Nesrin. A. El-Galy - 2017 - Oxford University D.Phil Scholar

From the moment that I joined the Archaeology Department at Alexandria University, my interest in archaeology began to blossom. This continued through my postgraduate studies in the Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Cultural Heritage. I participated in excavations, underwater surveys, and conferences. In August 2016, I received my Master’s degree from Alexandria University, which included a thesis entitled the “Characteristics of Ancient Egyptian Ship and Boat Models”. During my Master’s studies, I gained knowledge and experience in the field of instructional design, which subsequently complimented my academic studies. It has fuelled ideas that I plan to implement using a range of technologies (3D – virtual reality – augmented reality) to develop a new system that supports digitally reconstructing boats and ships, not only to preserve them from a cultural heritage perspective but also to make this data widely accessible.

In 2017, I was given the opportunity to be an Honor Frost Scholar to pursue my D.Phil, which is a great honour for me. I believe that I will be able to contribute and make a difference in my field of research. Additionally, it allows me to meet new people and interact with various cultures and backgrounds, as well as demonstrate my leadership, management and teambuilding skills. I am pursuing a D.Phil that will enable me to deepen expertise in this field and contribute new research and findings to the area of Maritime Archaeology. Significantly, I am the first female in Egypt to specialise in ancient naval architecture and marine engineering research.

My D.Phil builds on the knowledge that I developed for my Master’s degree that combined personal observation and recording of ancient Egyptian boat models to reveal the characteristics of their hulls focusing on archaeological data for hull design, structure and stability. My research aims to investigate:

• Whether boat models were miniature representations of reality, i.e. were they accurate representations of the different types of ships and boats that were sailing on the Nile during the period they were created?

• Alternatively, whether the models were abstract representations chosen to represent themes for the rituals associated with burial. If so, such models need not be nautically accurate in their construction and as such could be more representational and decorative in their construction.

My early work on the models has suggested that their hulls are hydro-dynamically efficient and that they could have effectively functioned in the fluvial landscape of the Nile. This indicates that ship and boat models can be used to augment the sparse nautical archaeological evidence from Egypt, which for the periods under consideration in this thesis, have a limited number of vessels and vessel timbers. Here the range of different types of vessels modelled by ancient Egyptian craftspeople adds to the corpus of information on the different types of vessels that were in use on the Nile. This is because the nautical evidence is biased towards vessels from ritual contexts – overwhelmingly boat burials from tomb contexts – whereas the models encompass personal vessels, hunting, cargo, and travelling boats, as well ritual vessels.

The first year of the research was dedicated to developing a research methodology, learning how to build boat models in a 3D environment, and selecting the most appropriate nautical architecture software for use in my thesis. The second-year entailed me learning how to use this software and its forms of analysis and the application of this to boat models. The software enables me to analyse the nautical capabilities of the models that form the corpus of my research. During the second year, I had the opportunity to attend Egyptology classes at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. Additionally, I took part in the “Handling Objects” course directed by D Elizabeth Frood and Liam Mcnamara at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It was a splendid experience enabling me to think more about how to get the most out of an artefact. I was awarded an HFF bursary for participating in the 15th International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology (ISBSA 15) organised by the Centre Camille Jullian, a research unit of the University of Aix-Marseille (AMU). I had the opportunity to present my research in the MAGS 2019 conference at Southampton University and was the only student invited to present her research at the Knowledge Traditions Of The Indian Ocean World conference at the Ashmolean Museum. Finally, I was honoured to volunteer for the HFF, creating a mock-up presentation for the development of its website with the support of Lauren Tidbury.

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