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John J. Johnston

John J Johnston is an Egyptologist and cultural historian. He is also a highly engaging public speaker and frequent event host,. In addition he has written and lectured extensively on the ancient world and its continuing influence upon modern culture.

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About John J Johnston

John J Johnston is a natural raconteur who lectures widely on, among other topics, the reception of ancient Egypt in popular culture, Egyptian mortuary beliefs and practices and sexuality in the ancient world.

Biography

John J Johnson has delivered popular public lectures at numerous major institutions, including the British Museum, the British Film Institute, the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the Ashmolean Museum, the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology where he has, additionally, devised and hosted a number of major public events.

He has appeared in documentaries featured on the recent BD/DVD releases of two gloriously restored classic Hammer Films and his introductory essay for the anthology Unearthed (Jurassic London, 2013) was shortlisted for a British Science Fiction Association Award (Best Non-Fiction) in 2014.

The co-editor of three volumes relating to ancient Egypt, John has contributed to numerous books and journals. He sits on the Editorial Board of the bi-annual publication Egyptian Archaeology and is Vice-Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society, founded in 1882 in order to excavate, record and publish the monuments of ancient Egypt.

Speech Topics

Mummies, Asps and Far To Much Eye Make-up: Ancient Egypt in the Cinema
This lively, irreverent, but affectionate talk examines the fascination exerted by the history, mythology and iconography of ancient Egypt upon filmmakers, from the flickering silents, through the epics of the 50s and 60s and onto the computer-generated spectacle of recent blockbusters.

Lost in Time and Space: Unrolling Egypt’s Ancient Dead
This talk considers the practice of mummy ‘unrolling,’ which reached its height in the high-society salons and public lecture halls of the UK, Europe and North America during the mid-nineteenth century. It discusses the thrillingly bizarre atmosphere of the unrollings, the fascinating characters involved and the fates of the mummies.

Petrie’s Set: Egyptologists in Bloomsbury
This heavily illustrated talk considers the lives and work of the plethora of fascinating individuals who have lived and worked in the area around the British Museum and University College London from the 1880s – 1930s. Discussing Egyptologists such as Sir Matthew Flinders Petrie, Sir Alan Gardiner and Margaret Murray who strove to increase our understanding of the language, history and culture of this most fascinating of ancient cultures in the Bohemian atmosphere of central London.

Going Forth by Night: The Mummy in Literature and Film
The reanimated Egyptian mummy has been a staple of Gothic fiction for almost two hundred years, during which time, such creatures have bedevilled heroic archaeologists and lingerie-clad maidens throughout the worlds of literature and cinema. Addressing the works of genre luminaries such as Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker, this heavily illustrated lecture considers the mummy’s changing role as a modern fictional icon.

Beyond Isis and Osiris: Alternative Sexualities in Ancient Egypt
This lavishly illustrated talk addresses those aspects of human sexuality, which, largely, fall outside the ‘official’ record. The often outré behaviour of gods and kings in the literature of the Pharaonic period is contextualised alongside the archaeological evidence and the considerably less ambiguous writings and graffiti of Egypt’s Greek and Roman periods.

Antinous: Last God of the Ancient World
When the beautiful youth Antinous, favourite of the Roman emperor Hadrian, drowned mysteriously in the Nile in 130 AD, he was proclaimed a god with a cult, which generated a vast, gorgeous and instantly recognisable sculptural corpus. This sumptuously illustrated lecture examines the enigmatic life and death of Antinous together with his legacy throughout the Roman Empire, through the Renaissance and into modern times.

‘Intellects Vast, Cool & Unsympathetic’: A Cultural History of Aliens in Popular Culture
This extensively illustrated lecture considers the history of our fascination with extra terrestrial life forms as they have appeared in literature, cinema, and television. Examining some of the major contributors to our present perception of the alien in science fiction the lecture asks why such creatures continue to infest our collective imagination with such terrifying power.

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