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Ancient writing – new media: digital publishing of Egyptology

University College London (UCL), University of Pennsylvania, Oxford…Kathryn Piquette is an Egyptologist who is sought after on the global research stage: the academic Ivy League of international universities welcomes her on their research teams for her academic skills and know how on the exploration of ancient Egyptian script and image. Kathryn examines ways in which materials, techniques, and associated material practices inform both linguistic and non-linguistic meanings with the help of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). During the course of 2017 her eBook “An Archaeology of Art and Writing: Early Egyptian labels in context” will be published digitally with the help of MAP, the Modern Academic Publishing Platform launched at the University of Cologne. Kathryn’s development of RTI at the University of Cologne and her international advanced studies as well as publication of research data from 2013 to 2016 were reasons to get her work funded as a pilot project for MAP.  


Photo: Kathryn Piquette

Kathryn, can you describe what your research is about?

My research focusses on ancient Egyptian art and writing from the perspectives of archaeological and social theories of practice. I am interested in questions of the impact of materiality, bodily movements and sensory perception on the production and consumption of symbolic meaning.

Investigation of these questions often relies on good image data, hence I am also working with and adapting various advanced digital imaging techniques, such as Reflectance Transformation Imaging, Multispectral Imaging, Decorrelation Stretch and the integration of these different techniques.

You work on ancient scripts examining communication back in the days when communication was still in its infancy. Little did the Egyptians know on how communication and language would evolve over the coming centuries. What excites you about their way of communicating?

Ancient writing and other modes of mark-marking, especially ancient Egyptian, presents an area of research that I find exciting, particularly when considering questions of material and technical choice. As scholars, we often focus on the linguistic and other symbolic meanings encoded in signs and symbols.

What I find especially fascinating is how semantic meanings are also bound up in the physicality of expression, and the environmental, embodied and social conditions under which writing is created and consumed—and sometimes deliberately hidden from view.

Photo: Kathryn Piquette
Photo: Kathryn Piquette


How will publishing online help further your academic career?

Publishing online with MAP presents a valuable opportunity for furthering my career by increasing the visibility of my research and making it easier to find. By opening up access to scholars, independent researchers, students and beyond, MAP acts as an important vehicle for increasing my readership and citations.

Of further value is the support MAP provides for publishing the database of evidence upon which my ebook is based, thus lowering the barriers to collaboration and increasing conversations with scholars from across multiple disciplines, and potentially accelerating use of my research in follow-on studies.

May we ask about your personal roots and how you got into Egyptology?

My deep interest in Archaeology and Egyptology was cultivated during my childhood, growing up in the American Southwest. However, as a member of a large family of rather modest means, pursuing my educational goals at university presented a significant financial difficulty, although I managed to obtain some college funding through employment in US military intelligence as an Arabic linguist.

I subsequently pursed my education on the East Coast in the US before studying in Europe, which has been my home ever since.

Many thanks for taking the time to speak to us. All the best for your publication with MAP!