Monthly Archives: May 2011

Modern Archaeology

Hooray for modern technology applied to archaeology!

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ARCE Annual Conference

Every year, ARCE (the American Research Center in Egypt) hosts its annual meeting in some U.S. city; the city varies from year to year, but there are repeats (and traditionally, every 10 years, the conference is held at the University of California, Berkley).

I’ve attended for the past four years, and my only regret is that I didn’t start attending sooner.

Going to the entire conference every year appeals almost exclusively to the most hardcore fans of scholarly work in Egyptology because of the time and money involved. Although reasonable for a scholarly conference, the non-student ARCE member registration cost of $150 makes some balk, as does the idea of 2.5 days of lectures. But the ARCE annual meeting offers an incredible opportunity for those who choose to attend, and has a draw for many of us; this year there were a record 450 attendees!

Using this year’s conference as an example, here’s what you can expect from the ARCE annual meeting: sessions begin at around 8:30am on Friday and Saturday and run till 4:30pm (with a lunch break and short morning and afternoon breaks), with Saturday’s sessions starting at 9:00am and running only till 12:30pm.  This can make the days feel extremely long, though of course attendees are welcome to skip sessions at their discretion. Most years, the conference also includes a Friday night activity such as a museum reception or special lecture, along with a Saturday night reception for ARCE members.

Papers presentations take 20 minutes, with a 10 minute break to move between rooms; each session has four papers, and there are generally four sessions running concurrently. Attendees are welcome to stay for an entire session, or move between rooms based on the topics of individual lectures. Sessions are divided into general groups. This year’s topics were

Archaeology

Religious topics

History

Greco-Roman Topics

Art history

Coptic studies

Language and literature

Islamic archaeology

Religion and ritual

Mamaluk studies

Egyptology topics

Funerary arts

Conservation

With such a ride array of topics, any Egyptologist can find lectures they’re interested in; in many cases, there were so many interesting lectures that I wished I could be in two places at once.

With very few exceptions, the lectures are informative and entertaining. The most famous lecturers or most interesting lectures sometimes end up being standing room only!

Some of my favorite lectures this year were Dr. Ben Harer’s “OB-GYN in Ancient Egypt,” Kate Liszka’s “Ethnogenesis of the Medjay,” Dr. Salima Ikram’s “New Sites in the Kharga Oasis,” and Dr. Gay Robins’ “The Meanings of Individual Items Depicted on Tables of Offerings in Funerary Contexts.”

If none of those lecture titles appeal to you, check out the full line-up from this year, and you’ll see how many different subjects there really are.

Hopefully I’ll see you at the 2012 meeting in Providence, R.I.

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