Northern California: The Qeheq Papyrus: A Bridge Between Egyptology and Berberology
Presented by: Jason Silvestri is a PhD candidate; Egyptian Archaeology in the department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley
- 3:00 PM PT Northern California
- Room 20 Social Sciences Building (Formerly Barrows Hall) University of California, Berkeley
Parking is available in UC lots all day on weekends, for a fee. Ticket dispensing machines accept debit or credit cards. Parking is available in lots around the Social Sciences Building, and in lots along Bancroft. A map of the campus is available online at http://www.berkeley.edu/map/
Among the ancient documents in the collection of the Museo Egizio in Turin, there is a papyrus, thought to be from Deir el-Medina, which records a set of magical spells for the protection against snakes written in an Egyptian script but in the hitherto unidentified language of the Qeheq people. The Qeheq are an infrequently attested North African ethnic group of the late 2nd millennium BCE, often associated with other, more well-known ancient “Libyan” groups like the Libu and the Meshwesh. The language recorded on the papyrus exhibits strong similarities to proto-Berber as reconstructed by linguists using data from the modern Amazigh (or Berber) languages, indigenous to North Africa and still spoken today by an estimated 30-to-40 million people from the Atlantic in the west to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt in the east, from the Mediterranean in the north to the Niger River in the south. As the papyrus records what is likely to be the earliest textually-attested Amazigh language, and does so using the Egyptian hieratic script, it stands as a unique document, serving as a bridge between two related but often separated academic fields–Egyptology and Berberology/Amazigh Studies. When held in light of other Egyptian textual and onomastic material attesting so-called “Libyan” groups from the 1st millennium BCE, the language of the Qeheq can contribute toward a clearer understanding of the geographic and temporal extent of ancient Amazigh languages and their speakers’ interactions with neighboring cultural groups, like the Egyptians.
Jason Silvestri is a PhD candidate in the field of Egyptian Archaeology in the department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley. His dissertation research focuses on the social and administrative history of the Libyan Period in Egypt (Dynasties 21 through 24) and examines numerous social phenomena that are particularly emblematic of that period, such as the formation and use of diaspora identities and ethnic code-switching, political identity formation, factional conflict, regional identity politicization, personal piety, and archaism. Through his interest in Ancient Libyan cultural and linguistic identities, Jason began studying the modern Amazigh (or Berber) languages, the indigenous languages of North Africa, west of the Nile. He founded and coordinated an online language education program through the Center for Language and Culture in Marrakesh, Morocco, which operated for several semesters from 2020 through 2022 dedicated to the teaching of Tashelhiyt, an Amazigh language spoken in Southern Morocco. In addition to his philological work on Egyptian and Amazigh material, Jason also is a trained archaeologist and has worked on several projects across the Mediterranean, including in Egypt, Greece, and Italy; he is currently starting a project that aims to address a large and mostly unpublished corpus of Third Intermediate Period and Saite Period Egyptian objects excavated from Iron Age indigenous contexts in Southern Italy.
For more information, please visit https://www.youtube.com/@NorthernCaliforniaARCE, https://facebook.com/NorthernCaliforniaARCE, https://arce-nc.org, https://twitter.com/ARCENCPostings, or http://khentiamentiu.org. To join the chapter or renew your membership, please go to https://arce.org/join-arce/ and select “Berkeley, CA” as your chapter when you sign up.