I have just returned from Cameroon where I had been invited to examine the PhD thesis of Emmanuel Bitong at the University of Yaounde I. The
invitation came from Dr Pierre Oum Ndigi, Emmanuel’s spervisor, who studied for 25 years in Lyon, France, with Goyon, before returning to Cameroon to bring his knowledge back and establish Egyptology as a discipline at the University.
The viva examination took place in a lecture hall with over 200 people present. I was the chair of the jury of five, and the exam took 4 1/2 hours. When the success of the candidate was announced, the place went crazy – very emotional. Afterwards we all went for a slap up meal with champagne (indeed!) on campus.
There are very few resources for Egyptology in Cameroon – no library, little access to computers and the internet, no museums where objects can be seen, and for Pierre, lecturer in the history department, only a small loaned office to work from. The achievement of Emmanuel – to complete a PhD in this context – is extraordinary, and the experience for me entirely humbling. There
is a huge interest in Egyptology amongst the students, and a deep interest in connections between Bantu language and customs and those of ancient Egypt. This is an aspect of ancient Egypt little explored in the West, and opens up whole new interpretations of aspects of ancient Egypian culture, such as divination and ancestor worship.