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Acting Exercises > Historical Reconstruction > Egyptian Temple Ritual

Egyptian Temple Ritual in Real and Virtual Space

By Dr. Robyn Gillam, Classical and Religious Studies, York University

The daily cultic service and many other religious performances were celebrated in Egyptian temples for over three and a half thousand years prior to the establishment of Christianity in the 4th century C.E. However, the majority of performance scripts for these activities date from the later period of Egyptian history, beginning in the 4th century B.C.E., when the country was ruled by the Greeks and Romans. This era of exciting social and cultural exchanges that gave rise to late Classical civilization and Judaism and Christianity, also produced the most readily identifiable Egyptian dramatic texts, pointing to the possible influence of Greek dramatic forms.

Since 1996, this period has been studied in Egypt and the Greek and Roman Mediterranean, a second year course in the Programmes of Classical and Religious Studies in the Division of Humanities at York University. As their major assignment, students in this course produce a performance derived from one of these texts, based on their own rewritings, and staged under my supervision.

In the past, these activities have been presented in public spaces indoors and outdoors, as well as in closed environments like classrooms and lecture theatres, reflecting the division of Egyptian performances between public events and secret rituals performed by initiated priests. The VR environment used for this project was developed by Jeffrey Jacobson of the University of Pittsburgh in consultation with Lynn Holden of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University. The model combines features of the two best preserved Egyptian temples at Medinet Habu (c. 1100 B.C.E) and Edfu (250-60 B.C.E.) and may be viewed as a 3D model and as two-dimensional screen shots. Since the blue screen video is filmed from a single viewpoint, the current project makes use of the screen shot format.

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Gillam R. 2002. 'Presentation and Re-presentation: The Site of Drama or Performance?' Archaeology and Performance <http://traumwerk.standford.edu/archaeolgy-performance/Arch-HomeFS.html> (Sites-Ritual)

--. 2002a 'The Mysteries of Osiris.' Positive Pedagogy 2 (2) <http://www.mcmaster.ca/cll/posped/index.htm>

--. 2004. 'Site Specific Texts: Embodied Performances in the Written Record of the Late Period in Egypt in the Past and the Present,' TAG 2002, Papers, Archaeology and Performance, Stanford University <http://traumwerk.stanford.edu:3455/ArchaeologyPerformance/19>.

--. 2005. Performance in Drama in Ancient Egypt. Duckworth.

Sauneron, S. 1962. Esna III Les fétes religieuses d'Esna aux derniers siècles du Paganisme. Cairo: Institut Française d'Archéolgie Orientale.

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