Book Club

ARCE: Terraforming the Nile Valley with Dr. Peter Piccione

Presented by Dr. Peter A. Piccione, Online Geographical Information System for the Theban Necropolis (OLGIS-TN) & Satellite Survey of Western Thebes College of Charleston, University of Charleston, S.C.

Terraforming the Nile Valley: The Ancient Egyptians as the World's First Great Environmental Engineers

This lecture presents the work of the University of Charleston Online Geographical Information System for the Theban Necropolis and the observations of the Satellite Survey of Theban Tombs Project with a focus on the landscape of Western Thebes, and then Egypt beyond. Here we argue that the Egyptians were the world’s earliest terraformers on a mega-scale, and demonstrate the ways in which they dramatically altered their landscapes. In this way, they were not the slaves of their environment, but were supreme exploiters, and they were not averse to making dramatic changes to their landscapes to suit their needs. They were also confident adaptors of existing conditions, compensating for features and deformations in the terrain in their building projects and exploiting defects in the rock, e.g., by consciously seeking appropriate cracks and fissures and using them to facilitate construction, and even to guide their architectural planning. In another regard, they were able to reshape external landscapes on a massively large scale in ways that modern scholars often overlook, e.g. leveling large sections of uneven ground, removing thousands of tons of rock, quarrying away whole hillsides, reshaping large rock faces, and even to the point of remaking the landscape of an entire valley, such as Deir el-Bahari. These adaptations, and the will to implement them, give the impression that the Egyptians viewed their landscapes as something plastic or malleable that could be molded and shaped, sculpted and remade to meet their needs, given enough imagination, resources, labor and coordination. 

Location: Norma Kershaw Auditorium

Ticketed Event: Free for Bowers and ARCE members | General $12 PURCHASE TICKETS 

TICKETS: Online or onsite. Questions? E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 714.567.3677. Proceeds benefit Bowers Museum Education Programs. Tickets are non-refundable.

Event details

February 8, 2020 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm


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