About Me

My name is John. I live in Chicago, one of the greatest cities in the world.

I state flat out that I am not a professional historian. I am not an Egyptologist or Assyriologist or anything else of the sort. I categorize myself as an amateur historian. I perform independent research for my own personal benefit and for my commitments to two museums in Chicago.

I volunteer as a docent at the Field Museum of Natural History and at the Oriental Institute on the campus of the University of Chicago. I must stress that this blog has no official affiliation with either of these institutions nor is anything written or posted in this blog necessarily the views or opinions of either of these institutions. This blog is my own enterprise.

It is an honor to be a docent at the Field and the O.I. The Field is one of the largest natural history museums in the world and the O.I. is one of the world’s leading institutions for the study and research of the ancient Near East. As a docent I give tours, facilitate in the Egyptian exhibits, and present lectures when I’m involved with special temporary exhibits. To say that this work is “fun” would be a monumental understatement. I consider it a great privilege to be able to work with my fellow docents and with the professional staffs of these two institutions, and it seems a never-ending delight to be able to meet so many wonderful guests and visitors whenever I am there.

As for my background, I have a couple of college degrees but nothing in a formal sense pertaining to the ancient Near East. I minored in anthropology while pursuing my first degree, but the focus was on the cultural anthropology of Native Americans and the archaeology of their historical sites. My love of the ancient Near East began shortly thereafter and continues to this day. Indeed, to call it a hobby would be misleading. It has become a well-loved addiction. Some of us addicted to the study of ancient Egypt like to joke that we are hooked on Egyptometaphine. It’s a worthwhile drug.

My studies and research of the ancient Near East have gone beyond twenty years now. Over the past ten years or so, a lot of my studies have been on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, for which I eventually did undergo some formal training. The sum total of what I have learned enables me to be a more useful and informed museum docent.

That’s enough about me. I hope you enjoy this blog.

13 thoughts on “About Me”

  1. Excellent points made. Thanks for this article.

  2. Anneke Bart said:

    Very nice BLOG John! As usual: high quality and well written. :-)

  3. Just found this today, looks like i have quite a bit of reading to do.

  4. I am so glad that I stumbled across your blog when doing a little self-research about the story of Exodus and how it pertained to the world outside the Bible. I have quite enjoyed reading your other articles and have to say the show Ancient Aliens also rubs me the wrong way. I hope to see more writing in the future and have enjoyed spending the last few days reading your past posts.

    • Hi, Amber

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed some of my articles. I do plan to continue writing but time is very tight as of late, so I’ve lagged behind. It’s one of those things: plenty of ideas but too little time. I hope you continue checking in, however.

  5. cerulien said:

    I found your blog while looking at something on the O.I. website. A phrase from their website that I used in a search query had your blog in the resulting list. What a fantastic “hobby”! As someone who is half EgyptianArab, and half euromut (really. I am dutch, english, maybe something else? My father was not mixed however and was from Egypt) I have loved these subjects forever. I have often found it confusing at times because Ancient Egypt and Egyptians are seen as an actual separate culture of their own. However now, we are arabs. Or I guess we are black now?. Looking in the mirror I don’t get it. I have a substantial first generation amount of DNA from both sides. I don’t look black at all, nor do I look Arabic in the way most of the world thinks of Arabic. I have dark brown curly hair, dark brown eyes and only medium olive skin. When it’s winter I always joke that I am light green but I guess I do tan well. Hearing people talk about Egypt and what Egyptians were, even defining what we are now, sometimes makes me feel like we aren’t real. Hard to explain. Anyways, refreshing to read your posts! Not often outside of research and medical journals do i run into thought provoking intellectual academic review. Thanks!

    • HI, cerulien. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and allow me to apologize for taking so long to reply. It’s always a pleasure to meet someone with Egyptian ancestry. I’ve met, known, and have worked with a number of Egyptian people over the years and can in all honesty say that I liked all of them. You bring up the issue of the labels we modern people tend to slap on one another, and at times it can be a bit nuts. I do see the logic in identifying ancient Egyptians as separate from modern Egyptians, especially in so far as culture is concerned. However, no one can deny the heritage—both cultural and genetic—that extends between the two, so cultural lines can be blurred. It’s kind of funny what you said in your comment because many Egyptians with whom I’ve spoken tend to stress that they’re Egyptian and not Arab. And so it goes.

      What I try to stress in my own writings is how the ancient pharaonic culture does not seem to have cared a whit about skin color: as long as you were Egyptian, you were perfectly all right. It’s those who didn’t identify as Egyptians (that is, foreigners) who seemed to be inherently inferior to the minds of people residing in the Nile Valley. Sadly, today we have people with afrocentric agendas and eurocentric agendas, and it all tends to get a bit muddled.

      I hope someday you can visit the O.I. I also work as a docent with the Field Museum, which is about nine miles to the north. Both are wonderful institutions!

  6. Mathew Perry said:

    I believe that Ancient Egypt was a cultural crossroad where peoples of many “races” converged and a great exchange of ideas and culture took place . The ancients did not see race as we do today . There are ancient paintings in North African caves that depict black Africans . There is evidence of Asian And Middle Eastern habitats in Africa . Southern and Eastern European habitation and vice versa . It is a fact that Ancient Nubia is a purely black Kingdom as the Assyrians and other Mid East Kingdoms are Arabic i.e. Caucasians . The Arabs conquered Egypt several hundred years after the over 100 year Nubian rule assimilating the true identity of the Egyptian
    people. The Ancient Egyptians were an admixture of people but the proto-historic or the aboriginal people we surely Black African which still exists in parts of Egypt to present day. Cave paintings that existed before the Sahara became a desert depicts Black Africans swimming in lakes thousand of years of before the pyramids . So you see Blacks were there Before Arabs , Berbers, or any other race of Caucasians . So it makes sense that Africans seeded Egypt . Greek historians also seem to agree . Aetheopia was the name the Greeks gave to Egypt not to be confused with the Ethiopia farther to the south given its name by Arabs . Both roughly mean “Land of me with burnt faces “.

    • Hi, Matthew. Thanks for commenting. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing an article on ethnicity in ancient Egypt, but sadly it’s a hot-button issue with a lot of negative polarization and uninformed bias. In other words, people tend to bring a lot of modern racial baggage to the table (both black and white people) and I’d just as soon avoid that. I couldn’t agree with you more that the ancients did not see race the same way we do today, and ancient Egypt is the perfect example. From what we can tell, they didn’t care one bit what color your skin was as long as you were Egyptian; but if you weren’t Egyptian, there was something inherently wrong with you. It’s not so much race as it is xenophobia, a common characteristic of ancient societies.

      I might disagree with you on a couple of points, however. For example, Neolithic rock art found especially in the Easter Desert does not distinguish race. In fact, where human figures are represented, they are cusorily drawn, almost in the manner of stick figures. Also, the Assyrians were not Arabs—that ethnic group would emerge shortly later—and while they did indeed conquer Egypt and wrest control from the Kushites (Nubians) who had been ruling the Nile Valley, they didn’t really assimilate Egypt as a culture. They didn’t so much care about the people or culture of the Nile Valley as they craved its natural resources—which is the same reason Egypt would be conquered by Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. While no one of intellect doubts Egypt was an African civilization, it was not so much a race or even an ethnicity as a blended culture from the start. By the time Egypt emerged as a kingdom around 3100 BCE, it already consisted of black Africans, light-skinned Africans, tribal Berbers, and Syro-Palestinians. I think this is one of the things that made Egypt so strong and long-lived. As I like to say, race doesn’t matter in the first place when weighed against the achievements of a society, and few civilizations achieved the greatness of pharaonic Egypt.

  7. Ruben Lopez said:

    I AM AN EGYPTOLOGYIST AS YOU,AMATEUR, GREAT DOCUMENTS YOU POSTED, DO YOU HAVE A NEWS LETTER? VISITED ALMOST ALL THE MUSEUMS AND WAS IN EGYPT AS WELL.

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