I am requesting a New Directions Initiative Grant for the month of July 2013 to teach myself Demotic. As a Classical Archaeologist employed at Oberlin College who teaches Greek and Latin, the acquisition of Demotic and its concurrent introduction to traditional Egyptian culture represents a new direction for my work. Demotic was the third written iteration of spoken Egyptian. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, although Greek was the official language, the native Egyptian population, especially the priests, wrote in Demotic.
My research has focused largely on magical practice in the Roman Mediterranean; my book Materia Magca: The Archaeology of Magic in Egypt, Cyprus and Spain will be published in early 2013. I am now looking toward new projects that focus specifically on religious practice and social life in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. Access to Demotic documents will prove important, as this was the language of the temples. While some translations are available, a significant number of Demotic documents remain untranslated and therefore inaccessible. Learning Demotic will permit me to read and evaluate these texts. Moreover, as language and linguistic structures offer access to the thought patterns and conceptual structures of a society, familiarity with the language of the indigenous residents of Egypt will substantially expand my own understanding of Egyptian culture during the period of Greek and Roman colonial occupation. I will supplement my work with Demotic by reading scholarship on traditional Egyptian religion.