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C of I museum curator attends Egyptology conference

Jan Summers Duffy, an Archaeologist and curator at The College of Idaho’s Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History, recently attended an Egyptology conference in Santa Ana, Calif. The conference focused on the work of Professor Barry Kemp, one of the world’s top Egyptologists. Jan shares her experience below:

I was invited by the ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt), Orange County Chapter to attend a conference on the 30-plus years of work by top Egyptologist Professor Barry Kemp. ARCE has chapters throughout the United States and the world.  Professor Kemp and I have been in touch for years so it was nice to finally meet up and discuss our mutual interests as his site at Amarna is similar to one I worked in at Mendes, Egypt.  I was invited to join and travel with his team party while at the conference.

Amarna is the city in the desert that the famous 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Akhenaten (whose wife was Nefertiti) founded to worship the sun god in ancient Egypt.  DNA results have recently proved Akhenaten to be the father of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, whose KV62 is the most famous tomb ever discovered in Egypt. Though her mummy has been found and DNA matched, there is no name to Tutankhamen’s mother as yet, but it is doubtful to be Nefertiti. The city in the desert thrived for 16 years, and then all but disappeared.  Professor Kemp has excavated there for more than 30 years and has so far found several palaces, temples, royal tombs and cemeteries of perhaps 30,000+ residents, including burials that have helped us understand how the people lived and worked.  Thousands of artifacts including painted scene reliefs, pottery, gold, faience and copper are now being studied.  As is tradition in the United Kingdom, Professor Kemp was awarded knighthood by Queen Elizabeth for his outstanding work and is known as Sir. Barry Kemp.

This amazing three-day conference revealed slides of some areas of the never-before-seen site and how it is being affected by encroachment of the agriculture by the local villagers. The knowledge needed to mix preserving an ancient Egyptian archaeological site and available agricultural land for the people takes a lot of insight, research, negotiation and work. Many surprising points were revealed about the site.  Kemp’s book on the site of Tel Amarna, Akhenaten & Nefertiti, Amarna and its People, gives reasons why people may have followed the pharaoh out into the desert. But the site largely remains as big a mystery today as it was the day it was discovered.  

To learn more about Egyptology, or to set up an appointment to view the Orma J. Smith Museum’s collection of Egyptian artifacts, contact Jan at [email protected] or call (208) 484-4395. The Orma J. Smith Museum is open every Friday between 1 and 5 p.m. and on the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for museum volunteer workday. Visit for more information.