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'Egypt guy' discusses pilgrimages, graffiti

Known in his field as "the Egypt Guy," Eugene Cruz-Uribe, a professor of history at Northern Arizona University, discussed Egyptian pilgrimages before a small audience in Salomon 001 Wednesday night.

In his lecture, "Valley of the Kings to Philae: Ancient and Modern Pilgrimages," Cruz-Uribe explained that people often went on pilgrimages for medical reasons, both physical and spiritual.

"A pilgrimage would be a journey of at least a day, if not multiple days, and it had to have some sort of significance," he said.

The sites that Cruz-Uribe discussed included the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, the Colossi of Memnon and Philae - the three main pilgrimage destinations for Romans traveling through ancient Egypt, he said.

Cruz-Uribe discussed research he conducted primarily after receiving a Fulbright scholarship to teach at Egypt's South Valley University for the 2006-07 academic year.

Much of Cruz-Uribe's talk focused on ancient graffiti covering the sites. Written in the third person, the graffiti often served as prayers for individuals who were deemed gods after their deaths.

"I always wonder about what kind of society allows people to write on the sides and walls of their church," he said, adding that he believes people etched graffiti onto churches once they were no longer in use.

One inscription, which read "Djedhor forever," will serve as the title for a book Cruz-Uribe plans to write on ancient Egyptian graffiti, he said.

Bonnie Olchowski, the vice president of the Friends of Egyptology, which sponsored the lecture, found Cruz-Uribe's discussion of the graffiti prayers especially intriguing.

"I found it interesting because normally, in our culture, we pray for ourselves and don't use the third person," Olchowski said.

Though the lecture hall was filled mostly with academics, not all attendees were familiar with the study of Egyptology.

"This was my first lecture in Egyptology, and I'm an Egyptian, so I found it very interesting," said Mohamed El-Sharkawi, a lecturer in Arabic at the Center for Language Studies.

Cruz-Uribe has authored eight books and 75 articles based on his research, according to Professor of Egyptology James Allen, who introduced Cruz-Uribe. He also works as an editor of the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt and was an assistant professor of Egyptology at Brown in the 1980s, Allen said.


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