Our conference launched on Monday, 21 March, with offerings of wine and chocolate to pacify all the beings. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Stringer kicked off the event with a stimulating unscripted talk that really set the tone for the whole conference. Themes included religious diversity, religion as lived experience, and the importance of ethnography. One particular point he made was that to the believer, the beings we were discussing were very much tangible and real. This has made me rethink how I approach Ancient Egyptian perceptions as well.
We then went on to launch our “demonbase“—an online catalogue of a sample of Ancient Egyptian liminal entities. The FileMaker Pro database is accessible now to researchers (please contact us through the contact form). We will shortly have a version available for feedback online. The public version will arise in September!
…. then came two days of presentations that were reviewed in the previous posts …
The final day kicked off with a presentation by Rita Lucarelli, one of the founders of the Demonology Project in general. She gave a great presentation on “Baba and the demonic aspects of the baboon“. I was a bit disappointed to see that Baba indeed holds out knives, rather than being a demonic drummer (sighs..), but in fact, he turns out to be much more complex and appears more frequently than previously suspected. This was followed by Amy Hammett, who completed her MA in Ancient Egyptian Culture here at Swansea University. Now a PhD student at Kent, she continues here work on the mysterious clay balls found throughout Ancient Egypt. There are many different kinds—her focus here was on “The Clay Balls of Ancient Egypt: A Symbolic Defence Against Apophis?” They are found in both domestic and funerary contexts, so their use, like that of many Egyptian objects, was complex. The final presentation was jointly written by Stuart Tyson Smith and Erin Bornemann (who presented it as well). Fresh from the field, they brought to us fine examples of “Liminal Deities in the Borderlands: Bes and Pataikos in Ancient Nubia“. While they were not found in huge numbers, the figurines of Bes and the Pataikos were represented throughout different time periods. Having a relatively secure context (so very rare in Egyptology, though even their tombs had suffered previous looting!) allowed Stuart and Erin, to discuss them in relation to both individuals and society on a broader scale. Having these newly discovered figurines that bring 3-dimensions to representations was a wonderful way to close out the presentation portion of the conference.
Having said that, the task of a final FINAL ending fell to me, and since I cannot be an object reviewer of my own presentation, I will leave it to others. Just to give a hint, a reference was made to the fact that our attempts to understand a culture long dead in many ways hearkens to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra” (if you don’t get it, give yourself an hour to find and watch the whole episode somewhere!).
With that, we headed off for our magical trip to the Gower Peninsula. While the previous 3 days were beautifully sunny, Seth came at us with a vengeance, sending rain, cold wind, and dense fog our way. After initially going off in the wrong direction, we finally made it to Arthur’s Stone (which I am sure at that point seemed like a big pointless rock to many, as we stood there drenched). Still, everybody seemed more cheerful once we got to the Gower Inn, with a veritable buffet of “tea” items (not limited to scones & cream).
Finally, we all went our separate ways, grudgingly for many of us, as it had been a truly magical experience. If you weren’t there, don’t worry, there are many images on our Facebook site and you can follow us on Twitter. In a few years, the volume of papers will also be published for your reading pleasure. In the meantime, l.p.h. to all!
With many thanks to our supporters!!
(blog post by Kasia Szpakowska)