Learn like an Egyptian


Jessie Long is completely obsessed with Egyptology.

Long, junior in history, owns two copies of the “Book of the Dead,” as well as an Egyptian dictionary, books and magazines about Egypt and numerous Egyptian-style decorations.

Long first learned about Egypt as a child through Bible stories from the book of Exodus, but her real interest was piqued at a forensics tournament during her freshman year of high school when she gave an informative speech on the mummification process. 

Now, several years later, anything Egyptian widens her smile and intrigues her intellect.

Though Long said most of her study of Egypt has been on her own time, she also has learned about her favorite topic from Professor of Bible Mark Alterman’s Egyptology class at Manhattan Christian College.

Though Alterman hadn’t taught the class for several years, he noticed that Long was excited about learning more specifically about Egyptian culture and history. So Alterman suggested he teach her what he knew about the subject, and that way he could brush up on his language skills.

Because of that opportunity, Long is learning to transliterate the language. Transliteration is the process of matching Egyptian symbols to their synonymous English words, Long said.

Since Long has studied such complex facets of Egyptology, she said she finds the majority of Egyptian-related museum exhibits disappointing. Even the exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum was too simplistic for her.

“Compared to what I had been learning, that exhibit was just child’s play,” she said.

Long also said she comes across pieces of information concerning ancient Egypt that make no sense to her. When she was about 10 years old, the National Geographic TV channel claimed they had found Cleopatra’s tomb. However, two months ago, a magazine she received claimed it had just discovered Cleopatra’s tomb in a different location than the National Geographic described. 

“I was completely confused,” she said. “I just kept pacing across the room.”

Long said her friends are aware of her fascination with Egyptian history and even tease her about it. One evening, while playing “Would You Rather …?” – a game in which participants choose which extreme action they would rather take –  Long’s friends decided to test her devotion to Egypt.

They asked if she would rather “push the button” to destroy Egyptian artifacts or cut out her future child’s tongue. Long chose to save the artifacts.

Now, she said, whenever her friends are tired of hearing her talk about Egypt, they say, “Jessie, push the button!” She said they are also passing the inside joke on to new friends and students.

Fortunately for Long, she will not have to hear “push the button” much longer; next fall, she will move to Wales. She was accepted to the University of Swansea, where she plans to finish her bachelor’s degree and hopes to earn her masters and doctoral degree in Egyptology. She is looking forward to going on archaeological expeditions, and her classes will even travel to Egypt and dig up ancient artifacts.

Long said though some might think her career choice is strange, she knows she is doing what’s best for her. 

“God gives us our passion,” she said. “You just have to follow the passion of your heart.”