Miss Ariadne Argyros
|Research Student in the Department of Archaeology|
In 2018 I completed my undergraduate studies in Anthropology and Classical Civilizations at the University of Vermont, and it was there that my passion for ancient Egypt was reignited. I then went on to complete an MA in Egyptology from the University of Chicago in 2020 where I wrote my thesis on the topic of gender in the Opening of the Mouth sacrificial scenes, and through this experience I ended up laying the groundwork for my PhD thesis on female mournership in ancient Egyptian funerary culture. I interwove a diverse array of terrestrial and underwater excavation projects into my educational experiences, and I also worked in all kinds of museums ranging from ancient art and evolutionary bioarchaeology to naval history and modern art.
Alongside my PhD studies, I volunteer at Durham’s Oriental Museum where I am updating the Egyptian artifact object records for the Wellcome Collection as part of a greater project researching the collection’s provenance history to connect these artifacts with records and collections from several UK institutions. I am also the Level 1 Postgraduate Representative for the Archaeology Department, serving on the Castle MCR Academic Committee, and am co-organizing two postgraduate conferences that will be taking place in the spring of 2022.
My research interests lie in ancient Egyptian funerary rituals and culture, magic, mythology, animals, gender, modern receptions of antiquity, and education and public outreach.
The study of funerary rituals is among the most popular research fields of modern Egyptology. Within the past thirty years the research focus has shifted toward more specific aspects of these rituals, including gender and emotion. It has been made clear that these ceremonies contain a codified structure of verbal and gesticulatory actions that are expressed through stylized and repetitive performance. So describes the behaviors of mourning women, a pair or group of lamenters who executed their roles for the dead perfectly to ensure that the deceased subject would be regenerated successfully in the afterlife. Greater attention to these mourners has been paid by scholars in more recent history, however no comprehensive study of female mournership in ancient Egyptian funerary culture has been conducted to date, which is a gap that my research intends to fill.
Using a combination of primary and secondary source material, I am documenting the types of physical and verbal mourning displayed on funerary material and visual culture throughout Egyptian history and analyzing the aspects of and context around the lamenters to form a broad picture of the function and importance of mourning and emotions. Grief psychology posits that rituals serve the purpose of helping people cope with loss, so I am using these hypotheses to investigate theories pertaining to possible predynastic origins of mourning rites to discover how and why they became associated with the Osiris myth in the 5th dynasty and how this adaptation allowed the mourner’s laments to become an integral part of promoting the deceased toward a fruitful afterlife.
Despite the strong mythological ties to these rituals, the pain and loss felt by the widows of the dead were very real. It is quite possible that these women may have cried not only because the performance dictated so, but also because of the loss of their husbands, loss of status, and loss of security. Therefore, I also discuss the real-world implications of widowhood as they correlate to the emotions displayed at the funeral.
I also plan on discussing the topic of displaying grief and death in museums in an addendum. Ancient Egyptian death culture has been fetishized to the point where mummified bodies are viewed as exotic objects of fascination instead of real people. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they are thousands of years old and the “otherness” factor has been so severely emphasized by various textual and visual media sources for hundreds of years, but museums are also guilty of playing into this trope for viewership purposes. I want to reframe grief and death in museum displays in order to bring back respect for and humanity toward this rich, vibrant culture and the people who lived and died within it.
Talks and Presentations
2021 Guest Lecture, Emory and Henry University History Department
Ancient Egyptian Funerary Rituals and the Heb-Sed Festival
2020 Guest Lecture, The University of Utah Classics Department
Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphs
2019 American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR) Conference
Man, Woman and Beast: An Evaluation of Gender in the Opening of the Mouth Sacrificial Scenes
2018 The University of Vermont Undergraduate Honors Thesis Defense
Reviving Ophidia: Godly Serpents in Ancient Egyptian Magic and Religion
2017 The University of Vermont Student Research Conference
A Stylistic Reexamination of Middle Kingdom Faience Hippopotami Statuettes