12.03.2010

Old Research and Press Releases: Arsinoe Was a Pharoah

I don't fully understand the new fashion in archaeology for issuing press releases when one publishes a thesis, but when it's just recycling a theory that others have published ... it drives me nuts. We've known for years that the Romans recycled glass, but someone published another article about it recently, issued a press release, and so it's been all over the press.

This one from Maria Nilsson of Gothenburg brings together several of my pet hates: Crown reveals new holy female pharaoh ....

Nilsson's written her PhD on Arsinoe II of Egypt, a figure who has been over-looked by researchers for far too, and for that she gets double brownie points.

The PhD dissertation is available here, so I clicked, download and started to read ... and then thought 'sod it' because the PhD is 762 pages long.

A few years back one student presented me with an even longer dissertation. Like an idiot, I read every word because I was one of the supervisors. I failed it because ... well, I prefer quality to quantity, and the research was terrible. Everyone else passed it, I suspect because they couldn't be bothered to read it. Nilsson's thesis may well be brilliant, and I probably will get around to reading more of it eventually, but I find this new move towards encyclopedic dissertations ridiculous - they are easy to produce with computers today, but part of doing a PhD should be an exercise in discipline, and the ability to present research concisely. The same goes for a scholar I know who publishes at least four articles a year, none of which are cited nor worth wiping one's arse with. Academia is increasingly publish or perish, but there has to be a little more quality to it.

Fine, good research is worth publicizing, and I do understand the need to publicise books, etc. So let's look at Nilsson's press release.
Crown reveals new holy female pharaoh
A thesis from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) shows that Cleopatra was not ancient Egypt's only female pharaoh – Queen ArsinoĆ« II came first, 200 years earlier.
Blah, blah, blah the press release continues.

Yet oddly Nilsson's dissertations bibliography includes works Jan Quaegebeur and Lana Troy and others which not only have made the point that Arsinoe II was Pharoah but also list many other women who were Pharaoh before Arsinoe II ... and no, they didn't start with Hatshepsut either. For more information on woman who were Pharaohs, Troy's survey can even be found on Google Books (here).