The Egypt Study Society (ESS) is an organization for people who are interested in ancient Egypt. ESS welcomes anyone with similar interests to participate. ESS programs include lectures, slide and video presentations, seminars, hands on workshops, and an annual picnic. Well known egyptologists and knowledgeable ESS members make presentations throughout the year.
You can find the latest lectures by visiting Next Lecture page or the Upcoming Lectures page. You can view our monthly newsletter, The Scribe's Palette, for current info about ESS and news about ancient Egypt. You can read the full archive of our journal, The Ostracon.
Our society is a non-profit educational organization based in Denver, Colorado, USA, and is an associate group of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Many ESS members assit the DMNS with exhibitions and projects connected with Egypt.
Egyptologist R. T. Rundle Clark called the mythical Phoenix “one of the most evocative symbols ever devised by the human imagination.” The millennia-long cultural history of the unique bird of renewal bears out his assessment. That history can be traced back through ages of Phoenix transformation to the literary birth of the Western Phoenix tradition: Herodotus’s brief fifth-century BCE account of a sacred bird of Heliopolis, Egypt. The story the Heliopolitans told him (which, ironically, he does not find credible), and the pictures he saw of what he calls a “phoenix” bear little resemblance to religious writings and vignettes of that City of the Sun’s divine heron-benu, a manifestation of the sun gods. Nonetheless, many nineteenth-century Egyptologists saw similarities between the two birds, and many twentieth-century translations render the benu as “phoenix.” Herodotus’s influential but problematic beginning of the Western Phoenix is thus open to other interpretations, namely astronomical.
By Joe Nigg
Joe Nigg holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. He has taught at several Colorado colleges and has been a corporate editor. Since publication of The Book of Gryphons in 1982, Joe has explored the rich cultural lives of mythical creatures in a variety of styles and formats for readers of all ages. His history of the mythical Phoenix is now in production at the University of Chicago Press, scheduled for publication by this time next year.
This part of the lecture will cover my own ideas of how the legend of the Phoenix bird might be related to a rare triple conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn, called by astronomers a Greatest Conjunction. Using astronomy software we will be able to see what this confluence of the two planets looks like and draw parallels with the description of the Phoenix given by Herodotus. Tacitus references pharaohs during whose reigns the Phoenix appeared. Greatest Conjunctions also occurred during the reigns of these pharaohs.
By Jim Lowdermilk
Jim Lowdermilk is the owner and operator of Mathemagician Tutoring and Learn Body Pyramid physical fitness. He has his BA and MA in Applied Mathematics from Colorado State University and University of Montana respectively. Jim is a past president of the Egyptian Study Society. He has presented lectures to ESS and at the American Research Center in Egypt national conferences. He has published papers in the Ostracon: The Journal of the Egyptian Study Society on the Egyptian calendar, mathematics, and pyramids.