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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cambridge PhD student Barbora Janulíková, on how Brendan Fraser inspired a career in Egyptology | Cambridge News

Cambridge PhD student Barbora Janulíková, on how Brendan Fraser inspired a career in Egyptology

By Cambridge News  |  Posted: May 18, 2016

  • Barbora Janulíková

Barbora Janulíková, 26, is a third-year PhD student based at Cambridge University's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Originally from the Czech Republic, she moved to Cambridge four years ago

What is your particular area of expertise?

Egyptology – Predynastic and Early Dynastic Studies. Timewise that is about 3000 BC, just when we think that the Ancient Egyptian state as such emerged.

How would you explain your current work to a stranger on the bus?

I am trying to understand how Early Ancient Egyptians thought about death and why they buried their beloved the way they did. Whether that was a process overseen by the state at that point or rather something organic and much more personal.

Where do you do most of your work?

I spend 90 per cent of my time in our PhD office at the New Museums Site. The remaining 10 per cent is divided between libraries, the computer lab, and fieldwork in Egypt.

What first inspired you to study ancient Egypt?

Watching the movie The Mummy with Brendan Fraser when I was nine years old. It was so scary back then!

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in The Mummy

What kind of student were you at school?

Very conflicted. I was a geek throughout, but at the same time preferred to hang out with the 'cool kids' and break the rules. Marks usually saved my back…

What's the most exciting part of your job?

Definitely access to things that sometimes have not been seen or touched for over 5000 years; daydreaming about the past

What keeps you awake at night?

The pressure to excel that is put on students here at Cambridge. And dancing at "Spoons" on a Friday night.

What's the worst thing about your subject?

Financial insecurity, and some people's expectation for you to sacrifice personal life for a career in Egyptology. This needs to be challenged more.

What false preconceptions do people have about your field?

That it is irrelevant to their present-day lives. That for some reason I should like the song Walk like an Egyptian.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned this week?

That Ancient Egyptians around 3000 BC did not really differentiate between men and women when it came to burying them.

What one thing don't your students or colleagues know about you?

That my secret superpower is dancing.

What's the best thing about studying in Cambridge?

Privilege to be inspired by some of the brightest minds on this planet. Bettered job prospects.

What do you think will be the next big discovery or development in your field in the next 10 years?

Hopefully, the Egyptian government will allow us to export scientific samples out of the country. That would allow us to learn much more about how the Ancient Egyptians lived in greater detail.

For more about Barbora and her work, see

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