Roanoke professor's book gives up-close view of old Egyptian economy

Salem - Dr. Leslie Warden's fascination with Egypt began when she was 12 years old. 

In a sixth grade class, she learned about ancient Egypt. The country - its history, culture and people - got her hooked.

From then on, Warden was determined to study Egypt and become an Egyptologist.

She took her passion further while she was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis, when she spent nearly half of her four years there studying at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.

Warden, now an assistant professor of art history and archaeology at Roanoke College and one of few Egyptologists in Virginia, recently wrote and released her first book, "Pottery and Economy in Old Kingdom Egypt." The academic book, published by Brill, explores the economy of the Egyptian Old Kingdom, known as the Pyramid Age, and the ways in which ordinary people lived and made money.

Warden, whose book is a revised version of her dissertation, set out to learn how the pharaoh and members of the royal house impacted people's lives and income in Egypt.  She found that people relied on relationships, not the pharaoh, to make money. But the system was a non-monetary exchange, and people bartered for goods, such as bread molds and beer jars.

"No governmental authority was controlling what was being exchanged," Warden said.

Still, researching this way of life helps students to "see how it makes people into individuals," she said.

Ultimately, Warden hopes her book will help students to better understand Egyptian society. She plans to use it to teach advanced students and those who do independent study work.

"Economy is not a scary word in the humanities," she said. "It's a way to look at how different levels of society interact."

Several Roanoke students helped to prepare the book's manuscript for publication, including scanning its images. Other students are helping Warden in her research for a second book about non-royal Old Kingdom society in Egypt, including religion, family life, craftsmanship and other employment. The timeframe of the Old Kingdom was 2600 to 2200 BC.

Warden visits Egypt once or twice a year, where she works with a project called the North Kharga Oasis Survey, an archaeological venture of the American University in Cairo. Those involved with the survey investigate archaeological remains in the northern part of the Kharga Oasis, located in Egypt's western desert.  Warden is the project's lead ceramicist.

At Roanoke, she teaches art history and archaeology courses, including a class on the art and archaeology of ancient Egypt planned for the fall 2014 semester.

"In my heart, I'm still a resident of Cairo," she said.

To purchase Warden's book, click here.

Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as the 18th most beautiful campus in its "Best 376 Colleges" 2012 guidebook.

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Released: March 10, 2014
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