On the first day of Field School 2, we were given our schedule: six days a week, 10 hours a day – reading, lectures, presentations, discussions, site visits, documentation and technology training. We were scared!
We are seventeen students (Field School 2); amongst us are archaeologists and curators who work for the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, participating on the Memphis Site and Community Development Project.
While we were writing this blog we tried to count the number of articles that we have read. So, we made a competition asking who can remember the exact number of articles. Can you guess? 42 articles in 40 days only!!! First we had to read articles about the whole of Memphis, its history, location, survey, excavations and the movement of the Nile during its history. Next we had to read articles about site management, community archaeology, public archaeology and how to apply these themes to site management projects in Egypt or other projects around the world. We read articles about the criteria for writing panels and labels. We also had to read about ‘hot interpretation’. Do you know what that is? Nor did we! Yet we found out how hot interpretation had been used in different projects around the world.
Field School 1 and Field School 2 breakfast party!
On the first day students from Field School 1 held a breakfast party for us. They made us feel really welcome. Later in the first week, we spent three days on site at Mit Rahina being trained in archaeological drawing and surveying using an auto level, which was a really exciting experience. On the last day of the first week we were invited to a goodbye party for the students of Field School 1.
We then found out that we would be divided into four groups for the rest of the field school. This was our first challenge – working with people that we did not previously know. Mahmoud el-Shafey, the supervisor of group “B”, held a breakfast party for the group so we could get to know each other. This was a very nice thing for him to do.
Every Monday we went on a field trip. We went to Karanis at Fayoum, the Textile Museum in Historic Cairo, the Imohetep Museum and the New Kingdom tombs and Serapeum at Saqqara. We had to evaluate the visitor experience for each of these analyzing the message of the site, its facilities (yes, we had to analyze toilets…), its visitor trail and information panels.
Field School 2 students with AERA and York University team members on a visit to Historic Cairo.
Equally, we had to look at how tourist companies and guidebooks promote Memphis nationally and internationally. We found it difficult to find Memphis in guidebooks. In fact, our lecturer Sara started a competition; whoever finds Memphis in a guidebook gets a prize! Many tourist companies ignore Memphis in their visit schedules, or spend only a short amount of time at the site. We developed a plan on how to tackle this problem by working with tourism stakeholders in order to get Memphis back on the map!
We improved our digital skills, learning how social media platforms such as Facebook, twitter, websites and blogs can be used in archeology. Lecturer, Andy also taught us how to use Google Earth and SketchUp, and demonstrated how to use these in archaeology.
For the last two weeks we were divided into two groups; one group focused on the Apis House and the other on the Hathor Temple. At the time there were no visitors to these sites, no panels, no facilities and no trail. So we worked on developing the site. We mapped where visitors should go, what facilities there should be, where panels should go and what their message should be. This was the hardest and most important part of our work; the information as well as the type and style of writing needs to be presented in an attractive and exciting way so as not to bore the visitor.
Field School 2 students review and discuss key readings.
Panel writing is a battle, and a hero always emerges! On one side there are the archaeologists, and on the other the heritage specialists. The archaeologists often focus on factual information while the heritage specialists want interesting and attractive information.
The hero of the Field School 1 battle was Mostafa from Group “B”, and this time round it was our colleague Bassem from Group “C”. Some of us believe that this competition will be kept as a tradition throughout the next Field Schools (Field Schools 3 and 4). The question is who will be the hero of the next battle?
Last task – and you are reading the results – was writing a blog! How do you think we did? Sara Perry gave us lectures which instructed us on blogging as a form of social media. We learnt how to create social communities to generate interactions between you and other users, allowing people to share their own experiences and memories. The ideal blog post should encourage comments and feedback. Can you help us to evaluate our posts through your contributions?