From a mummy on board the Titanic to the pyramids’ alignment with the stars, from psychoactive mushrooms to the lost realm of Atlantis: alternative interpretations of ancient Egypt, often summarized as ‘alternative Egyptology’, have always focused on subjects that others shunned. Ever since the birth of scholarly Egyptology with the decipherment of the hieroglyphic script two hundred years ago, alternative interpretations and imaginative theories have flourished alongside it. They intertwined with egalitarian and spiritual tendencies in society during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when ancient Egypt inspired countless mediums, artists, and movements from freemasonry to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. More recently alternative interpretations have inspired comic-book authors and nationalist Chinese bloggers.
It would be a mistake, however, for academics to simply view these alternative theories as fantasies that are best ignored. Their lasting popular impact needs to be assessed and (publicly) addressed by Egyptology, but they may in fact also open up fresh perspectives for research. The contributors to this volume critically explore various aspects of ‘alternative Egyptology’, assessing its impact on society and scholarship, and finding ways for Egyptology to relate to it.
Introduction Ben van den Bercken
Lifting the Veil of Isis: Egyptian Reception and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Caroline Tully
‘Someone Who Has Power and Who Understands’: Egyptology, Egyptosophy and the ‘Truth’ about Ancient Egypt Jasmine Day
Aleister Crowley’s Egypt: The Stele of Revealing Maiken Mosleth King
Measurement Standards and Double Standards: Reassessing Charles Piazzi Smyth’s Egyptological Reputation Daniel Potter
The Orion Correlation Theory: Past, Present, and Future? Willem van Haarlem
High Times in Ancient Egypt Andrea Sinclair
Batman and the Book of the Dead: Alternative Egyptology or ‘Just for Fun’? Arnaud Quertinmont
Sphinxes of Mars: Science, Fiction, and Nineteenth-Century Ancient Aliens Eleanor Dobson
Dr Paul Schliemann: Reality or Fake News? Jean-Pierre Pätznick
Was Narmer a Chinese emperor? Alternative History of Ancient Egypt in China Tian Tian
The Occult Egyptian Mural Discovered in a Brazilian Freemasons’ Temple Thomas Henrique de Toledo Stella
The Royal Son of the Sun: Christian Egyptosophy and Victorian Egyptology in the Egyptian Romances of H. Rider Haggard Simon Magus
The Pillar of Fire and the Sea of Reeds: Identifying the Locations along the Route of the Exodus Huub Pragt
Epilogue Willem van Haarlem
Ben van den Bercken is an archaeologist and junior curator of Ancient Egyptian antiquities at the Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam. Formerly, he was assistant-curator Engraved Gems at the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden. His work on the collection of engraved gems include contributions to the collection’s history, Egyptian scarabs and cylinders seals. As an archaeologist he is working at excavations in Alexandria, Egypt.
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