Elaine Sullivan Brings to Life the History of the Egyptian Necropolis of Saqqara

Elaine Sullivan, an associate professor of history at the Univerity of California, Santa Cruz, has been awarded the 2020 Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History by The American Historical Association. The award, sponsored jointly by the American History Association and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, is given annually to honor and support work on an innovative and freely available new media project, and in particular “for work that reflects thoughtful, critical, and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history.”

Dr. Sullivan was recognized for her project “Constructing the Sacred: Visibility and Ritual Landscape at the Egyptian Necropolis of Saqqara.” Her project uses 3D technologies to enhance geographic information systems (GIS) – one of the prevalent formats for data organization in modern archaeology – in order to create interactive models that can be navigated through space and time to explore the ancient Egyptian burial site of Saqqara. Her publication is among the first to push the boundaries to include interactive 3D models that can be navigated both spatially and temporally. It was published earlier this year by Stanford University Press as part of their new series of monographs and scholarly publications.

Dr. Sullivan notes that due to significant modification and degradation, direct field observation of embodied past spaces is often impossible today. “Building superstructures have collapsed or been remodeled, monuments have been purposefully modified or destroyed, rivers have shifted, and lakes have disappeared,” she said. “In Egypt, for example, the Nile river has shifted course, and meters of sand from the Sahara desert have covered ancient buildings. At most long-lived ancient sites, it is difficult to reimagine so many layers of change simultaneously. My born-digital monograph presents an innovative methodology for examining such landscape change at ancient sites–a view only possible to attain with the aid of new technologies.”

Dr. Sullivan joined the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2013. She is a graduate e Duke Univerity in Durham, North Carolina, where she majored in history. Dr. Sullivan received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Egyptian art and archaeology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

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