In this series of posts, I am going to share my tips for the process of Egyptological research. For those who are new to the field, or those without academic guidance, the research process can be daunting. It is my hope that my ‘Researching Egypt’ series will show you that research is a challenging yet thrilling process of detective work and discovery.
So, let’s assume you have a topic in mind. Perhaps you want to research Ramesses II, cats in ancient Egypt, or maybe Egyptian demons – whatever the topic, the best starting place is an encyclopedia. There are many encyclopedias on ancient Egypt, but here are a couple of my personal favourites:
- The Lexikon der Ägyptologie (LÄ ) is a seven volume set. Do not let the title put you off if you do not read German! Many of the articles are in English, and even those that are not are useful for their bibliographies – each entry is accompanied by an excellent bibliography, listing books, chapters, and articles that relate to that topic. Treat the bibliography as a list of clues leading you on the hunt for information-treasure!
- The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Egypt (OEAE) is more accessible than the LÄ, and its three volumes are written entirely in English. Whereas the LÄ is aimed at an academic audience, the OEAE is intended for a more mainstream audience. The entries are easy to understand, and are accompanied by a good bibliography.
When looking at bibliographies, it is useful to have a list of journal title abbreviations handy, as many journal titles will appear in abbreviated form. Here is the one that I use: EEF Bibliographical Abbreviations.
Make a list of the books, chapters, or journal articles that you would like to look at in detail, or better still, photocopy the whole entry and highlight the relevant titles – this is a brilliant time-saver! If you are researching a very general topic, such as Ramesses II, you may want to look at all of the publications listed for that topic; however if you are researching a more specific topic, such as Ramesses II’s Qadesh campaign, pick out the relevant publications listed under ‘Ramesses II’, and then look at any other relevant entries such as ‘Qadesh’, or ‘Battle of Qadesh’. It is worth noting here that you will encounter different spellings and so it is useful to search for all variations: ‘Kadesh’ and ‘Qadesh’ are both valid spellings – a quick look at Wikipedia will show you the more common variations.
On the subject of Wikipedia, I would urge you to use it with caution. It is a good starting point and does have bibliographical entries for most topics; however it is a resource that can be edited by ANYONE, and so the accuracy of the information cannot be certain.
Next week’s post will discuss the next steps, including reading for research.