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.
Nabta Playa is an internally drained basin, scoured out by winds during the hyperarid period between 70,000 and 13,000 years BP. It is located about 100 km due west of Abu Simbel, is the second largest internally drained basin of the southern Western Desert of Egypt, and is fed by runoff from an enormous area some 1,500 km2 in size. The earliest excavated sites at Nabta have calibrated radiocarbon dates of 10,300-9,800 BP. based upon the numerous hearths and the highest frequency of cattle bones of any locality in the Nubian Desert. The Middle Neolithic ended with a short but deep drought, which began around 7,600 BP, lasting about 100 years
In the Late Neolithic (7,400-6,600 BP), a new group of nomads began frequenting the playa when it had water brought by summer monsoons. These people were responsible for cattle burials in clay-lined and roofed chambers. The diminished rainfall in the Late Neolithic meant that only a few watered refuges such as Gilf Kebir and Nabta Playa remained available to the flocks of the nomadic pastoralists. Increasingly, skillful navigational techniques, probably using the stars, would have been required to locate these isolated sources of water. Finally, some 30 complex megalithic structures, a circle of stones, and lines of megaliths were built during the Terminal Neolithic, which extended from 6,600 BP to total abandonment of the area in approximately 5,400 BP. The stone circle was built next to a wadi that channeled water into the playa, and it may have played a role in water ceremonialism. After 7,500 BP, the increasingly challenging climate changes in the Sahara may have been the major driving force for development of social complexity, astronomical knowledge, and sophisticated ritual.
In contrast to standard anthropological theory, these nomads skipped sedentism with its associated agriculture, permanent villages, and political hierarchy, and entered the Late Neolithic with their own repertory of concepts involving astronomy, design of sacred structures, and ritual. Another place where monumental ceremonialism bypassed sedentism appears to have been Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey.
The largest of the complex megalithic structures was set above a 4 meter deep pit containing an upright cow sculpture facing north and a carved circular stone at its base. We theorize this puzzling feature acknowledges important ideological features of the culture: cattle worship, water sources, and emergence of ancestors from the earth. The lines of megaliths appear oriented toward the brightest stars of the Neolilthic skies: Arcturus, Sirius, and α Centauri. These would have been the stars most useful for the nomads in navigating across the sea of sand of the Sahara. The megaliths have shaped shoulder appearing as if they are representations of people, perhaps the very navigators who specialized in observing those particular stars. When the playa was flooded following June solstice, the feet of the megaliths would have been in water, which may have symbolically brought them to life. The calendar circle has been moved to the Nubian Museum in Aswan and carefully re-aligned. It has two sets of visual channels, oriented north-south and June solstice sunrise and December solstice sunset. Shadows cast by the stones along the visual channels provided a confirmation of the solstices, as demonstrated recently by Joni Teter.
Brief Biography: J. McKim (Kim) Malville
During the International Geophysical Year Kim wintered over at Ellsworth Station in the Antarctic where he studied the aurora australis. He obtained his BS in physics from Caltech and his PhD in astronomy from the University of Colorado. He has taught and engaged in research at the University of Michigan, Colorado, Oslo (Norway), Sao Paulo (Brazil), James Cook (Townsville, Australia), and Wales Trinity-Saint David (Lampeter, UK).
At Colorado he served as the Chairman of the Department of Astro-Geophysics, and directed the Honors Program of the College of Arts and Sciences as well as CU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
In 1997 he was a member of the team that revealed the world’s oldest known megalithic astronomy at Nabta Playa near Abu Simbel in southern Egypt, earlier than Stonehenge by more than a millennium. In 2003 he was involved in the rediscovery of the Inca ceremonial center of Llactapata, previously lost in a cloud forest near from Machu Picchu.
Kim is presently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado and Tutor at the University of Wales, Lampeter, UK. In September 2014 he received the Carlos Jaschek Medal of the Société Européene pour l’Astronomie dans la Culture for his research in archaeoastronomy.
Books, which he has written or edited, include “A Feather for Daedalus”, “The Fermenting Universe,” “Prehistoric Astronomy of the Southwest,” “Canyon Spirits: Beauty and Power in the Ancestral Puebloan World,” “Ancient Cities, Sacred Skies: Cosmic Geometries and City Planning in Ancient India,” “Chimney Rock: the Ultimate Outlier,” and “Pilgrimage: Sacred Landscapes and Self-Organized Complexity” and "Machu Picchu’s Sacred Sisters: Choquequirao and Llactapata. Astronomy, Symbolism, and Sacred Geography in the Inca Heartland.”