Beth Skarzynski Hart
Predynastic Egypt / Ancient Egypt / Settlement Archaeology / Specialized Production / Ancient Economies/ Lithic Technology / Archaeology of Ritual/ The Intersection of Religion and Economy / Ancient Beer Production/ Household Archaeology/ Archaeology of Urbanism
My fascination with ancient Egypt eventually lead me to focus on the Predynastic period. How did people go from being herders and farmers to having Pharaohs and building pyramids in such a relatively short period of time? Looking beyond the grand temples and tombs of Ancient Egypt, I became especially interested in settlement sites. I wanted to know about ordinary people and what the sites where they lived can tell us about their lives. I took up the study of stone tools, such a durable and widely used medium, as a good way to get at these questions.
My dissertation research looks at the specialized production of stone tools during the Predynastic period in Egypt, particularly focusing on the association between ritual activities and stone tool production , utilizing data from the settlement sites of el-Mahâsna, Abydos and Nag el-Qarmila.
The next phase of my research investigates the question of how the organization of specialized production changed overtime in relation to the social and political changes of ancient Egypt. To that end, in association with the university of Vienna, I am analyzing the stone tool technologies at Wadi el-Sheikh, a large-scale Pharaonic chert mining site. This project offers me the challenge of dealing with extremely large quantities of materials at many sites spread over 125 sq kilometers.
Fortunately, I love doing fieldwork. I have 15 years experience working on archaeological projects in the U.S., Egypt, and abroad. In Egypt I am currently participating with a project at Nag el Qarmila, Aswan looking at Nubian Egyptian interaction. With another project at Elkab, Egypt I am helping to excavate a settlement site with continuous stratified remains dating from the Badarian to the 5th Dynasty that should help us answer questions about the development of urbanism in Egypt. In the past I have gotten to excavate in many areas of Abydos, including the monumental Early Dynastic funerary enclosures, Old Kingdom Mastabas, and First Intermediate Period settlement site. In the U.S. I have done contract archaeology work in Florida, California, Colorado, and Illinois. I also had the privilege of working on Middle Paleolithic excavations in France, Armenia, and Georgia, and a Maya research project in Mexico.
I received my B.A. in Anthropology with a focus on archaeology from the University of Michigan in 2004. During the course of that degree I completed an archaeology field school in southern New Mexico through Arizona State University, and I spent a year studying abroad in Egypt at the American University in Cairo. I studied Arabic during my undergraduate years and it has been immensely helpful doing fieldwork in Egypt since. I also speak Spanish, read French and a bit of German, and have taken courses in Middle Egyptian hieroglyphs. I earned my M.A. at the University of Virginia in 2010, with my study "Drinking and Knapping in Predynastic Egypt" comparing the specialized production of stone tools and beer. I received a three year grant from the National Science Foundation supporting my graduate study, and a fellowship from the American Research Center in Egypt to carry out my dissertation fieldwork.
I share my knowledge and excitement about archaeology and Egypt through curatorial work, teaching, public presentations, and volunteer services, such as my yearly cycling tour of Egyptian-inspired monuments in Washington, D.C. Since 2016 I have served as a board member of the American Research Center in Egypt's D.C. chapter where I create content for and maintain the chapter website and Facebook pages, and aid in developing and promoting talks and workshops.