Peopling the Past, Video #9: Jitse H.F. Dijkstra talks about graffiti and personal piety in Egypt

Dr. Jitse Dijkstra and a graduate student working at the Temple of Isis at Philae
Dr. Jitse H.F. Dijkstra working at the Temple of Isis at Philae

In the ninth instalment of our video series, Dr. Jitse H.F. Dijkstra discusses graffiti in the ancient Mediterranean, including the religious use of graffiti as a form of personal piety in ancient Egypt.

Jitse H.F. Dijkstra is Professor of Classics at the University of Ottawa. His research centers on the question how religion became transformed in Late Antiquity. In order to answer this question, he focuses on the particular regional and local context of religious transformation rather than on the ideological and general story. Trained as a papyrologist but multidisciplinary in approach, his main interest is Graeco-Roman and Late Antique Egypt. He is the author of a monograph on the religious transformation in the First Cataract region, southern Egypt, in particular at the island of Philae, and a study of the graffiti in the temple of Isis at Aswan. He has conducted field work in the region from 2001 onwards and is currently directing two more graffiti projects (at Elephantine and Philae). He is also the co-author of a critical edition of the Coptic Life of Aaron, a sixth-century hagiographical work from the Cataract region. In addition, he has edited four volumes on such diverse topics as Egyptian hagiography, ancient religions and early Christianity, ethnicity, and religious violence.

Interested in learning more? Check out these resources:

Cruz-Uribe, E. 2008. “Graffiti (Figural).” In UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Edited by W.Z. Wendrich et al. Los Angeles: 1–7.

Dijkstra, J.H.F. 2012. Syene I: The Figural and Textual Graffiti from the Temple of Isis at Aswan. Darmstadt/Mainz: Von Zabern.

Franke, D. 2001. “Graffiti.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, vol. 2, edited by D.B. Redford, 38–41. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Frood, E. 2013. “Egyptian Temple Graffiti and the Gods: Appropriation and Ritualization in Karnak and Luxor.” In Heaven on Earth. Temples, Ritual, and Cosmic Symbolism in the Ancient World, edited by D. Ragavan, 285–318. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Further Reading

Baird, J.A., and C. Taylor, eds. 2011. Ancient Graffiti in Context. London: Routledge.

Ragazzoli, C., Ö. Harmansah, C. Salvador, and E. Frood, eds. 2018. Scribbling through History: Graffiti, Places, and People from. Antiquity to. Modernity. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

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