Valuable knowledge from the past
Historical legends can still be an inspiration and contains valuable knowledge for us today. One of the TEDxEde top speakers Olaf Kaper, professor and archaeologist at the university of Leiden, tells us why. We spoke with him about his adventures solving old legends and his passion for investigating the past.
Why ancient Egypt?
As a child Olaf collected newspaper articles and information about ancient Egypt. In his youth his parents gave him a book about this subject and since than his interest has more than grown. Studying Egyptology at the University of Leiden - incidentally the only place where you can study this in the Netherlands - was a logical choice. Ancient Egypt fascinates him because it’s a culture that is totally different.
Olaf explains “ancient Egypt teaches us to look at the world in a different manner where various thoughts can be true at the same time in comparison to our modern way of thinking, which is based on the Greek philosophy of logic.” Early Egyptians didn’t observed history as one-dimension. Next to observing events chronologically, they also observed them cyclically. With each new ruler a new chronological period started and so that periods became intertwined.
The origin of many of the things, which we take for granted today, is due to the influence of ancient Egypt on ancient Greece. He also explains that “ the world of ancient Egypt’s religion is fascinating because it expresses a different way of observing the world. What I try to do is find out what these insights are and what their ideas were about the world. I find it fascinating to reconstruct these and how they developed over time.
Legend of the lost army
Each year Olaf excavates in the Dakhla oasis in the western desert of Egypt. He takes part in an international project in collaboration with the University of New York. The area where this is being done is outside of the better known Nile area and is only being investigated since the 1970s. The goal of this work is to understand the history and culture of this unique area. In the oasis lies an ancient city of the Roman period, with a temple dedicated to the god Thoth. Olaf’s investigation of this site is focused on trying to discover on the history of this city during the Pharaohs and into the Roman period.
“During the investigation of one of the temples, we discovered clues about the missing army”, Olaf tells us. This turned out to be the army of the famous legend, where an army of 50.,000 disappeared in the desert. The discovery was worldwide news.
Ancient Egypt is coming to Ede
Data acquired from modern excavations can help us solve ancient mysteries and bring ancient cultures into perspective. With his TEDx Talk, Olaf has the chance to share with us his passion in a different manner. He would like to spark our imagination by placing ancient Egypt in a broader perspective. His excitement about his profession is contagious and it won’t be a problem for him during his TEDxEde to take us on journey to ancient Egypt.