About

Deir el Bahri

‘The Eloquent Peasant’ is probably better known as an ancient Egyptian poem, which you can read about further below, but in this case, it’s an Egyptology blog in which I write about a range of ancient Egyptian issues, including current news, my own work, and Egyptian life and culture. Needless to say, this is a personal blog and the views expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.

My name is Margaret Maitland and I am currently Senior Curator of Egypt and the ancient Mediterranean at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I am also a trustee of the Egypt Exploration Society and I lead the Scottish Egyptology Collections Network. My doctorate in Egyptology was completed at the University of Oxford on the representation of social identity and hierarchy in Middle Kingdom literature and art. I’ve previously worked as a trainee Egyptology curator with the British Museum Future Curators programme, during which I helped curate the British Museum UK touring exhibition Pharaoh: King of Egypt, the exhibition Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past, and worked on cataloguing the Egyptian collection of the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle. I received my Hon. B.A. in Ancient Near Eastern Studies from the University of Toronto and my M.Phil. and D.Phil. at Oxford, supervised by Professor John Baines and Dr. Richard Parkinson at the British Museum. I’ve participated in excavations of a Byzantine mansion in Madaba, Jordan; a late predynastic-early Dynastic settlement and cemetery at Tell el-Masha’la in the Eastern Delta in Egypt; and the Ramesside site of Kom Firin in the Western Delta in Egypt. My coverage of the looting of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution was reported on worldwide. I’ve led tours in Egypt and Sudan. I contributed to the BBC Radio 4 programme on ancient music, ‘Ghost Music’, and my book Pharaoh: King of Egypt was published by British Museum Press (see a list of selected publications).

‘The Eloquent Peasant’ is a famous Egyptian poem dating to the Middle Kingdom, though it was still being read in the Ramesside period hundreds of years later. If you’re interested in reading the poem or other ancient Egyptian stories, I highly recommend the translations in The Tale of Sinuhe and other ancient Egyptian poems by R. B. Parkinson. ‘The Eloquent Peasant’ tells the story of a clever peasant who travels far from his home to sell his goods, and on the way, is tricked and robbed by a greedy local official. The peasant appeals to the High Steward for justice and speaks so eloquently that the High Steward informs the king about the peasant’s surprising gift with words. The king is intrigued and orders the High Official to keep the peasant talking and record everything that he says. So day after day, the peasant returns to deliver virtuoso performances of his impassioned pleas, only to be beaten and sent away. In the end, finally, his eloquence is rewarded and he is given all of the greedy official’s property. While the plot is a simple folk tale, the tale is spun into a highly literary treatise on truth and justice, themes which were very dear to the ancient Egyptians.

In this endeavour, I can only hope for eloquence equal to his…

I can be contacted at margaret {dot} maitland {at} gmail {dot} com.
I also post regularly to Twitter.

At the British Museum

 

Mosaic restoration in Jordan
Restoring a mosaic floor in Jordan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excavating at the Ramesside site of Kom Firin in the Western Delta

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