Learning about ancient cultures may be as simple as reading the writing on the wall, if you’re Eugene Cruz-Uribe.
Cruz-Uribe, a professor of history at Northern Arizona University, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture and research at Egypt’s South Valley University for the 2006-07 academic year, where he will continue his exploration of Egyptian graffiti.
Fondly known as the “Egypt Guy,” Cruz-Uribe will teach ancient history at the university and will record Egyptian script from historic sites dating back from 600 B.C. until A.D 300. He said his findings reveal Egypt’s reaction to its loss of internal control and its suppression by the Persians and later the Greeks and Romans.
“The research portion of my Fulbright is a project to record graffiti at the temple of Isis on the island of Philae at Aswan,” Cruz-Uribe said. “I visited the temple a number of times over the years and learned more than 150 graffiti images were missed in a 1932 effort to record them. My project is to go and finish the work by recording and translating them.”
Cruz-Uribe is studying graffiti written in a script called demotic (a later stage of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic language). At the temple of Philae most of the walls are covered in Egyptian hieroglyphs, the archaic language used to write the religious texts, while the graffiti writings are in demotic, the vernacular of the day.
He said the discovered texts provide the framework for analysis of social structures and change over time. In his teachings, Cruz-Uribe integrates the results of his research into the courses to “bring them alive for students.””I feel very honored to be chosen for a Fulbright award. It is a sense of recognition of the work I have been trying to do, and I hope I can share that with my Egyptian colleagues and students,” Cruz-Uribe said. “I have been working on a number of ancient Egyptian texts, especially graffiti, dealing with religion, trade and legal affairs.”
While in Egypt, Cruz-Uribe said he will participate in activities outside of his teaching and research such as meeting with civic groups and business leaders.
“In a sense I will be like a cultural ambassador,” he said. “I am hoping to develop a training program for local guides at tourist sites while I am there, and I hope to work with the NAU Alumni Association to run a study tour for alumni to Egypt.”
Cruz-Uribe’s work with Egyptian cultures dates back to the 1970s when he was a curatorial assistant for the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He is author of numerous academic papers and books on Egypt. His soon to be published book about his previous graffiti discoveries, Hibis Temple Project, Volume 3. Ancient and Modern Graffiti from the Temple Precinct, is due out by the end of this summer.
Cruz-Uribe is one of about 800 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad to some 150 countries for the 2006-07 academic year through the Fulbright Scholar program.