Nicholas Brown, Egyptologist

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

You may have noticed the History Channel heating up this summer with a member of our community chatting it up about all things Egypt.

On this episode we chat with Egyptologist Nicholas Brown who has worked as an archaeologist in Egypt for ten years. He received his MA degree in Egyptology from the American University in Cairo, and currently is an Egyptology PhD student at UCLA. Currently he lives between Los Angeles, CA and Cairo, Egypt. His excavation experience includes working with archaeological sites in Aswan as well as funerary sites in Luxor, Amarna and the Sudan. In 2016, He has conducted archival research for the MFA, Boston’s Egyptian Art Department's exhibit "Ancient Nubia Now." He has been seen as an on-screen expert, and was featured in History Channel’s Unxplained with William Shatner. 

On this episode we chat about his early love for Ancient Egypt, studying and living in Egypt, dispelling some myths about Egyptology, Pride month, and about the LGBTQ culture in the Middle East...with host Alexander Rodriguez. 

You can check out our indepth article with him in our Pride issue of Metrosource, available on newsstands around the nation, or at Metrosource.com 

This is Metro Source Menti, theofficial podcast to Metro, source magazine and home of short forminterviews with your favorite personalities from the LB world and VeoQuick Fun and informative. It's metal sore on th go out in Coutane, hello,hello, hello. This is Mitri Horse Minnie's, I'm your host AlexanderRodrigez lead rider for Metro source and avid podcast Er. You may havenoticed that the history channel started heating up this summer with amember from our community chatting it up about all things: Egypt, today achat with each of tallages, Nicholas Brown, who has worked as anarchaeologist in Egypt for ten years. He received his m a degree in each ofOlogy from the American University in Cairo and currently is an Egyptology Phd in training at la currently. He lives between La and Cairo and its excavationexperience includes working with the archological sites and Aswan, as wellas funerary sites funerary. I say that right in Luxor, I'm Marta and the Sudanin two thousand and sixteen he conducted our CIBO research for theM Fa. Boston's Egyptian Art Departments Exhibit Ancient Nubia. Now he's beenseen as an on screen expert and was featured in history channelsunexplained with William Shatter with my boy. Will you can check out myendeth article with him in our private issue of Metrosideros across the nationor at Metro? SORCA plays welcome, Nicholas, frown, everybody Alexander thanks for havingme great to be here. You know it's funny because, like we hang out and wechat, but then when I have to be all technical like my mouth just likedoesn't know how to do all these Egyptian names and everything. It'slike what I a great job. So we had it in the article about the factthat, while other kids were playing video games- and you know playing withtoys and whatever you were enthralled with ancient history, what was it...

...that was so exciting to you as a youngkid yeah, I think you know growing up and learning about ancient Egypt andgetting books and watching TV shows about it and like the history, channeland stuff just became fascinated with things likepyramids and mummies and and golden treasure, and I think really the drawfor me was the kind of the adventure of the job right, just the you're, goingto a foreign country you're doing this work out in the desert, you're findingand discovering new things, and so I think that all of that is reallykind of what started my interest in my passion for archaeology and for Egypt.You know it's funny when my friends like know that we're hanging out ortalking to like, oh well, who is this Nicholas Brown, I'm like he hasliterally the current day, Indiana Jones, like you're, really in in thethick of it you're on covering you know, sites and new artifacts. Imean that's very, very exciting, we're in this digital age, where everything'son the computer but you're actually touching ancient history, but I'm notsure what would be more scary coming out as gay or coming out as I want tobe an egyptologist. What was that conversation like with your family? I think well, they both were scary fordifferent reasons. Absolutely, but you know I it's been great with myfamily. They have been super supportive of like my work and my career and myjob over in Egypt, and it's definitely taken them a while to kind of warm upto the idea and to you know fully get on board with it,but they, you know, I think, they've seen how hard I've worked to study andto network and to get excavation experience and job job work over inCairo, and so now they're pretty supportive, and you know encouragingfor me to pursue this job, but I will...

...say starting out it was you know alittle bit rough, they very much our baby boomers, you know wanted us all tohave cookie cutter jobs. You know be a doctor, be a lawyer or do somethinglike this, but yeah like I said they. You knownowadays they're super supportive understanding and are excited by thework that I do over there. So I Nicholas. Can you share your coming outstory, especially during this pride, we're all sharing our stories, which isso important? What was your coming out like yeah? So it's been, you know it's been an interestingjourney. I would say for me- and you know I tell my boyfriend- and Itell a bunch of my friends all the time that some of us are just late bloomersand it takes us a bit to kind of really get more comfortable or figure out oursexuality and our identity, and who we are, is gay men or you know, part ofthe lgs community, and so I you know, really didn't startto explore my sexuality. Until I was about twenty two, when I actually moved away fromCalifornia and moved to Egypt, ironically of all places yea, and Ijust had the freedom to kind of explore who I was- and you know like I said my intensity andstuff and so didn't actually come out to my family till I was about twentyseven, so you know I had a few years to figurethings out, and you know it was hard for them at first.I think it's not. You know the it's not like the picture, perfect movies or TVshows where the family is totally accepting and welcoming. They slowly have been coming aroundthough, and it become more supportive. I would say- and you know my currentboyfriend- I actually he's the first boyfriend I brought home and introducedto them, so that was kind of a big milestone forus. That happened last year, and...

...you know I I would say that I have beenthe one who's been more nervous to talk with them about my sexuality or myexperiences as a gay man, and I grabbed over think things and come up withscenarios of Oh, like mom's, not going to lick this dad's going to sack thisand it's not going to be okay, but then I have always been pleasantly surprisedor shocked by like their reaction, which has been positive to you know,saying meeting my boyfriend or you know having my boyfriend over tothe House for the first time or these different. You know experiences with itand so everybody's different everybody hastheir own. You know stories or backgrounds or experiences that affectsyou, know their outlook or say their support of the LGS community members. But you know I would just encourageeveryone, especially during this pride month this year. To just be yourself,be happy, be safe. You know and empathy and patience I think, go a lotfarther than than you realize ye and that's so true. We've beentalking to so many different people from our community about coming out.There's no right age! There's no right scenario: You literally just have to doyou and things will fall in place or they won't fall in place, but as longas you're living your true self, whether you come out at thirty fortyfourteen sixteen, you know it's a different story for everybody: There'sno right or wrong to coming out. Okay, what are some ofthe biggest miss about ancient Egypt? You would like to dispel right hereright now, so we have talked about this before Idon't see it I, but for the viewers and listeners to daylike to tell you that aliens did not build the Pyramids in each a thoughAlexander might disagree with this. I...

...have to tell you you know in our chatsand our article at metrostyle. You know you put me on the other side, I'm likeyeah, you know, let's give do you know appreciation where, where it's due, soyou have enraptured me and you brought me overto to your side good, I'm glad so you know I while ancient aliens- and you know them-building the Pyramids and stuff is definitely an interestinginterpretation of the evidence. I don't really think it's based in anythingconcrete, whereas you know with the ancient Egyptians we have to like yousaid we have to give them credit where credits do, and you know this ancientculture of this ancient society. They were these incredible engineers,mathematicians architects. We see that with the Pyramids at Giza,with the dozens of other pyramids throughout the country or these massivetemples that they built down in Luxor, and so you know these were really smart menand women who you know could come together as a cohesive group,and you know, build these incredible monuments with which have lasted overfive thousand years in which we can go and visit today. So you said somethingthat really struck me because it's like you know, we don't know how thePyramids were built and you're like well. Of course not, you know thePharaohs and and their empire at that time wanted to keep everything tothemselves, because that was their innovation that was their community.Why share these secrets? And that really struck me, because it's likeyeah that totally makes sense. I don't want to give my secrets away to people,and so that's why you know it's a mystery and it's a beautiful mysteryand it's an appreciation of where our cart art culture has come from, becauseyou know there's a lot of Egyptian culture and everything that we do fromour mathematics to our astrology to our architecture.

But I can't imagine packing my bags andheading off to Cairo to attend university. What were you most nervousabout in preparing for that four year? Commitment, yeah now totally it's! Youknow, I think, for me the the most nerve racking thing was moving so faraway from home, so I grew up here in California up in Santa Barbreck County.I did my Undergrad at use, SANA carpral, maybe an hour away from my home andthen at twenty two to just decide to move half way around the world, aflight that takes the fastest I've ever done. It is twenty one hours to getfrom California to Egypt, and so my God very isolated and you know far away. SoI think that was a big thing and just leaving friends and family and closeones- and you know then of course there's thingslike the culture shock. I mean us as Americans were so different from youknow: Middle Eastern Arab culture and while those differences can bebeautiful, they can be overwhelming at the same time and especially thelanguage barrier right. So obviously we speak English and over there they speakArabic and so that I was kind of just thrust into this crash course of havingto learn Arabic to direct a taxi or to order food at a restaurant. So, while you know the first few monthswere initially overwhelming and hard in some ways, I've very quickly found in Cairo, agreat community of friends and colleagues who we all kind of band it together tokind of support and just love on each other and really just be there for each other.When we needed it, you know some days are easier than others, and so that was great. So I think all ofthat really helped with my transition from life in America to life over inthe Middle East. So...

...tell me about your first dig: It's notlike you tell them hey! I want to study Egypt and they hand you a shovel it'skind of a complicated process. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Yeah?Of course? So it's you know as an Undergrad, when I was doing my Ba, Irealized that I needed to get excavation experience in order toreally kind of properly call myself an archaeologist. So I ended up through. UCla actually signing up for kind of in archaeology field school where I went as a student, but I was beingtrained by archaeologists and professionals in the field ofEgyptology and Egyptian archaeology. So I had to pay way too much money to do it. I've had all those Ole schools run, though I did get university credit portso so that county did this but yeah I paid a lot of money, went out toEgypt in January of two thousand and eleven and lived in a small dig houseout in the middle of the desert excavating at Amarna, which was anancient capital city in Egypt during the New Kingdom, and that was amazing.That was an an incredible experience. I two thousand and eleven. That was myfirst trip to Egypt ever and so not only was I just thrilled to be in thiscountry that I've been like fantasizing about for you know since my childhood, but it was really great to experiencethe culture to meet Egyptians and to actually livein Egypt and realize that this is just such a beautiful country that I loveand beautiful people in a place that I forsure like wanted to spend the rest of my career working at so that definitely was a life changingyou know excavation for me. I could tell you. I took a two weektrip to Israel at about that age and it...

...really changed my life. You know wetend to kind of exist in our bubble, especially here in southern California,and we forget, there's a whole world out there. That's so different from usthat we can learn from it was. It was a beautiful experience.Now the gay man in me wants to know what does one pack whenyou're going on your first dig was like all cargo pants and t shirts yeahpretty much so it's you know. We have to remember Egypt isin the desert right, so you know, while it's really hot during the day, it getsreally cold at night. So you just have these huge temperature fluctuation. Soso I had this weird eclectic bag of, like, as you said, cargo pans t shirtsboots for like my work during the day, but then at night I needed likesweaters and scarves and beanies, and so it it just was. You know hard topack, just one bag for different weather, and I you know temperature conditions andwhat not, and so you know and then yea, like the balance of like the workclothes with kind of like the play going out clothes. So yeah tell me a little bit about thebackground of what makes a successful, even Egyptologist. What is the end goal?Is it to uncover a new tomb? Is it to write a new theory? Is it to be on TV?What what's the UNGOL OF AN EGYPTOLOGIST YEAH? I think for for meand my colleagues, you know that goal will be different for everybody, sosome people are really adamant about Becoming University College professors.Others want to work in museums as curators, I think for me, my goal is to definitely make a contribution to thefield of Egyptology, not necessarily in terms of like academics or a...

...you know, a grand new discovery orcoming up with a new theory. But for me my what I hope will be my contributionto Egyptology is actually helping to bridge the gap more between. You know us as foreign archaeologist,so as Americans Europeans either some Japanese Egyptologists even to breach that gap between us asforeigners and our Egyptian colleagues who are working in Egypt and what Ireally am hoping for is that we can work together side by side as one unit because currently and it's gettingbetter over the over the decades and stuff for sure. But currently it's it'sa very divided field. Where you know you have your Egyptian teams doingexcavations and you have your foreign teams doing excavations, and I verymuch want that to be just a mixed group and it's not US versus them or you knowwhatever it's. You know two groups working together, and you know I'vespent three years here at cla studying Arabic to help improve that definitelypartner with my Egyptian colleagues of the Egyptian Museum and Cairo to doobject, studies and work over there, and so I'm really trying to like make that. Let that be my impacton the field and certainly also you know along those lines to, I thinkreally. For me, another goal is to engage with the public and with thosewho are, you know those people who are interested in Egyptology, even if it'sjust as a hobby or kind of on the side. I want to you know whether that'sthrough television or media or online forms, or what have you I really want. I have this greatpassion for Egyptology and I want to share that with others, and I want tobe able to you know not only teach and educate, but also just engage withdifferent audiences on Egyptology, so...

Nicholas one of the the questions I gotasked over and over from our article was being a member of the Lt qcommunity, but also being immersed in this. What we assume to be a homophonicenvironment and also very dangerous to our community? How do you deal withthat kind of duality? What have you experienced about Egypt and how itdeals with with our community yeah? Absolutely so it's definitely. You knowit is tricky and hearts in some ways to be a member of the ljus community. Iwas like to think of it, wait to get them all in there girl, and you know I will start out by saying, while it's hard and difficult to be amember of that community over in Egypt, we definitely hear in the states alsohave our struggles and issues as well. Do while it's like definitely muchbetter for us over here, and you know, certain states are better than others. We do have some share struggles. Youknow, as Americans, with our say, Egyptian peers and friends andcolleagues who are also community members as well, but for me and my work over there, youknow. I I go to Egypt with the mind that of like I'm there for work andresearch, and so, while you know, while I am immersed in the culture and thecommunity over there- and I do have you know- gay Egyptian friends, forinstance, or gay foreign friends who are living in Egypt- it is importantfor me. You know as a game man to keep that in mind that you know my firstpriority over. There is for work and not for fun or play, or you knowwhatever, and so you know I think it's important to, and this is my opinion. I know manydifferent people have many different ideas, aboutwhat's right or what'swrong. But for me how I try to make an...

...impact or a difference over there is you know, on the one hand, beingrespectful of Egyptian culture? I am you know as an American I'm a guestthere. I am a foreigner. I can get deported for being openly gay in Egyptby the government if they so choose, but at the same time you know what wetalked about in our previous interview, too, is, I think, it's so important tomake smaller steps and small impacts on people's lives while you're there, andso you know when, when it's a safe person or safe environment, I am openwith my Egyptian colleagues about Ian as a game in my partner, my lifestyle, if you will, what have you,and so I think it's important to kind of you know, build relationships andbuild those connections with people, and you know there whether it's becauseof religion or culture or their government. You know some people can have theiropinions skewed or changed to be negative towards the LT Q pluscommunity, and my hope is that by working overthere, interacting with Egyptians living amongst Egyptians and showingthem like. Yes, I'm a gay man but also like I have so many other qualitiesabout me that, like my identity as a gay man is not my only thing, you knowit's not my only characteristic. If you will- and you know along those lines toby you know, I want to build these relationships with people and show themthat, like being gay, is not like a bad thing. You know, and it's not anegative thing like you've been conditioned to think so. Yeah, you know you've been very open,especially lately. You know you've done some interviews that are very gay, soto speak. Are you ever afraid that...

...that's going to affect your career inthe long run or that you won't be allowed back in Egypt? I mean thatcomes with some risk. Yeah, absolutely, I think, they're always in the back ofmy mind, there's there's a fear of that and a fear of repercussions either bysay the Egyptian government- or you know maybe groups of Egyptians inEgypt that are against homosexuality and you know, can be violent towardsmembers of the L gpps community over there, and so definitely in the back ofmy mind. But I've come to realize now that I'm thirty one that I've spent somuch of my life, you know kind of hidden and not beingmy true self and line or line bio mission. Let's say- and you knowhonestly, Alexander kind of tired and I just kind of want to live my life andbe myself and wall, you know being an archaeologistworking in Egypt. I can't do that fully. I still should give back home, forinstance, want to just live my life as who I am you know, and so I think it'simportant to honest and true to myself, but I think also by trying to be more open about thistopic and about who I am as a game. Man, I'm trying to in a sense helpcontribute to normalizing it a bit more. If thatmakes sense- and you know I certainly growing up and asa young man, you know, we didn't have as many openly gay icons to look up toor to you know, see and like the media or the news or anything like this, and you know if I in some way I can evenhelp impact one person's life by being honest and open about who, I am youknow, I would count that as a success.

So what to tell you, you know whatintrigued me. So much was talking to you in this industry in this careerpath in this history that you're, you know involved with it's such adifferent kind of career than what we consider you know, part of our ourcommunity. It's of the entertainment community. It's not being an activist up front. You are obviously being anactivist in living your life and doing what you do, but it's such a uniqueindustry, and it's just a testament to we are everywhere. You know there, yourneighbors, your co workers, everybody has members of the Lt plus communityaround them and even in Egypt, whether they want to admit it or not orcommunity, is out there in every form in every industry. Yeah you, you focus very much on thefoo help me say this right phone area, funerary e!! very that's! Really like your expertise, anagent Egypt, studying ancient Lord, the beautiful rituals, knowing that manyreligions take our stories or the religion stories from those ancientEgyptian stories. What is your personal take on life after death? What's your kind of take on faith andspirituality? HMM YEAH! That's a great question! Actually, so I grew up in the ProtestantChristian church, my grandparents. Actually they were both missionariesfor the even evangelist billy, Graham and that had a huge impact on my dad'sfaith and my mother's faith as well, and you know for me personally, I and it's interesting being like L, gppscommunity member, because I know it's...

...so varied in different. You know amongst our community andstuff, but I do have a faith in the sense of I. You know believe that there issomething more than just what we're experiencing here on earth. What thatis exactly, I probably can't put you know a name to it, or you know say one religion is right overthe other necessarily, but I just think what the way things are inthe world and how you know. I also having grown up inthe church, and everything too. I do do have this belief that there'sgot to be something more than just what we're experiencing here, and you know it's interesting being anarchaeologist and studying death, let's say and like funerals and cemeteriesand mummies and all of this stuff and realizing that our transition from thisworld into the next, whatever that may be all the kind of pomp and circumstanceand the funeral and and all these you know, events that surround the burialof the dead person, those very much or for the livingrather than for the dead. If that makes sense- and it's more- you know whetherit's an age in Egypt or even in modern times, it seems to be more of like acoping mechanism. Let's say for for people who are still around, you know and mourning the loss of theirloved one and so yeah. I have to say also what inspires me.It's you know we're celebrating somebody's legacy. I mean this hugetone that they're in and their stories around them and the artifacts that arefound with them and it kind of challenges you as to what legacy areyou leaving behind? What are people? How are people going to honor you? Whatare they going to remember you for and when I went to Israel for those twoweeks I went very staunch Catholic. I became less faithful, but a thousandtimes more spiritual. If that makes...

...sense, it wasn't about this structureof this religion that I was taught in a textbook. It was about how you feelabout life and your own connection, and it became less structured, but I neverfelt more spiritual at any point in my entire life yeah and I think that'ssuch a great way to kind of sum up that experience to of like traveling andgoing to like you know, Israel, let's say or the Middle East in general, andyou know certainly I think relatable to my experiences as well. In terms of myfaith and my beliefs and everything- and you know I just think to travel- isso important, just in general- for people to see how much smaller theworld is than we realize and to Ridge these kind of gaps between the USversus then complex and to realize that people around the world are much moresimilar to us than we think you know. I think it's just so important forpeople to travel. So all right, Nicholas this one's for social media.Should we hot topic should we force other cultures to become more Elga, youfriendly or at least hot topic? Sorry, Alexander, I might have lost youthere for a little gold, so I missed the question. Okay, so hot topic should we be forcingother cultures to become more LB friendly or at least not killing usyeah, certainly at least not killing us. I do that's an absolute and you know like I said. While we needto be respectful of other cultures and societies, beliefs and opinions, Idon't think that necessarily means. We can't help them to see and understandthat m. You know, l GT, Q plus right...

...are not a bad thing or you know, are not going to bedetrimental to your government or your society or your culture, and, as youmentioned before, to by being more aware and open and honest about who weare as community members, you start to see that we're in a lotmore places throughout the world and a lot more careers and jobs than peoplerealize. So I think that's all important. All Right Nicholas tell everybody whereyou want them to find you and follow you yeah. So if you're interested in mywork or just egyptology in general, check out my Insara, I think Alexa justgot the link up there for you or the handle, and I do a lot of posts thereabout Egyptology and my work and stuff as an archaeologist so check it out andfor that audience that's listening to us as a podcast. His INSTAR IS NB four,three two six, which is the pin code on his Devi Card, no lias, it's always so much fun chattingwith you. I could. I could talk to you for hours and hours and if the fashion was a little bitbetter in an excavation, I might join you, but until then thank you so much and happy prideAlexander. Thank you! So much and happy pride everybody that has been my chat with eachotologist Nicholas Brown pick up. The latest issue are pride as you ofMetrostyle, with pictures of Nicholas on his excavations. Actually in a morein depth, chat pick it up on new, stands across the nations or go toMetropol, and that's our episode. I'm your host, Alexandr Rodrigez. You canfollow me on Instar at Alexander S, on air until next time stay true and doyou broke that has been another mess of source.Many like share subscribe on your...

...favorite podcast player and check outthe latest issue of lectrocuted on new stands or online at Tateham, follow uson Facebo instamatic and on caterer a til next time. He.

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