Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society heads to Woodley as it marks 25th anniversary with return of first guest speaker

Ancient Egypt
Thames Valley Ancient Egpyt Society 25th. Anniversary Lecture. The Chairman, John Billman and George Hart, the guest speaker, cut the anniversary cakes as some of the committee members look on. Picture: Steve Smyth for The Wokingham Paper

MEMBERS of the Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society went back to their roots when they celebrated their 25th anniversary.

The speaker at the Woodley event was George Hart who delivered the inaugural lecture in 1994 when the society was formed.

There are now more than 150 members who meet regularly at the Oakwood Centre as well as other borough venues for talks and exhibitions.

Chairman John Billman said interest in ancient Egypt was as strong as ever with members based in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

“The society was founded to promote the study and public dissemination of culture, religion, art, language, life and death in ancient Egypt.

“We hold public lectures, study days and evening classes in Berkshire and organise study tours to Egypt and Sudan and other areas of Egyptological interest,” he explained.

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The society organises regular visits to Egypt including a dig in which he was involved with near Luxor, often described as the world’s biggest open-air museum.

Mr Billman said the ancient Egyptians, whose history covered 3,000 years, had much to teach western society today.

“The Egyptians had long periods of strong and stable government and an equally strong sense of identity,” he explained.

“They were not very keen on travel, but neither were they xenophobic. In fact, ancient Egypt was a country with a history of immigration.

“The country had strong natural borders, but they suffered invasion from the Persians.

“Perhaps one lesson they can teach us today is that problems can be overcome.”

Mr Billman became involved with the society following a trip to Egypt. Members of the society come

from all walks of life and ages he added.

He said Hollywood movies often portrayed a mistaken view of ancient Egyptians in films on figures such as Cleopatra and Tutankhamun.

“Cleopatra was a very powerful woman, one of the few female Pharos but she was perhaps not quite as beautiful as Elisabeth Taylor,” he explained.

“Tutankhamun is one of the best-known Pharos but his reign was quite short. Others such as Ramesses II was certainly more powerful and prominent.”

The society regularly visited ancient sites in Egypt and helped with archaeological digs.

“We work with the Egyptian government and today it’s not so much about stripping tombs but helping to reconstruct tombs which is what we are doing at South Asaif near Luxor.”

Members of the society enjoyed a specially baked cake and wine at Saturday’s anniversary meeting. They heard a talk from George Hart on Pharaohs and Governors of Middle Kingdom Egypt.

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