Joel presented his research on the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead to the Tenth European Conference of Egyptologists in Warsaw

by | Oct 2, 2023 | Uncategorised | 0 comments

Joel Sams Thesis: Book of the Dead spell transmission I the 18th and 19th Century: an innovative text-critical approach University of Liverpool

Thanks to the AHRC NWCDTP’s Fieldwork and Conference Fund, I was able to attend and present a paper at the Tenth European Conference of Egyptologists organised by IKSIOPAN (the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures at the Polish Academy of Sciences). My paper introduced the innovative text-critical methodology that I have developed for analysing the genealogical relationships between surviving copies of spells from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, specifically, those copies dating to between c. 1500 and c. 1000 ʙ.ᴄ. Reconstructing these relationships enables family trees of these copies of spells to be produced, allowing us to see how, over the centuries, scribes gradually altered the texts of the spell, providing insights into the working methods and psychological activity of those scribes.
Since my methodology is quite innovative, combining Greg’s method of textual criticism with a large amount of computer automation and the use of Multidimensional Scaling to verify and hone my results, it was important to get feedback from a wide array of scholars working in the philological wing of Egyptology, who would be in a position to spot any weaknesses in the methodology.
I am delighted to report that my presentation went down very well and attracted favourable feedback across the board. No weaknesses in my methodology were identified, with all the feedback focussing on its strengths. Scholars particularly noted its ability to meaningfully text-critically analyse much shorter Book of the Dead spells than is possible with standard textual criticism and the way in which it takes account of recent critiques directed at the more traditional common-error (so-called ‘Lachmannian’) method of textual criticism and avoids the pitfalls that those critiques identify.
I also had the opportunity to sit on a discussion panel about ancient Egyptian religion and the opportunity to chair a seminar session. Additionally, I was able to enjoy many exciting and stimulating conversations with a large number of Egyptologists over the course of the week, deepening my knowledge of the field and the people who work in it. I also received several offers to collaborate on future projects with some of those Egyptologists.