About Me

My name is Margaret Lucy Patterson, and I write the words and take most of the photos for this website.

A photo of me standing taking pictures at Saqqara.
Me at Saqqara. Photo taken by John Patterson.

I’m fascinated in general by the transition humanity has undergone from being smart animals to what we are now. If you think about it from a biologist’s point of view we’re all the same the world over and throughout the last several tens of millennia. If you took a human being from 40,000 years ago and dressed her up in modern clothes etc she’d look just like anyone else you might meet. The differences come from culture, and the cumulative effects of generation after generation of thinkers and doers “standing on the shoulders of giants” (as Isaac Newton put it).

And so I am interested in the Ancient Egyptians as they are one of the peoples through whom we can see parts of this transition happening. They are one of the first to invent writing – something we take for granted yet was only independently thought up 3 or 4 times in the whole history of humanity. They are among the first people to organise themselves to live in cities, and to deal with the difficulties and opportunities of that. They develop a bureaucracy, they tax people, they redistribute food, they have craftsmen (whole villages of them!) who only work on beautiful things for the elite. They can bring together the resources of a whole nation to work on a single project – and produce structures that still awe us today (and generate nutty conspiracy theories because people can’t quite believe that so-called primitive peoples could possibly do that).

My educational background is as a scientist – I spend several years training as, and then working as, a protein biochemist in university research laboratories. For all that we PhD students at the time gently mocked the university’s growing obsession with “transferable skills” with the benefit of hindsight I can definitely see their point. I may’ve been reading about the matrix metalloproteinases then and Ancient Egyptians now, but the work of gathering together the information and communicating my understanding of it is the same. I write in a more colloquial and relaxed style these days, tho!

About This Site

Tales from the Two Lands grew out of a desire to share the cool things I learn about Ancient Egypt with other people.

The site is aimed squarely at the interested amateur, after all that is what I am myself. My hope is that each article should be understandable to someone who’s reading about that subject for the first time, whilst still being interesting even if you’ve read it all a million times before.

Each article lists the resources I used to research and write it, which keeps my researcher’s soul happy (I hate reading things and not being sure if it’s based in evidence or a flight of fancy on the part of the author). I’m not citing each statement, but if you do read something and wonder where I got it from I will be able to check my notes and tell you which of the books listed gave me the information. The list of books isn’t intended as a comprehensive reading list, not by any stretch of the imagination – it’s more like a snapshot of my bookshelf, and recommendations for books are welcome!

I have rather self-consciously steered away from the “standard” topics of Ancient Egyptian history for at least the first couple of dozen articles on this site. I’ve picked kings who are not Tutankhamun or Akhenaten to talk about, gods who are not Osiris, animals that are not the falcon or the cat. Obviously I’ve not solely gone for obscure topics, I’ve begun with the Step Pyramid at Saqqara after all! But even so – there is so much interesting and quirky and cool stuff to talk about so I wanted to explore more of that, and less of the stuff that seems to turn up in every documentary you’ve ever watched about Ancient Egypt.

I hope you find the articles here as interesting as I found it to research them!

Other Places You Can Find Me