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When most of us think of social networks, we think of connecting digitally with others through sites like Facebook, TikTok or Twitter. A new book by Dr. Kathleen Sheppard, associate professor of history, discusses a different type of social network – a physical network of archaeologists, Egyptologists, tourists and other travelers who were drawn to Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In Tea on the Terrace: Hotels and Egyptologists’ social networks, 1885-1925, Sheppard examines how “small, ephemeral communities” emerged among travelers to Egypt during the height of exploration of its pyramids and ruins. For archaeologists, Egyptologists, tourists and other travelers of this era, the European-style hotels of Alexandria, Cairo and Luxor served as places to gather after long days at dig sites. These travelers would mix and mingle informally in hotel dining rooms and ballrooms to exchange knowledge, debate ideas and even find work on an archaeological dig. Sheppard says these social interactions formed an overlooked yet integral part of the process of disseminating the knowledge unearthed by archaeologists and their crews.