Since the fall of 2003 I have been teaching undergraduate classes on Egyptian religion and literature, and training graduate students in Egyptian philology at UCLA. I was trained myself in Egyptology and Comparative Literature at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, and the Julius-Maximilians University in Würzburg, Germany. I wrote my dissertation on two magic formularies written in Egyptian Demotic and Greek, that are dated by paleography to the turn of the second to the third century of the Common Era. I was fascinated by the question of what may have motivated the scribes to compose such complex, bilingual documents, and which audience might have appreciated such intricate play with language and writing. This led me into the fascinating world of the Egyptian temple scriptorium, where ritual texts, magic formularies, and literary texts were composed and copied. It also introduced me to the intercultural and innovative milieu of Greco-Egyptian religion, magic, and literature, a phenomenon that spread from Egypt all over the Mediterranean in the Hellenistic and Roman Age.
1999 – 2003: Ph.D. program, Leiden University, the Netherlands dissertation: “Reading
Magic: social and cultural contexts of two Demotic-Greek magical
handbooks” (awarded cum laude)
1998 – 1999: Post- graduate studies in the social sciences (Advanced Master’s Program),
Leiden University, the Netherlands (awarded cum laude)
1997 – 1998: Post- graduate studies at the Egyptological Institute of Würzburg University,
1993 – 1997: M.A. program, Comparative Literature, Leiden University, the Netherlands
1992 – 1997: M.A. program, Egyptology, Leiden University, the Netherlands
Awards and Scholarships
2002 – First prize Basler ägyptologischer Nachwuchspreis
2002 – Travel Scholarship of Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research for research and
study at the University of Chicago
1998 – VSB post-graduate abroad Scholarship for study at Würzburg University
In my research, I am fascinated with reconstructing Egypt’s intellectual history. Religious and literary texts tend to be the sources I find most exciting and intriguing. My studies are driven by the question of how the indigenous elites of Egypt created and maintained their social and cultural identity in the Late Period and Greco-Roman Period (664 BCE – 300 CE). This period of about thousand years is characterized by successive phases of foreign domination and immigration from the Levant, Asia Minor, and Greece. These intense and long-lasting contacts with foreign peoples, beliefs and practices within the national borders led to dramatic demographic and socio-economic changes, and gave the Egyptian landscape, her population and culture a new face.
This reality was strikingly at odds with the Egyptian ma‘at theology, which had always served, and continued to serve, as the basis of the official ideology of the pharaonic state and society. According to this worldview and ethical framework, Egypt was the center of the ordered world and was continuously under threat of disintegration, from within and from without, by demonic forces of chaos. Foreigners and nomadic people were singled out to symbolize these chaotic forces and accordingly, their subjugation was considered a condition for a stable and thriving Egyptian society.
My research feeds on the tension between this ideology and the historical reality of the Late and Greco-Roman Periods. Instead of being the center of the world, Egypt played often only a peripheral role on the international scene in these periods. Instead of defeating foreigners abroad, foreigners were now living inside Egypt and for several periods the royal family was of foreign descent. The basic questions are: 1) how did historical reality affect the worldview and self-identity of the Egyptian indigenous elites and 2) how did these elites (re)construct their social and cultural identity as a unique and inalienable essence vis-à-vis foreign culture groups who cohabitated Egypt and occasionally even ruled over them?
I address these issues in three research projects. One project is concerned with the identification and development of the indigenous roots of Greco-Egyptian magic. A major concern is developing a better understanding of the sphere of production and reception of Egyptian ritual texts throughout Egypt’s long history. The second project deals with the transformations in usage and transmission of Egyptian funerary texts through time. Its core is my current preparation of a comprehensive edition of a funerary liturgy in the hieratic and Demotic script, preserved on a manuscript in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The other project addresses changes in the form and function of space and time in Egyptian fictional narrative literature and cult topographies. All three projects engage with early and late sources, with various languages and writing systems, and with both Egyptian and non-Egyptian beliefs and practices. And that is precisely why they are so fascinating.
My teaching starts from the assumption that any research on ancient Egyptian texts has to be grounded in a solid understanding of the Egyptian language and requires mastery of the philological tools that are currently at our disposal. As a faculty member in one of the very few Egyptology programs in the United States, I teach all phases of the Egyptian language and all writing systems that were once used to transcribe Egyptian. In my classes I stress issues of continuity and change in an attempt to make students aware of the connections between different sources, periods, and language phases. I am also an adamant advocate of studying all periods of Egyptian history and of discussing all source materials irrespective of their date and origin. I do not subscribe to the popular view that the culture of pharaonic Egypt ended with the demise of the New Kingdom. I therefore require of my students an equal interest in the peripheral regions and periods as in the classical periods and traditional capitals.
I offer three lecture courses to both undergraduate and graduate students: an introduction to Egyptian religion, a survey of Egyptian literature in translation, and a comparative overview of magical traditions in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, Greece, and Rome. My language program includes courses in Early and Old Egyptian, Middle and Classical Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic, and Coptic. To complete the Egyptian philology program I also offer training in hieratic and Ptolemaic hieroglyphic writing. The introductory classes in Middle Egyptian and Coptic are open to both undergraduate and graduate students; all other language courses are restricted to graduate students only. For course descriptions, please follow this link(PDF).
A selection of publications
De Wereld in Evenwicht. Goden en Mensen in het Oude Egypte(Amsterdam University Press; Amsterdam 2006). [The World in Balance. Gods and Men in Ancient Egypt – an introduction to ancient Egyptian religion]
* Jacobus van Dijk, Tijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie 39 (2008) 40-
Priests, Tongues, and Rites. The London-Leiden Magical Manuscripts and Translation in Egyptian Ritual (100-300 CE) (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World - RGRW 153; Brill Academic Publishers; Leiden 2005).
* Lynn LiDonnici, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.09.25
* Nikolaos Lazaridis, Sehepunkte 5 (2005)
* Youri Volokhine, Numen – International Review for the History of Religions
53 (2006) 385-92.
* Michèle Broze, Chronique d’Égypte 81 (2006) 373-74.
* Gideon Bohak, Henoch 28 (2006) 174-76.
* Attilio Mastrocinque, Gnomon. Kritische Zeitschrift für die gesamte
klassische Altertumswissenschaft 79 (2007) 619-26.
“The Greek and Demotic Magical Papyri”, in David Frankfurter and Henk Versnel (eds.), A Guide to Ancient Magic (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World; Brill Academic Publishers; Leiden forthcoming in 2009).
“Egyptian Literature in the Hellenistic and Roman Period”, in: James Clauss and Martine Cuypers (eds.), A Companion to Hellenistic Literature (Blackwell Companions to Ancient Literature and Culture; Oxford forthcoming in 2009).
“A Coptic Magical Text from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Ostracon LACMA MA 80.202.214” Coptica 5 (2006) 20-31.
“A Bilingual Account From Late Ptolemaic Tebtunis” Zeitschrift für Altägyptische Sprache 133 (2006) 56-65. [co-authored with Brian Muhs]
“Abundance in the Margins - multiplicity of script in the Demotic Magical Papyri”, in: Seth Sanders (ed.), Margins of Writing, Origins of Culture. New Approaches to Writing and Reading in the Ancient Near East (Oriental Institute Seminars 2; Oriental Institute; Chicago 2006) 67-81.
“Ein spätägyptisches magisches Handbuch: eine neue PDM oder PGM?”, in: F. Hoffmann and H.J. Thissen (eds.), Res Severa Verum Gaudium. Festschrift Zauzich, (Studia Demotica 6; Peeters Publishers; Leuven 2004) 121-28.
“Miniaturization and the Opening of the Mouth in a Greek Magical Text (PGM XII.270-350)” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 3 (2003) 47-72. [co-authored with Ian Moyer]
“Claiming the stars – Egyptian Priests facing the Sky”, in: Susanne Bickel and Antonio Loprieno (eds.), Basel Egyptology Prize 1. Junior Research in Egyptian History, Archaeology, and Philology (Aegyptiaca Helvetica 17; Basel 2003) 277-89.
“Stars and the Egyptian Priesthood in the Greco-Roman Period”, in: Scott B. Noegel, Joel Walker and Brannon M. Wheeler (eds.), Prayer, Magic and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World (Pennsylvania State University Press 2003) 137-53.
“Fear of Women. Representations of Women in Demotic Wisdom Texts” Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 25 (1998) 7-46.