Lecturer explains how Egypt was engineered
An Egyptology lecturer at Swansea University is to appear in a National Geographic television documentary about the two of the most successful builders of Ancient Egypt.
Dr JJ Shirley, originally from Massachusetts in the USA, took part in the programme entitled "Engineering Ancient Egypt", a joint production between the National Geographic, and the UK's More 4, and France 5.
Dr Shirley said: "The two-hour programme, which I believe will be broadcast in the New Year, takes a close look at two of the greatest pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, and how they tried to achieve immortality through some of the most audacious building projects ever seen in Egypt."
One of the pharaohs covered by the programme is Khufu, commonly known by his Greek name, Cheops, who was the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The other pharaoh is Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great), who is often seen as the greatest and most successful of all the rulers of Ancient Egypt. Ramesses built the temples at Abu Simbel, which were originally carved out of the mountainside.
The temples were relocated to an artificial hill in the 1960s during the creation of the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser. Ramesses was also responsible for the Ramesseum, his gigantic funerary temple in Thebes.
Dr Shirley, who commented on both pharaohs during the programme, said: "Khufu and Ramesses really were some of the most prolific builders of their day. Both were determined that their names should live forever, and they made their mark on the architecture of Ancient Egypt as much as they did on its history.
"I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to tell a wider audience about the impact that Khufu and Ramesses had.
Dr Shirley is also researching how bureaucracy worked in Ancient Egypt, particularly during the period of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, which ran from around 1550 BC to 1300 BC.
She said: "A lot of my work is challenging older notions of how the state was run and how people achieved their positions. Many scholars think of ancient governments as patrimonial, based around a family structure and with family connections as the primary route to power, but I think that's a bit too simplistic.
"I'm looking at how we can use our modern concepts of bureaucracy to understand how Ancient Egypt really functioned. My work therefore brings in elements of Political Science and Sociology, research avenues that are not commonly used by Egyptologists.
"Actually, I don’t think there are too many differences between the bureaucratic structures of Ancient Egypt and those that we are familiar with today. It was a fluid system, involving subtle shifts of power between the king and noble elites, where political office could be acquired through a variety of different means."
For further information about the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology at Swansea University, please visit the Department's website.