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

...it that was so exciting to youas a young kid? Yeah, I think you know, growing up andand learning about ancient Egypt and getting books and watching TV shows about it andlike the history channel and stuff, just became fascinated with things like pyramids andmummies and and golden treasure and I think really the draw for me was thekind of the adventure of the job right just the you're going to a foreigncountry, you're doing this work out in the desert, you're finding and discoveringnew things, and so I think that all of that is really kind ofwhat 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 likeoh well, who's this Nicholas Brown? I'm like he is literally the CurrentDay Indiana and Jones like you're really in in the thick of it. You'reuncovering, 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 morescary, coming out as gay or coming out as I want to be anegyptologist. What was that conversation like with your family? I think well,they both were scary for different reasons. Absolutely, but you know, Iit's been great with my family. They have been super supportive of like mywork and my career and my job over in Egypt and it's definitely taken thema while to kind of warm up to the idea and to, you know, fully get on board with it. But they you know, I thinkthey've seen how hard I've worked to study and to network and to get excavationexperience and job, job work over in Cairo, and so now they're prettysupportive and, you know, encouraging for me to pursue this job. ButI will say starting out it was,...

...you know, a little 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, do something like this. But yeah, like I said, they you know, nowadays they're super supportive, understanding and are excited by the work thatI 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, soit's been, you know, it's been an interesting journey, I would sayfor me, and you know, I tell my boyfriend and I tell abunch 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 figureout 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 twentytwo, when I actually moved away from California and moved to Egypt, ironicallyof all places, and just had the freedom to kind of explore who Iwas 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 andyou 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 showswhere 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 introducedto them, so that was kind of a big milestone for us. Thathappened last year and you know, I...

...would say that I have been theone who's been more nervous to talk with them about my sexuality or my experiencesas a gay man and I perhaps over think things and come up with scenariosof Oh, like Mom's not going to let this or Dad's going to saythis and it's not to be okay. But then I have always been pleasantlysurprised or shocked by, like their reaction, which has been positive to you know, say, meeting my boyfriend or, you know, having my boyfriend overto the house for the first time, or or these different, you knowexperiences with it. And so everybody's different. Everybody has their own,you know, stories or backgrounds or experiences that affects, you know, theiroutlook or, say, their support of LGBT Q plus community members. Butyou 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 yourealize. Yeah, and that's so true. We've been talking to somany 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 willfall in place or they won't fall in place. But as long as you'reliving your true self, whether you come out at three thousand, forty,fourteen, sixteen. You know, it's a different story for everybody. There'sno right or wrong to coming out. Okay, what are some of thebiggest 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 youthat aliens did not build the Pyramids in...

Egypt. Though Alexander might disagree withthis, I have to tell you. You know, in our chats andin our article at Metro stores, you know, you put me on theother side. I'm like, yeah, you know, let's give do youknow, appreciation where where it's due. So you have enraptured me and you'vebrought me over to your side. I'm glad. So you know, Iwhile ancient aliens and you know, them building the Pyramids and stuff is definitelyan interesting interpretation 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 thisancient culture this ancient society. They were these incredible engineers, mathematicians, architects. We see that with the Pyramids at Giza, with the dozens of otherpyramids throughout the country, or these massive temples that they built down in Luxor, and so, you know, these were really smart men and womenwho, you know, could come together as a cohesive group and, youknow, build these incredible monuments with which it lasted over fivezero years and whichwe can go and visit today. So you said something that really struck mebecause it's like, you know, we don't know how the Pyramids were built, and you're like, well, of course not. You know, thePharaohs and their empire at that time wanted to keep everything to themselves because thatwas their innovation, that was their community. Why share these secrets? And thatreally struck because it's like yeah, that totally makes sense. I don'twant 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 ofwhere our quart art culture has come from, because, you know, there's alot of Egyptian culture and everything that we do from our mathematics to ourastrology, to our architecture, but I can't imagine packing my bags and headingoff to Cairo to attend university. What...

...were you most nervous about in preparingfor that four year commitment? Yeah, now, totally. It's you know, I think for me the the nerve racking thing was moving so far awayfrom home. So I grew up here in California, up in Santa BarbaraCounty. I did my undergradate, you see, Santa Barbara, so maybean hour away from my home, and then, at twenty two to justdecide to move halfway around the world, a flight that takes the fastest I'veever done. It is twenty one hours to get from California to Egypt,and so I got very isolated and, you know, far away. SoI think that was a big thing, and just leaving friends and family andclose 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, MiddleEastern Arab culture, and while those differences can be beautiful, they can beoverwhelming at the same time. And especially the language barrier. Right. Soobviously we speak English and over there they speak Arabic. And so that Iwas kind of just thrust into this crash course of having to learn Arabic todirect a taxi or to order food at a restaurant. So while, youknow, 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 weall kind of banded together to kind of support and just love on each otherand really just be there for each other when we needed it. You know, some days are easier than others, and so that was great. SoI think all of that really helped with my transition from life in America tolife over in the Middle East. So...

...tell me about your first dig it'snot like you tell them, Hey, I want to study Egypt and theyhand you a shovel. It's kind of a complicated process. Can you tellus a little bit about that? Yeah, of course. So it's you know, as an Undergrad, when I was doing my bea, I realizedthat I needed to get excavation experience in order to really kind of properly callmyself an archeologists. So I ended up, through UCLA, actually signing up forkind of an archeology field school where I went as a student, butI was being trained by archeologists and professionals in the field of Egyptology and Egyptianarcheology. 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 ofmoney. went out to Egypt in January of two thousand and eleven and livedin 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, andthat was amazing. That was an incredible experience. I two thousand and eleven, that was my first trip to Egypt ever, and so not only wasI 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 experiencethe culture, to meet Egyptians and to actually live in Egypt and realize thatthis is just such a beautiful country that I love and beautiful people and aplace that I for sure, like wanted to spend the rest of my careerworking at, so that definitely was a lifechanging, you know excavation. Forme, I have to tell you I took a two week trip to Israelat about that age and it really changed...

...my life. You know, wetend to kind of exist in our bubble, especially here in southern California, andwe forget there's a whole world out there that's so different from us thatwe can learn from. It was a it was a beautiful experience. Nowthe gay man in me wants to know. What does one pack when you're goingon your first dig was like all cargo pants and tshirts. Yeah,pretty much. So it's you know, we have to remember Egypt is inthe 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 temperaturefluctuations. So it's so I had this weird eclectic bag of like,as you said, cargo pants, tshirts, boots for like my work during theday, but then at night I needed like sweaters and scarves and beanies, and so it just was, you know, hard to pack just onebag for different weather and you know, temperature conditions and whatnot, and so, you know, and then, yeah, like the balance of like the workclothes 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 forfor me and my colleagues, you know, that goal will be different for everybody. So some people are really adamant about Becoming University College professors, otherswant to work in museums as curators. I think for me my goal isto definitely make a contribution to the field of Egyptology, not necessarily in termsof like academics or a you know,...

I'd grand new discovery or coming upwith a new theory. But for me, my what I hope will be mycontribution to Egyptology is actually helping to bridge the gap more between, youknow, US as foreign archeologist. So it's Americans, Europeans either some JapaneseEgyptologists even, to bridge that gap between us as foreigners and our Egyptian colleagueswho are working in Egypt. And what I really am hoping for is thatwe can work together side by side as one unit, because currently, andit's getting better over there over the decades and stuff, for sure, butcurrently it's it's a very divided field where, you know, you have your Egyptianteams doing excavations and you have your foreign teams doing excavations, and Ivery much want that to be just a mixed group and it's not us versusthem or, you know whatever. It's, you know, two groups working together. And you know, I've spent three years here at ECLA studying Arabicto help improve that. Definitely partner with my Egyptian colleagues at the Egyptian Museumand Cairo to do object studies and work over there, and so I'm reallytrying to like make that, let that be my impact on the field andcertainly also, you know, along those lines too, I think really forme, 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'sjust as a hobby or kind of on the side. I want to youknow, 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 toshare 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 andover from our article was being a member of the Lgbtq community but also beingimmersed in this what we assume to be a homophobic environment and also very dangerousto our community the how do you deal with that kind of duality? Whathave you experienced about Egypt and how it deals with with our community? Yeah, absolutely, so. It's definitely, you know, it is tricky andHeart in some ways to be a member of the LGBTQ plus community. Iwas up to think of it, wait to get them all in their girland you know, I will start out by saying while it's hard and difficultto be a member of that community over in Egypt, we definitely here inthe states also have our struggles and issues as well. Though, while it'slike, definitely much better for us over here, and you know certain statesare better than others, we do have some shared struggles, you know,as Americans, with our say Egyptian peers and friends and colleagues who are alsocommunity members as well. But for me and my work over there, youknow, I I go to Egypt with the mindset of, like, I'mthere for work and research, and so while, you know, while Iam immersed in the culture and the community over there, and I do have, you know, gay Egyptian friends, for instance, or gay foreign friendswho 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 oryou know whatever. And so, you know, I think it's important toand this is my opinion. I know many different people will have many differentideas about what's right or what's wrong,...

...but for me, how I tryto make an impact or a difference over there is, you know, onthe 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 theyso choose. But at the same time, you know, what we talked aboutin 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 amopen with my Egyptian colleagues about who I am as a gay man, mypartner, my lifestyle, if you will, what have you, and so Ithink it's important to kind of, you know, build relationships and buildthose connections with people and you know they're whether it's because of religion or cultureor their government. You know, some people can have their opinions skewed orchanged to be negative towards the LGBTQ plus community, and my hope is thatby 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 manyother qualities about me that, like my identity is a gay man,is not my only thing, you know, it's not my only characteristic, ifyou will, and you know, along those lines to by, youknow, I want to build these relationships with people and show them that,like, being gay is not like a bad thing, you know, andit'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 someinterviews that are very gay so so to...

...speak. Are you ever afraid thatthat's going to affect your career in the long run or that you won't beallowed 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'sa fear of that and a fear of repercussions either by, say, theEgyptian government or, you know, maybe groups of Egyptians in Egypt that areagainst homosexuality and, you know, can be violent towards members of the LGBTQplus 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 spentso much of my life, you know, kind of hidden and not being mytrue self and lying, or lying by omission, let's say. Andyou know, honestly, Alexander, I'm kind of tired and I just kindof want to live my life and be myself. And while, you know, being an archeologist working in Egypt, I can't do that fully. Istill us here at home, for instance, want to just live my life aswho I am, you know, and so I think it's important tobe honest and true to myself. But I think also by trying to bemore 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, ifthat makes sense. And you know, I certainly growing up and as ayoung man, you know, we didn't have as many openly gay icons tolook up to or to, you know, see and like the media or thenews or anything like this. And you know, if I in someway can even help impact one person's life by being honest and open about whoI am, you know I would count...

...that as a success. So whatto tell you? You know, what intrigued me so much was talking toyou in this industry and this career path, in this history that you're, youknow, and involved with. It's such a different kind of career thanwhat we consider, you know, part of our community. It's not theentertainment community, it's not being an activist. Up Front, you are obviously beingan activist in living your life and doing what you do, but it'ssuch a unique industry and it's just a testament to we are everywhere. Youknow, they're your neighbors, your co workers, everybody has members of thelgbtq plus a community around them. And even in Egypt, whether they wantto admit it or not, our community is out there in every form andevery industry. Up. Yeah, you are your you focus very much onthe food. Help me say this right. Fun area, funerary ARY girl.That's really like your expertise in agent Egypt, studying ancient Lord the beautifulrituals, 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 faithas well. And you know, for me personally, I and it's interestingbeing 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 afaith in the sense of I, you know, believe that there is somethingmore 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, youknow, say one religion is right over the other necessarily, but I justthink 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 dohave this belief that there's got to be something more than just what we're experiencinghere. 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 thatmay be. All the kind of pomp and circumstance and the funeral and andall 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, ifthat makes sense. And it's more, you know, whether it's in ancientEgypt 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 their loved one. And so yeah, Ihave 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 themand the artifacts that are found with them. But it kind of challenges you asto what legacy are you leaving behind? What are people how are people goingto honor you? What are they going to remember you for? Andwhen 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 makessense. It wasn't about this structure of this religion that I was taught ina 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 anypoint in my entire life. Yeah, and I think that's such a greatway to the kind of sum up that experience too, of like traveling andgoing to like, you know, Israel, let's Ay, or the Middle Eastin general. And you know, certainly, I think, relatable tomy 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 generalfor people to see how much smaller the world is than we realize and tobridge these kind of gaps between the US versus then complex and to realize thatpeople 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 weforce 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 befor seeing other cultures to become more lgbtq friendly, or at least not killingus? Yeah, certainly, at least not killing us. I think that'san absolute and you know, like I said, while we need to berespectful of other cultures and societies, beliefs and opinions, I don't think thatnecessarily 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 notgoing 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 aboutwho we are as community members, you start to see that we're in alot more places throughout the world and a lot more careers and jobs than peoplerealize. So I think that's all important. All right, Nicholas, tell everybodywhere you want them to find you and follow you. Yeah, soif you're interested in my work or just egyptology in general, check out myinstagram. 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 andstuff as an archeologist. So check it out and for that audience that's listeningto us as a podcast, his instagram is NB four, three two six, which is the pincode on his debit card. NOPE, Nicholas, it'salways so much fun chatting with you. I could. I could talk toyou for hours and hours and if the fashion was a little bit better inan excavation I might join you, but until then, thank you so muchand happy pride, Alexander. Thank you so much and happy pride everybody thathas been my chat with Egyptologist Nicolas Bround. Pick up the latest issue, ourpride is you of Metro source, with pictures of Nicholas, on hisexcavations actually, and a more in depth chat. Pick it up on newstands 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 Alexanderis on air. Until next time, stay true and do you vote?That has been another metro source mini like share, subscribe on your favorite podcastplayer and check out the latest issue of...

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

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