A I M S
The Uruguayan Society of Egyptology was founded in 1980 with the purpose of achieving the maximum possible popularization in Uruguay of the facts concerning the ancient Egyptian Pharaonic civilization.
In order to carry out this task, the Society organizes public lectures, both for the general public and for educational institutions, opened to the public an Egyptian Museum, organizes regular Egyptology Contests with prizes consisting of books, other educational materials and a trophy to the best papers, organizes regular study trips to Egypt for members and students escorted by instructors and professors of the Uruguayan Institute of Egyptology, organizes special exhibitions of Egyptian antiquities and brings whenever possible, foreign scholars to lecture on the subject. All these activities are free of charge, as it corresponds to a non-profit institution that wishes to involve as many people as possible in a better appreciation of that ancient civilization to which the nations of the Western Hemisphere, and the world at large, owe so much.
The Society also maintains a Uruguayan Institute of Egyptology where Uruguayans and others can study to become Egyptologists at a minimum charge of U$S 100 per year.
Finally, the Society publishes a learned Journal, the Revista de la Sociedad Uruguaya de Egiptología which has appeared regularly since 1984, printed with very modest means but which offers an opportunity to local students and scholars to publish their work. This Journal has a different approach since it also includes at the end of each issue poetry, short stories or other such material of good quality referring to Ancient Egypt, besides the customary news, academic papers and book reviews.
The Egyptian Ambassador (1997), Mr. Ekram Zaafarany, giving the prize to one of the winners of our Egyptological Contests
The Society also publishes monographs and books on the subject, whenever the funds become available, in the belief that modest printing is preferable to not having publications at all.
Besides very successful public exhibitions held in 1985 and 1986, organized in cooperation with the local Egyptian Embassy and the Uruguayan-Egyptian Cultural Association, which attracted over 50,000 people each, the Society does its best to encourage such events that provide a visual perception better than many books. From these occasions we have had surges in our general membership and recruiting at the Institute, besides providing local schools with opportunities to see and discuss the subject of ancient Egypt.
Exhibition organized by us at the Lycée Français of Montevideo
We have not been successful yet to attract travelling exhibitions of ancient Egyptian objects which the large museums of Europe and North America provide, but we expect to be able to organize such events in due course. The lack of funds which hampers many of our best intentions is a limitation but we do not lose hope to have somehow one day the possibility of offering Uruguayans the opportunity to see artifacts and works of art that today most can see only in books.
A few years ago (1995) we had the visit of an Assyriologist, Dr. Jeremy Black of Oxford University in the UK, who was kind enough to lecture for us twice, once the subject of the origin of the Sumerians and then on recent discoveries in Mesopotamian archaeology. Both lectures were open to the public and were very well attended, many questions were asked after them and we all learned much. Dr. Black was able to visit a Montevideo museum where ancient Mesopotamian objects were on display and managed to publish some of them in a specialized journal.
In 1996 we were visited by Mr. Marcus Müller MA of Tübingen University (now Dr. Marcus Müller of Potsdam University) in Germany, who also delivered two lectures for us on the subject of battle scenes in Ramesside temples. The German Ambassador, Dr. Buerstedde, was kind enough to invite the visitor and our Director for lunch at his residence where he inquired on their professional activities and on German egyptology.
In 1997 Prof. Marcelo Campagno of the University of Buenos Aires visited us to lecture on the religious beliefs of the Egyptians in the Predynastic Period, a thorny subject which he managed very well in spite of the limited information available.
One lecture of each of the above mentioned scholars was recorded in video and was made available at once for those who had not been able to attend and increased the contents of our library.
In 1998 a series of lectures was organized in cooperation with the Egyptian Embassy for mid-July, among them one by Dr. Alberto Galasso on Health and Medicine in ancient Egypt and by Mr. Roberto Rodríguez, a student of our Institute from Argentine, on The Egyptian state and the eastern nomads.
In 2000 Prof. J. J. Castillos lectured on 12 May at the IAVA Pre-University Institute of Montevideo on "Basic principles of ancient Egyptian Art" and on 20 May at the Uruguayan Institute of Egyptology addressing a group of Members of the "Friends of Egyptology" Association of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on "Current Egyptology".
On 23 November 2000 Prof. Marcelo Campagno visited us again and was kind enough to lecture on a very interesting subject: The origin of the state in ancient Egypt . In spite of a terrible storm that turned many Montevideo streets into rivers, a gathering of corageous members of our Society and other Uruguayans keen on the subject enjoyed a very eloquent update on the current egyptological thinking concerning this rather difficult topic. Questions from the audience moved the speaker to clarify some aspects that had remained obscure and everybody left convinced that defying the wrath of an unkind weather had been worthwhile.
In October 2001 Prof. J. J. Castillos was elected a Member of the Board of the Société Française d'Égyptologie of Paris, France, one of the most important Egyptological institutions in the world, that publishes the prestigious Révue d'Égyptologie, which was considered an honour for our Director and for Uruguay as a country where Egyptology is trying to develop strong academic roots.
Ricardo García, Instructor at the Institute, and students during a break in the Society’s latest study trip to Egypt
Our Egyptian Museum was opened in 1984 including a very small collection of mostly good reproductions of ancient Egyptian art, bought at some of the great museums in Europe and North America.
Its main purpose at the time was to help the students of our Institute see ancient Egypt without having to leave our premises. As many people asked to visit it, they offered to donate objects in their possession that their relatives had brought from Egypt many years ago . After inspection most of those artifacts turned out to be more or less crude fakes but some were original and increased our collection to the point that more than 50% of it is authentic. This stretched our finances to breaking point but the result has been very rewarding, especially after seeing the interest the objects arouse in elementary and high school students, the ones from whose ranks future Uruguayan egyptologists will arise. An ambitious plan to refurbish our museum has been set up but we are figuring out how to raise the necessary funds.
Some of the stories donors told made us very happy to have rescued the objects for the enjoyment and education of many, since otherwise they might not have survived long. In one case lower paleolithic and neolithic stone tools were given to a child to play with and an inscribed fragment of a stela was used as a paperweight at a businessman’s residence. Many of the donors preferred to remain anonymous, others allowed us to mention their names in the display cases, a minimum gesture to express our gratitude for their generosity.
Mummy bandages, one of our museum’s exhibits
Busloads of students visit our museum and after they have been there, we encourage them to ask us any questions they want, not only about the museum but about ancient Egypt and we have been often surprised by the intelligence some of those questions reveal. We give a small prize (printed material, scarabs, etc.) to the best question in order to encourage their interest. This service is free of charge as are all those we provide, although visitors can make donations if they wish, there is a box for the purpose. Another source of small sums for the maintenance of the museum is the sale of papyri and of our Society’s publications.
In spite of our limited resources, we have the largest collection of egyptological publications in the country and we make them available not only for our Members and students, but anybody can visit our Society Reading Room and consult any material they want. Besides books we have a small collection of microfiches and a Video Library, also a small collection of recordings on sound tapes (lectures, etc.).The financial impossibility to cover every subject equally led to the situation that the strengths of our library match the special fields of interest of our staff, but our purchasing policy attempts to cover as much ground as possible.
We welcome your interest in our activities and we would like you to become a regular visitor. We would also like to hear your comments and suggestions and to use this means of communication to establish closer links with our colleagues around the world.
You can reach us at :
Email :J. J. Castillos
Regular mail : 4 de Julio 3068 Montevideo
CP 11600 URUGUAY
Fax : ( 598 2 ) 622 5352
Phone : ( 598 2 ) 628 0743
Members of our staff and students at the tomb of Horemheb in Sakkara