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 minis, the official podcast to Metro source magazine and home of short form interviews with your favorite personalities from the lgbtq world and beyond. Quick, Fun and informative. It's metro source on the Goo out in proud since one thousand nine hundred and ninety. Well, hello, hello, hello, this is metro source minis. I'm your host, Alexander Rodriguez, lead writer for Metro source and avid podcaster. You may have noticed that the history channel started heating up this summer with a member from our community chatting it up about all things Egypt. Today I chat with Egyptologist Nicholas Brown, who has worked as an archeologist in Egypt for ten years. He received his m a degree in Egyptology from the American University in Cairo and currently is an Egyptology PhD in training at EATCLA. Currently he lives between La and Cairo and his excavation experience includes working with the archeological sites in Oswan as well as funerary sites. Funerary, I say that, right in Lux our, Amarna and the Sudan. In Two thousand and sixteen he conducted archival research for the MFA Boston's Egyptian Art Departments Exhibit Ancient Nubia. Now he's been seen as an on screen expert and was featured in history channels unexplained with William Shatner, with my boy will. You can check out my end of art with him in our private issue of Metro source on newstands across the nation or at Metro sourcecom. Please welcome Nicholas Brown. Everybody, Alexander, thanks for having me. Great to be here. You know, it's funny because like we hang out and we chat, but then when I have to be all technical, like my mouth just like doesn't know how to do all these Egyptian names and everything. It's like, what great job. Yeah. So which had it in the article about the fact that while other kids were playing video games and, you know, playing with toys and whatever, you are enthralled with ancient history. What was...

...it that was so exciting to you as a young kid? Yeah, I think you know, growing up and and learning about ancient Egypt and getting books and watching TV shows about it and like the history channel and stuff, just became fascinated with things like pyramids and mummies and and golden treasure and I think really the draw for me was the kind of the adventure of the job right just the you're going to a foreign country, you're doing this work out in the desert, you're finding and discovering new things, and so I think that all of that is really kind of what started my interest in my passion for archeology and for Egypt. You know, it's funny when my friends like know that we're hanging out or talking like oh well, who's this Nicholas Brown? I'm like he is literally the Current Day Indiana and Jones like you're really in in the thick of it. You're uncovering, you know, sites and new artifacts. I mean that's very, very exciting. We're in this digital age where everything is on the computer, but you're actually touching ancient history. But I'm not sure what would be more scary, coming out as gay or coming out as I want to be an egyptologist. What was that conversation like with your family? I think well, they both were scary for different reasons. Absolutely, but you know, I it's been great with my family. They have been super supportive of like my work and my career and my job over in Egypt and it's definitely taken them a while to kind of warm up to 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 and to network and to get excavation experience and job, job work over in Cairo, and so now they're pretty supportive and, you know, encouraging for me to pursue this job. But I will say starting out it was,...

...you know, a little bit rough. They very much our baby boomers, you know, wanted us all to have cookie cutter jobs, you know, be a doctor, be a lawyer, do something like this. But yeah, like I said, they you know, nowadays they're super supportive, understanding and are excited by the work that I do over there. So, Nicholas, can you share your coming out story, especially, say, during this pride we're all sharing our stories, which is so important. What was your coming out like? Yeah, so it's been, you know, it's been an interesting journey, I would say for me, and you know, I tell my boyfriend and I tell a bunch of my friends all the time that some of us are just late bloomers and it takes us a bit to kind of really get more comfortable or figure out our sexuality and our identity and who we are as gay men or, you know, part of the LGBT Q plus community. And so I, you know, really didn't start to explore my sexuality till I was about twenty two, when I actually moved away from California and moved to Egypt, ironically of all places, and just had the freedom to kind of explore who I was and, you know, like I said, my identity and stuff, and so didn't actually come out to my family till I was about twenty seven. So you know, I had a few years to figure things out and you know it it was hard for them at first. I think it's not, you know, the it's not like the picture perfect movies or TV shows where the family's totally accepting and welcoming. They slowly have been coming around, though, and it become more supportive, I would say. And you know, my current boyfriend I actually he's the first boyfriend I brought home and introduced to them, so that was kind of a big milestone for us. That happened last year and you know, I...

...would say that I have been the one who's been more nervous to talk with them about my sexuality or my experiences as a gay man and I perhaps over think things and come up with scenarios of Oh, like Mom's not going to let this or Dad's going to say this and it's not to be okay. But then I have always been pleasantly surprised or shocked by, like their reaction, which has been positive to you know, say, meeting my boyfriend or, you know, having my boyfriend over to the house for the first time, or or these different, you know experiences with it. And so everybody's different. Everybody has their own, you know, stories or backgrounds or experiences that affects, you know, their outlook or, say, their support of LGBT Q plus community members. But you know, I would just encourage everyone, especially during this pride month this year, to just be yourself, be happy, be safe, you know, and empathy and patients, I think, go a lot farther than then you realize. Yeah, and that's so true. We've been talking 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 do you and things will fall in place or they won't fall in place. But as long as you're living your true self, whether you come out at three thousand, forty, fourteen, sixteen. You know, it's a different story for everybody. There's no right or wrong to coming out. Okay, what are some of the biggest myths about ancient Egypt you would like to dispel right here or right now? Also, we have talked about this before. Don't see eye to eye, but for the viewers and the listeners today, I'd like to tell you that aliens did not build the Pyramids in...

Egypt. Though Alexander might disagree with this, I have to tell you. You know, in our chats and in our article at Metro stores, you know, you put me on the other side. I'm like, yeah, you know, let's give do you know, appreciation where where it's due. So you have enraptured me and you've brought me over to your side. I'm glad. So you know, I while ancient aliens and you know, them building the Pyramids and stuff is definitely an interesting interpretation of the evidence, I don't really think it's based in anything concrete, whereas you know, with the ancient Egyptians we have to like you said, we have to give them credit where credits do and you know this ancient culture 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 massive temples that they built down in Lux or, and so, you know, these were really smart men and women who, you know, could come together as a cohesive group and, you know, build these incredible monuments with which it lasted over fivezero years and which we can go and visit today. So you said something that really struck me because it's like, you know, we don't know how the Pyramids were built, and you're like, well, of course not. You know, the Pharaohs and their empire at that time wanted to keep everything to themselves because that was their innovation, that was their community. Why share these secrets? And that really struck because it's like yeah, 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 mystery and it's an appreciation of where our quart art culture has come from, because, you know, there's a lot of Egyptian culture and everything that we do from our mathematics to our astrology, to our architecture, but I can't imagine packing my bags and heading off to Cairo to attend university. What...

...were you most nervous about in preparing for that four year commitment? Yeah, now, totally. It's you know, I think for me the the nerve racking thing was moving so far away from home. So I grew up here in California, up in Santa Barbara County. I did my undergradate, you see, Santa Barbara, so maybe an hour away from my home, and then, at twenty two to just decide to move halfway around the world, a flight that takes the fastest I've ever done. It is twenty one hours to get from California to Egypt, and so I got very isolated and, you know, far away. So I think that was a big thing, and just leaving friends and family and close ones and you know, then of course there's things like the culture shock. I mean us as Americans were so different from, you know, Middle Eastern Arab culture, and while those differences can be beautiful, they can be overwhelming at the same time. And especially the language barrier. Right. So obviously we speak English and over there they speak Arabic. And so that I was kind of just thrust into this crash course of having to learn Arabic to direct a taxi or to order food at a restaurant. So while, you know, the first few months were initially overwhelming and hard in some ways, I very quickly found in Cairo a great community of friends and colleagues who we all kind of banded together to kind 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 of that really helped with my transition from life in America to life over in the Middle East. So...

...tell me about your first dig it's not like you tell them, Hey, I want to study Egypt and they hand you a shovel. It's kind 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 bea, I realized that I needed to get excavation experience in order to really kind of properly call myself an archeologists. So I ended up, through UCLA, actually signing up for kind of an archeology field school where I went as a student, but I was being trained by archeologists and professionals in the field of Egyptology and Egyptian archeology. So I had to pay way too much money to do it. Had All those fool schools run, though I did get university credit for it, so so that counted at least. But yeah, paid a lot of money. went out to Egypt in January of two thousand and eleven and lived in a small dig house out in the middle of the desert excavating at Amarna, which was an ancient capital city in Egypt during the New Kingdom, and that was amazing. That was an incredible experience. I two thousand and eleven, that was my first trip to Egypt ever, and so not only was I just thrilled to be in this country that I'd been like fantasizing about for, you know, since my childhood, but it was really great to experience the culture, to meet Egyptians and to actually live in Egypt and realize that this is just such a beautiful country that I love and beautiful people and a place that I for sure, like wanted to spend the rest of my career working at, so that definitely was a lifechanging, you know excavation. For me, I have to tell you I took a two week trip to Israel at about that age and it really changed...

...my life. You know, we tend 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 us that we can learn from. It was a it was a beautiful experience. Now the gay man in me wants to know. What does one pack when you're going on your first dig was like all cargo pants and tshirts. Yeah, pretty much. So it's you know, we have to remember Egypt is in the desert right. So, you know, while it's really hot during the day, it gets really cold at night. So you just have these huge temperature fluctuations. So it's so I had this weird eclectic bag of like, as you said, cargo pants, tshirts, boots for like my work during the day, but then at night I needed like sweaters and scarves and beanies, and so it just was, you know, hard to pack just one bag for different weather and you know, temperature conditions and whatnot, and so, you know, and then, yeah, like the balance of like the work clothes with kind of like the play going out clothes. So yeah, tell me a little bit about the background of what makes a successful even Egyptologist. What does the end goal? Is it to uncover a new too? Is it to write a new theory? Is it to be on TV? What? What's the end goal of an Egyptologist? Yeah, I think for for me and my colleagues, you know, that goal will be different for everybody. So some 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 the field of Egyptology, not necessarily in terms of like academics or a you know,...

I'd grand new discovery or coming up with a new theory. But for me, my what I hope will be my contribution to Egyptology is actually helping to bridge the gap more between, you know, US as foreign archeologist. So it's Americans, Europeans either some Japanese Egyptologists even, to bridge that gap between us as foreigners and our Egyptian colleagues who are working in Egypt. And what I really am hoping for is that we can work together side by side as one unit, because currently, and it's getting better over there over the decades and stuff, for sure, but currently it's it's a very divided field where, you know, you have your Egyptian teams doing excavations and you have your foreign teams doing excavations, and I very much want that to be just a mixed group and it's not us versus them or, you know whatever. It's, you know, two groups working together. And you know, I've spent three years here at ECLA studying Arabic to help improve that. Definitely partner with my Egyptian colleagues at the Egyptian Museum and Cairo to do object studies and work over there, and so I'm really trying to like make that, let that be my impact on the field and certainly also, you know, along those lines too, I think really for me, another goal is to engage with the public and with those who are, you know, those people who are interested in Egyptology, even if it's just as a hobby or kind of on the side. I want to you know, whether that's through television or media or online forms or what have you. I really want I have this great passion for Egyptology and I want to share that with others and I want to be able to, you know, not only teach and educate, but also...

...just engage with different audiences on Egyptology. So, nick was one of a the questions I got asked over and over from our article was being a member of the Lgbtq community but also being immersed in this what we assume to be a homophobic environment and also very dangerous to our community the how do you deal with that kind of duality? What have you experienced about Egypt and how it deals with with our community? Yeah, absolutely, so. It's definitely, you know, it is tricky and Heart in some ways to be a member of the LGBTQ plus community. I was up to think of it, wait to get them all in their girl and you know, I will start out by saying while it's hard and difficult to be a member of that community over in Egypt, we definitely here in the states also have our struggles and issues as well. Though, while it's like, definitely much better for us over here, and you know certain states are better than others, we do have some shared struggles, you know, as Americans, with our say Egyptian peers and friends and colleagues who are also community members as well. But for me and my work over there, you know, I I go to Egypt with the mindset of, like, I'm there for work and research, and so while, you know, while I am immersed in the culture and the community over there, and I do have, you know, gay Egyptian friends, for instance, or gay foreign friends who are living in Egypt, it is important for me, you know, as a gay man, to keep that in mind that, you know, my first priority over there is for work and not for fun or play or you know whatever. And so, you know, I think it's important to and this is my opinion. I know many different people will have many different ideas about what's right or what's wrong,...

...but for me, how I try to make an impact or a difference over there is, you know, on the one hand, being respectful of Egyptian culture. I am, you know, as an American, I'm a guest there, I am a foreigner, I can get deported for being openly gay in Egypt by the government if they so choose. But at the same time, you know, what we talked about in our previous interview too, is, I think, it's so important to make smaller steps and small impacts on people's lives while you're there, and so you know when when it's a safe person or safe environment. I am open with my Egyptian colleagues about who I am as a gay man, my partner, my lifestyle, if you will, what have you, and so I think it's important to kind of, you know, build relationships and build those connections with people and you know they're whether it's because of religion or culture or their government. You know, some people can have their opinions skewed or changed to be negative towards the LGBTQ plus community, and my hope is that by working over there, interacting with Egyptians, living amongst Egyptians and showing them like, yes, I'm a gay man, but also like I have so many other qualities about me that, like my identity is a gay man, is not my only thing, you know, it's not my only characteristic, if you will, and you know, along those lines to by, you know, I want to build these relationships with people and show them that, like, being gay is not like a bad thing, you know, and it's not a negative 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 so so to...

...speak. Are you ever afraid that that's going to affect your career in the long run or that you won't be allowed back in Egypt? I mean that comes with some risk. Yeah, absolutely, I think they're always in the back of my mind. There's there's a fear of that and a fear of repercussions either by, say, the Egyptian government or, you know, maybe groups of Egyptians in Egypt that are against homosexuality and, you know, can be violent towards members of the LGBTQ plus community over there. And so definitely in the back of my mind. But I've come to realize, now that I'm thirty one, that I've spent so much of my life, you know, kind of hidden and not being my true self and lying, or lying by omission, let's say. And you know, honestly, Alexander, I'm kind of tired and I just kind of want to live my life and be myself. And while, you know, being an archeologist working in Egypt, I can't do that fully. I still us here at home, for instance, want to just live my life as who I am, you know, and so I think it's important to be honest and true to myself. But I think also by trying to be more open about about this topic and about who I am as a gay man, I'm trying to innocence help contribute to normalizing it a bit more, if that makes sense. And you know, I certainly growing up and as a young man, you know, we didn't have as many openly gay icons to look up to or to, you know, see and like the media or the news or anything like this. And you know, if I in some way can even help impact one person's life by being honest and open about who I am, you know I would count...

...that as a success. So what to tell you? You know, what intrigued me so much was talking to you in this industry and this career path, in this history that you're, you know, and involved with. It's such a different kind of career than what we consider, you know, part of our community. It's not the entertainment community, it's not being an activist. Up Front, you are obviously being an activist in living your life and doing what you do, but it's such a unique industry and it's just a testament to we are everywhere. You know, they're your neighbors, your co workers, everybody has members of the lgbtq plus a community around them. And even in Egypt, whether they want to admit it or not, our community is out there in every form and every industry. Up. Yeah, you are your you focus very much on the food. Help me say this right. Fun area, funerary ARY girl. That's really like your expertise in agent Egypt, studying ancient Lord the beautiful rituals, knowing that many religions take our stories, or the religion stories, from those ancient Egyptian stories. What is your personal take on life after death? What's your kind of take on faith and spirituality? HMM, yeah, that's a great question actually. So I grew up in the Protestant Christian church. My grandparents actually, they were both missionaries for the Evan Evangelist Billy Graham, and that had a huge impact on my dad's faith and my mother's faith as well. And you know, for me personally, I and it's interesting being like Lgbtq plus community member, because I know it's so varied and different, you know, amongst our community and...

...stuff, but I do have a faith in the sense of I, you know, believe that there is something more than just what we're experiencing here on earth. What that is exactly, I probably can't put, you know, a name to it or, you know, say one religion is right over the other necessarily, but I just think with the way things are in the world and and how, you know, I also having grown up in the church and everything to I do do have this belief that there's got to be something more than just what we're experiencing here. And you know, it's interesting being an archeologist and studying death, let's say, and like funerals and cemeteries and mummies and all of this stuff, and realizing that are transition from this world into the next, whatever that may be. All the kind of pomp and circumstance and the funeral and and all these, you know, events that's around the burial of the dead person. Those very much are for the living rather than for the dead, if that makes sense. And it's more, you know, whether it's in ancient Egypt or even in modern times, it seems to be more of like a coping mechanism, let's say, for for people who are still around you know, and mourning the loss of their loved one. And so yeah, I have to say also what inspires me it's, you know, we're celebrating somebody's legacy. I mean that's huge tune that they're in and their stories around them and the artifacts that are found with them. But it kind of challenges you as to what legacy are you leaving behind? What are people how are people going to honor you? What are they going to remember you for? And when I went to Israel for those two weeks, I went very staunch Catholic. I became less faithful but a thousand...

...times more spiritual, if that makes sense. It wasn't about this structure of this religion that I was taught in a textbook. It was about how you feel about life and your own connection, and it became less structured, but I never felt more spiritual at any point in my entire life. Yeah, and I think that's such a great way to the kind of sum up that experience too, of like traveling and going to like, you know, Israel, let's Ay, or the Middle East in general. And you know, certainly, I think, relatable to my experiences as well in terms of my faith and my beliefs and everything. And you know, I just think to travel is so important just in general for people to see how much smaller the world is than we realize and to bridge these kind of gaps between the US versus then complex and to realize that people around the world are much more similar to us than then we think. You know, it's just so important for people to travel. So all right, Nicholas, this one's for social media. Should we hot topic. Should we force other cultures to become more lgbtque friendly or at least hot topic? Sorry, Alexander, I might have lost you there for a little bit, so I missed the question. Okay, so hot topic. Should we be for seeing other cultures to become more lgbtq friendly, or at least not killing us? Yeah, certainly, at least not killing us. I think that's an absolute and you know, like I said, while we need to be respectful of other cultures and societies, beliefs and opinions, I don't think that necessarily means we can't help them to see and understand that, you know, lgbtq plus right are not a bad thing...

...or, you know, are not going to be detrimental to your government or your society or your culture and, as you mentioned before, to by being more aware and open and honest about who we are as community members, you start to see that we're in a lot more places throughout the world and a lot more careers and jobs than people realize. So I think that's all important. All right, Nicholas, tell everybody where you want them to find you and follow you. Yeah, so if you're interested in my work or just egyptology in general, check out my instagram. I think Alexander's got the link up there for you or the handle, and I do a lot of post there about Egyptology and my work and stuff as an archeologist. So check it out and for that audience that's listening to us as a podcast, his instagram is NB four, three two six, which is the pincode on his debit card. NOPE, Nicholas, it's always so much fun chatting with you. I could. I could talk to you for hours and hours and if the fashion was a little bit better in an excavation I might join you, but until then, thank you so much and happy pride, Alexander. Thank you so much and happy pride everybody that has been my chat with Egyptologist Nicolas Bround. Pick up the latest issue, our pride is you of Metro source, with pictures of Nicholas, on his excavations actually, and a more in depth chat. Pick it up on new stands across the nations or go to Metro sourcescom. And that's our episode. I'm your host, Alexander Rodriguez. You can follow me on Instagram at Alexander is on air. Until next time, stay true and do you vote? That has been another metro source mini like share, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check out the latest issue of...

Metro Sports magazine on newstands or online at Metro sportscom. Follow us on Facebook, instagram at metal source and on twitter at Metro course mead. Until next time. Thank Fat.

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