The Evening Class;Egyptology

22nd October 1999 at 01:00
Although not strictly an evening class, a Saturday morning is as good a time as any to speculate about the origins of civilisation, the connections between language and culture, or the very nature of historical thought. This class, just down the road from London's Waterloo Station, is amicable and serious. Several people are here because the 24-week course can lead to a certificate in Egyptology from London University's Birkbeck College. All are united by a feeling for the subject they describe as "passionate or "enthusiastic".

The teacher, Jose Perez-Accino, left Madrid to come to work in London, one of the discipline's historic homes. The British Museum and the Petrie Collection at London University are nearby, and the class will visit them. They will also use academic libraries in Bloomsbury, and will benefit from Jose's own researches, derived from digging at Gaza.

This morning the class takes the form of a discussion. The students are disdainful of the occultism of pyramidologists. They want to develop what was for many a childhood curiosity into an adult grasp of who these strange people were, so unlike us and yet somehow akin. For the moment, it's enough to establish chronologies and argue about continuities that can stretch over several millennia. Later will come the time for written assignments, astutely treating concepts such as "middle kingdom" or "Ptolemaic dynasty."

Gina Lennard from Deptford, south London, says this is something she's wanted to do for ages. Now her children are at college, she can get to grips with an interest she has previously pursued through documentary films, books and articles. "I would like to go to Egypt, "she says "and see the reality. It draws me like nothing else." In the meantime a room next to the Thames is the next best thing to the banks of the Nile.

This course took place at Southwark College, The Cut, London SE1 8LE. Tel: 0171 815 1500.

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