I’m Mark Lehner, an Egyptologist of over 40 years recently featured in “NOVA’s Decoding the Great Pyramids.” Ask me anything!
I’m the director and president of Ancient Egypt Research Associates, Inc. (AERA), an American nonprofit organization and an NGO registered with the Egyptian government, and my archaeological work in Egypt spans 40 years.
In 1972, I went to Egypt in quest of the legendary Hall of Records of the lost civilization of Atlantic. But when I first encountered the reality of the Giza pyramids, my aspirations drastically changed. I graduated with a BA in Anthropology from the American University in Cairo, and then spent years mapping the Great Sphinx stone-by-stone from 1979 to 1983. My Sphinx mapping catalyzed a mission to explore “ground truth” at Giza—to find and excavate the missing city that must have housed thousands of pyramid builders—and to use the best scientific methods learn about their everyday life.
I began the Giza Plateau Mapping Project in 1984 to understand how the pyramid builders organized and changed this landscape. I then completed a Ph.D. at Yale University and began a tenure track faculty position in Chicago. But in the mid-90s, I left to help save the “Lost City of the Pyramid Builders” from dire threat of urban expansion.
To carry on this mission, I developed the Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA). AERA grew into one of the largest missions in Egyptian archaeology, with its own research center two blocks from the entrance to the Giza Pyramids Plateau. Between 1999 and 2012 AERA teams salvaged 10 acres of the “Lost City of the Pyramids,” which, 4,500 years ago, housed the pyramid builders and served as the major Nile port of its time. The teams excavated workers’ barracks, granaries, bakeries, scribal offices, cattle corrals, and a harbor basin.
Alongside USAID, we also founded an archaeological field school for Egyptian students
at the world heritage sites of Giza, Luxor and Memphis. We aim to teach young Egyptian archaeologists[SB1] to write and publish preliminary reports on rescue excavations and empower them to pursue and succeed in a field dominated by foreign scholars.
My work has been featured in National Geographic, Discover, Archaeology, New Yorker, and Smithsonianarticles, and documentaries by National Geographic’s Explorer, Discovery, BBC, and NOVA. Most recently, I was featured in NOVA’s “Decoding the Great Pyramid,” which premiered on Feb. 6, 2019, and explored the discovery and translation of the oldest papyrus documents ever found, revealing new clues about the construction of Khufu’s Great Pyramid.
Ask me anything about my career as an archaeologist, life in ancient Egypt, and working in Egypt.