venues. So I believe I am in a position to do some critical assessment of contemporary archaeology and Egyptology in particular.

The overarching, universal perspective today is that cultures existing prior to the 19th century were primitive. (You can mark the date about anywhere you want. It makes no difference). To refer to the technology of Ancient Egypt as "primitive" is a reflection of ones ignorance that is  born of arrogance--two characteristics that make for really bad science. Our pervasive, 21st-century Western perspective on science and technology not only limits and distorts our understanding of ancient cultures, but also erects barriers to scientific and technological progress in our own time.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015