The mission of the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures is the discovery, interpretation, dissemination, and preservation of human values created over a period of five or more thousand years in an area that was the cradle of all civilization.
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
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The monumental rock-cut tombs of Tell el-Amarna were constructed for members of the elite and for Pharaoh Akhenaten with his family. These monuments are reckoned to be a main source for studying the religion of the so-called “Amarna Period”, their walls bearing for example the widely known “hymns to the Aten”. All tombs are located on the east bank of the Nile, the private tombs in the limestone cliffs and foothills surrounding the city of Akhetaten to the east. Their outline encompasses one to three rooms furnished with columns, statues and reliefs. The burial was foreseen underneath those rooms, following a sloping passage or a shaft. The royal tombs were constructed in remote wadis behind the cliffs, their main axes being sloping passages themselves. The rooms for the burial of the royal family were decorated with relief, too, but special architectural features are limited to pillars. Due to the comparatively short period of occupation of the city, most of the tomb structures have not been completed and not been used for burial.
In the last two centuries before the arrival of Alexander the Great, Persia invaded Egypt twice and administered it as a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. Although the Ptolemies later demonized the Persians, and most traces of their rule were systematically removed, the history of this fascinating period can be reconstructed thanks to written sources from different languages (hieroglyphic, Demotic, Aramaic, Old Persian, Greek) and the multicultural archaeological record. These periods of foreign domination helped solidify Egypt's national identity during the intervening Late Period (Dynasties 28-30) and set the stage for subsequent centuries of Greek and Roman rule.
In Egyptian funerary practices, trials composed a crucial phase through which the deceased had to pass in order to become “justified”—that is, worthy of entering the hereafter. The trials featured in Book of the Dead spells 18 and 20 are representative, the most popular pictorial representation of the judgment after death being the vignette of BD spell 125, the spell proper of which provides a text that summarizes Egyptian ethical standards. There is reason to consider that the text may stem from priestly initiation oaths.
Recent current events have dramatically highlighted the vulnerability of the world's material cultural heritage. The 3-D Digital Preservation of At-Risk Global Cultural Heritage project, led by Thomas Levy at UC San Diego, catalyzes a collaborative research effort by four University of California campuses (San Diego, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Merced) to use cyberarchaeology and computer graphics for cultural heritage to document and safeguard virtually some of the most at-risk heritage objects and places. Faculty and students involved in this project are conducting path-breaking archaeological research - covering more than 10,000 years of culture and architecture - in Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, and the United States. This project uses the 3-D archaeological data collected in numerous at-risk heritage places to study, forecast, and model the effects of human conflict, climate change, natural disasters and technological and cultural changes on these sites and landscapes. The greater challenge undertaken by this project is to integrate archaeological heritage data and digital heritage data using the recently-announced Pacific Research Platform (PRP) and its 10-100Gb/s network as well as virtual reality kiosks installed in each participating UC campus. Our aim is to link UC San Diego and the San Diego Supercomputer Center to other labs, libraries and museums at the other UC campuses to form a highly-networked collaborative platform for curation, analysis, and visualization of 3D archaeological heritage data.