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 Principal Curator of the Ancient Mediterranean at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, where I am also Head of the Mediterranean, Africa, Americas, and Oceania section in the Department of World Cultures. I was lead curator on the permanent Ancient Egypt Rediscovered gallery at the National Museum of Scotland, which opened in 2019, and the 2017 exhibition The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial. I was awarded an Art Fund Headley Fellowship in 2019 for my research on pioneering Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind and am currently preparing this for publication. I lead the Scottish Egyptology Collections Network and I was formerly a trustee of the Egypt Exploration Society. 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 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 post regularly to Twitter.

Selected publications

  1. Maitland, M. (accepted), ‘Social control in Middle Kingdom Egypt: Embodied experience and symbolic violence’, in Loktionov, A. (ed.), Compulsion and Control in Ancient Egypt: Proceedings of the Third Lady Wallis Budge Egyptology Symposium (Access Archaeology series, Oxford: Archaeopress).
  2. Maitland, M. (forthcoming), ‘The King and I: Commemorating the privilege of royal statue dedication in Ramesside Deir el-Medina’, Topfer, S. et al. (eds.), Deir el-Medina through the Kaleidoscope: Proceedings of the Turin International Deir el-Medina Workshop(Turin: Museo Egizio).
  3. Maitland, M., Troalen, L.G., Ross, J. (forthcoming), ‘Dye and pigment analysis of a re-discovered early Roman-era mummy shroud from the Rhind tomb at Thebes’, Proceedings of the first international conference for Science of Ancient Egyptian materials and technology (SAEMT)(Cairo: IFAO). 
  4. Maitland, M., Potter, D.M. and L. Troalen (2022), ‘The burial of the “Qurna Queen”’ in Miniaci, Gianluca and Lacovara, Peter (eds.), The Treasure of the Egyptian Queen Ahhotep and International Relations at the Turn of the Middle Bronze Age (1550 B.C.) (London: Golden House Publications), 205-233.
  5. Maitland, M. (2021), ‘Fishing and fowling for pleasure versus produce: Ancient Egyptian representations of social status in relation to animals and the natural environment’, in Geisen, C., J. Li, S. Shubert, K. Yamamoto (eds.), His Good Name. Essays on Identity and Self-Presentation in Ancient Egypt in Honor of Ronald J. Leprohon (MVCAE 5; Atlanta: Lockwood Press), 267-282.
  6. Stable, C., Maitland, M., de Bellaigue, D., Potter, D.M.,Bryan, B., and M. Murray (2021) ‘Rediscovering Ancient Egypt: Consideration of the Legacy, Ethics, and Aesthetics of Previously Restored Egyptian Artefacts’, Journal of the Institute of Conservation 44:2, 134-152. doi https://doi.org/10.1080/19455224.2021.1916769
  7. Maitland, M. (2018), ‘Dirt, purity, and spatial control: anthropological perspectives on Ancient Egyptian Society and Culture in the Middle Kingdom’, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 17, 47-72.
  8. Maitland, M. (2017), The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial (Edinburgh: NMS Enterprises Ltd).
  9. Maitland, M. (2017),Chauchitza at National Museums Scotland’ in Shapland, A (ed.), Archaeology behind the battle lines: Macedonia 1915–1919 (Cambridge and Athens: British School in Athens and Cambridge University Press).
  10. Troalen, L.G., Tissot, I., Maitland, M., Guerra, M.F. (2016), ‘Jewellery of an Egyptian young girl: Middle Kingdom goldwork from Harageh tomb 72’, Historical Metallurgy 47 (1).
  11. Irving, R. and Maitland, M. (2015), ‘An innovative antiquarian: Alexander Henry Rhind’s excavations in Egypt and his collection in National Museums Scotland’ in Cooke, N, and Daubney, V (eds.), Every traveller needs a compass: Travel and collecting in Egypt and the Near East (Oxbow, Oxford), 85100.
  12. Maitland, M. (2015), ‘Hieroglyphs from the North: Newcastle’s early travellers in Egypt and their correspondence with Jean-Francois Champollion’ in Cooke, N., and Daubney, V. (eds.), Every traveller needs a compass: Travel and collecting in Egypt and the Near East (Oxbow, Oxford), 113130.
  13. Maitland, M. (2012), Pharaoh: King of Egypt (London: British Museum Press).

Mosaic restoration in Jordan

9 Replies to “About”

  1. Dear Margaret,

    I would like to feature your website in my magazine Archaeological Diggings, a bimonthly magazine published in Australia and distributed throughout the UK, USA and New Zealand, as well as all states of Australia.

    I especially love your map of Egypt in London (and surrounding districts).

    Would you please get in touch with me at my email address for more details about us (I am sure you don’t want a lengthy commercial about AD on your website LOL).

    Marie Carter
    Assistant Editor

  2. Very interesting blog (not necessarily 100% agree with all posts), great Egypt photos, great knowledge shared…and even you looks great!

  3. hello
    iam mohamed iam from egypt
    i really like your website and i like your posts about egypt

  4. Just heard you on CBC. Terrifying times, maybe sadder for you than for me. Let us pray that reason and decency prevail.

  5. Hi! I’m terribly curious – where did you do your undergrad, and what was your major? I am just starting out and hoping to follow a path similar to yours.

  6. Hi Caitlin,
    As you can read above, I did my undergrad at the University of Toronto, which is where I’m from originally. I specialized in Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations. There are lots of universities that offer courses in Egyptology; a fairly good list of many universities that offer Egyptology degrees can be found at this webpage under ‘How do I become an Egyptologist?’: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/er/faq.html Good luck!

  7. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to
    say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  8. Marie is it possible that any pyramid, sculpture, block…on this planet has been done by high tech highly advanced 3 d printing or 3 d sculptures machines with the positioning of math inside a computer alone with surveyed location info. Then stone melted or piece sculpted or injected in place. Just because our reference of time in history doesn’t mean it couldn’t have existed back then.
    Science fiction is or has proved itself to be science fact as some of wonders today.
    Your thoughts. please.

  9. Hi! Did you see the news about the New Kingdom tomb opened? One of the photos circulating shows the inside of a sarcophagus with a goddess in frontal face pose rather than the more traditional side view. It looks quite lovely! It’s exciting to remember there’s still new art treasures to discover. Thanks for the blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *