For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by Egyptology. My parents had a calendar from the 1970s traveling King Tut exhibition, and when I wasn’t looking at that, I would tag along with my father to the library, where he’d drop me in the ancient Egypt section while he went on to whatever he was currently researching. I loved it.
My mother indulged my interest in a different way. A fan of mysteries, she read Elizabeth Peters’ Crocodile on the Sandbank, and thought I might like the Egyptology aspect of it. I imagine she was also tired of seeing me re-read the same books over and over (a habit I still have) and wearing them out, but introducing me to the world of Amelia Peabody Emerson only added to the list of books I would continually revisit.
Amelia Peabody was the most amazing woman I had ever met. Sure, she was fictional, but she was a feisty Victorian woman who wouldn’t let anyone tell her what she could or couldn’t do. She was disinclined towards marriage, preferring spinsterhood if it meant she could travel and do what she wanted. Amelia got to go to Egypt, where she fell in love with the country and the antiquities, and eventually, Radcliffe Emerson. She sailed the Nile, went inside pyramids, and got trapped in Akhenaten’s tomb by a rockslide (where she also put Emerson’s dislocated shoulder back in, helping to solidify her awesomeness in my mind). Along the way she made friends, learned to speak Arabic, taught herself excavation and archaeology, and solved a murder. She was smart and strong and capable, and a loyal friend and partner. She was everything I wanted to be. And though I didn’t grow up to be an Egyptologist, she still inspires me to be brave and smart and strong and loyal. As Amelia says, “When one is striding bravely into the future one cannot watch one’s footing.”