Egypt does the talking for expert Dr Joyce Tyldesley
FOR a world-famous expert in Egyptology, Dr Joyce Tyldesley is remarkably modest and low-key.
But then, as someone with a genuine fascination for her subject, she has always let this speak for itself, both through her teaching, her 20 or so books and her TV collaborations.
Born in Farnworth into a family of dentists, Joyce had an early interest in archaeology.
She said: "I think I was very lucky to be brought up in Bolton with its excellent Egyptology museum, and so close to Manchester and its fantastic Egyptology collections."
Thanks to the region's strong history of cotton trading and its natural links with Egypt, expeditions there meant artefacts were brought back by travellers and many donated to local museums.
Joyce's early fascination with archaeology in general and Egyptology in particular was cemented when Professor Rosalie David, who pioneered investigations into mummies, spoke at a Bolton School speech day.
Joyce decided to study the subject at Liverpool University where she gained a first-class honours degree in the archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean and then a D.Phil in prehistoric archaeology at Oxford University. Her student days included digs in Egypt.
At Liverpool, she met her future husband, fellow archaeologist Steven Snape. They married in 1985 and had two children, Philippa, now 28, and Jack, 24.
Joyce taught for a year at Liverpool University, filling in for someone's sabbatical, and enjoyed the experience. "But I didn't want to have a career filling in at various universities," she said. "I always wanted a proper job and money was tight in education."
As a result, in 1986, she decided to train as an accountant and moved to London to study. She had already started writing, publishing her thesis and various articles and establishing two separate lives - working in accountancy by day and writing on ancient Egypt in her spare time.
After three years living in London, the couple decided to return to Bolton and moved into the Over Hulton home where they still live. Joyce joined local accountants Crossley and Davies and worked there for 17 years.
During that time, she started writing mainstream books that established her reputation in the non-academic world.
"I always wanted to write books that would explain the lives of the Egyptians in a simpler, non-technical way, like what they wore and what they ate," she explained.
Her first book was "Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt" which was very well-received. "I was quite shocked when I read a very positive review in the Daily Telegraph!" recalled Joyce, laughing.
She followed this with "Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh" and "Nefertiti: Egypt's Sun Queen" which sold well and raised her profile.
In fact, TV companies commissioned her to work on accompanying books for TV series "The Private Lives of the Pharaohs", "Egypt's Golden Empire" and BBC 1's ground-breaking series "Egypt".
These days, Joyce, aged 57, is a senior lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester and an honorary research associate of Manchester Museum.
She teaches the University's online certificate in Egyptology and other shorter online courses to students from America, Canada, South America Germany, Scandinavia and, unusually, Egypt. She works from her home office and finds creating these online groups "fascinating and enjoyable".
She has just published a new book called "Nefertiti's Face – The Creation of an Icon" which looks at the popularity surrounding the famous bust of the Egyptian queen in the Neues Museum in Berlin. "It's amazing what has grown up around that bust, which was first shown in 1922," said Joyce.
"A copy of it is in Bolton Museum and that has become our image of Nefertiti, even though the Pharoahs didn't have portraits and it could just have been a depiction of how she would like to have looked."
The subject is bound to prove of great interest and Joyce is doing a free talk on Nefertiti in Bolton on Thursday, March 1 at 7pm at Bolton Museum.
As for the future of Egyptology and of Dr Joyce Tyldesley, it's plain that her enthusiasm for the subject – and her desire to help share it with others – will continue.
"I think that we can now learn a great deal by re-appraising artefacts and treating Egyptology more like an art history subject," she said. "There is just so much more for us to discover."
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