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Yasmin El Shazly is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. She is currently working on her dissertation in Egypt. Yasmin's dissertation topic is:"The Role of the Intermediary in Ancient Egyptian Thought as seen on the Monuments of Deir el-Medina." Deir el-Medina is the Arabic name for the village occupied by the pharaohs' tomb-builders and the artisans of New Kingdom Thebes. A cult temple of Amenhotep I was located in the village. Intermediary means "a deified human being who acted as an intermediary between the living people and the gods." But what is the definition of "a deified human being"? What is the difference between someone who was deified during his/her lifetime and one who was deified after his/her death? What is the difference between a deified royal figure and a deified average person? Were the ancestor busts and the akh iker n Ra ("Excellent Spirit of Ra") stelae found in Deir el-Medina really part of an ancestor cult? Why did Amenhotep I and his mother Ahmose-Nefertary have special status as deified ancestors (or patron deities) of the site? Numerous books and articles have been written about the deification of various figures in ancient Egypt, but Yasmin believes that we still do not fully understand what it all meant to the people of that time. Her dissertation attempts to use the information from Deir el-Medina alone, dating from Dynasties 18-20, to shed some more light on what divinity meant to the ancient Egyptians themselves.

Yasmin at the library Yasmin at the library

Not all archaeological work is done in the field. Today Yasmin went to the (University of) Chicago House library to do some research on ancestor busts and akh iker n Ra ("Excellent Spirit of Ra") stelae. She found several referances in the the articles and books she had read to the 1934-1935 volume of Bruyere's IFAO publications: Rapport sur les fouilles de Deir el-Medineh.

Yasmin at the library

As you can see, the volume is huge! Yasmin was very happy to read a lot of interesting ideas about what Bruyere believed these stelae and busts meant. It is always interesting to read the theories of those who actually discovered these objects and had the opportunity to see some of them in situ before they were removed to museums or other locations.

Yasmin translating text Yasmin working

She was very glad she had remembered to bring her little yellow French-English dictionary along!

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