World CivilizationsResearch

Mummies and Magic

The main point of this exercise is to help you categorize evidence. While you are researching, you should be able to decide for yourself if an article, book, or piece of material evidence relates to your topic and is reliable. If you aren't clear on the differences between primary and secondary source evidence, carefully read this explanation of Primary Source evidence.

Now, let's take a practice run through a site so you can decide if you are asking the right questions of your sources. Visit the first site on the Link Collection. While you are visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, evaluate the site. What do you see immediately available? Several (gorgeous) color shots of important pieces of jewelry, furniture, etc. (My personal favorite is the pectoral from King Tut's mummy.) Take a look at some of the photos. Do any of the artifacts have to do with a subject you might want to write about? Say, the Eye of Horus in Egyptian Funerary Ritual. You've already got a piece of PRIMARY SOURCE EVIDENCE which may fit into your arguments--A pectoral which prominently features the Eye of Horus. The site tells you what the piece is made of, and the period during which the piece was made. (REMEMBER that this commentary information is provided by the Museum staff, and not necessarily primary--though you can probably consider it a fairly expert source.)

What else can you find at the Cairo Museum? Architecture, papyrus, canopic jars . . . the site features several dozen good, clear pictures of material evidence. To use this type of evidence, however, you must be looking for something very specific, like the representation of a particular goddess on funerary jars or some such thing. This would not be a good place to find evidence about the words spoken or the specific procedure used in Egyptian funeral rituals (unless one reads hieroglyphics). As you review the evidence provided by the museum, take careful notes about what you saw. If you find a picture you really feel enhances your research, you can save it to your hard drive by clicking the right mouse button and choosing "save as". If you are using material evidence, pictures add much to your arguments.

Let's visit and analyze one more site before you venture off into cyberspace on your own. The next site on the Link Collection features the Book of the Dead. Note that the first thing this text file provides is the date of the original document and the name of the translator. The document was written during the period you are studying, so it is primary. Obviously, primary sources from Ancient Egypt are probably going to have to be translated for most students to use them. You first question about a translation should be "WHO" did the translating? Are they qualified? (I will save you the trouble of looking up E.A. Wallis Budge and tell you that his translations are respected and continue to be used throughout the world, though they are approximately one hundred years old. You can feel confident using the Budge translations for your history paper.)

Now, what exactly does the Book of the Dead have to offer your project? It is a wonderful collection of references to the gods of the Ancient Egyptians. It also contains hymns to the Gods and spells to help the deceased's soul to walk, talk, and generally exist as he might wish. Reading through this document will help you come to understand the necessity of ritual, of food and drink offerings, and of correctly offered spells. From it you can learn about Egyptian religion, ritual, and beliefs about the physical and spiritual worlds. Any of these ideas might make an interesting study for your paper.

You have the idea. Explore the Link Collection. Take careful notes. Then proceed to the conclusion of this assignment.

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World Civilizations

RESEARCH: Ralph'sWorld Civilizations
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Last revised July 12, 1997
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