All posts by Israel Berrocal

Wee 3: Diving into the Departed

This week was a good one for my project. Not only have I come up with a proposal for my research but I also somewhat formulated the structure of the paper I intend to pursue. My biggest difficulty was not finding sources. It was limiting my options and narrowing my focus. I decided to ask questions that I would not be able to readily pull answers up for. I wanted my research to be into something that might have been overlooked. So I am projecting my research into how death and immortality changed over the thousand+ years of ancient Egypt. Of course the title will be a bit more refined than that. I intend on using different versions of the Book of the Dead that I discovered last year to find changes in the afterlife narrative. With that I want to uncover the reasoning behind these changes being made. Who would benefit from beliefs changing? Why would they change it. To simplify, I am trying to understand the “whisper down the lane” that took place over millennia regarding death and the afterlife.

My story board is a bit rough around the edges so I will talk more about that in class today after some refining. I found a large quantity of books for my research (articles I was not having as much luck for but I will find more to fill some gaps as I go). Something I have not done so much in the past was research the authors themselves to detect any bias or flaws in their approaches to their writing/research. Find any biases is not the ideal goal as this would restrict the sources. However, that would be much better than including a bias source and not acknowledging it. This also pushes me to reflect on my own biases going in to the research that I must be aware of. I need to accept that the answers are not going to jump of the page on a topic so niche. Of course, Ancient Egypt is a rich topic filled with primary sources and secondary research. However, it is up to me, not another author, to navigate these sources to come up with a solid foundation to support my research question and further develop my thesis.

POWER OUTAGE – how to work around it and what I found doing it

So as the title says my power has been out since Saturday until yesterday night. This is because a power line was hit and then the snow made it hard for them to repair it? Fortunately, this is also the first week that my local library has reopened since November so I was able to do my research there. The biggest thing I have been diving into is the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Professor Lowe recommended a method for searching for sources through EBSCO host and I found a few interpretations of the Book of the Dead which is as close to the primary source as I will be able to get (since it’s written in Hieroglyphics). The Book has led to a huge influx of what the Egyptian afterlife consists of and has opened up my options on where to go. I began exploring the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts which are both primary sources that were not written on Papyrus but rather the tombs, coffins, and objects within the tombs. My next goal is to explore the scripts and hieroglyphics  to develop an understanding of how this has changed over time. The reason I am doing this is because the Book of the Dead was written over 1,000 years so the changes over time should be noted.


The Book of the Dead is not really a “book” but rather an anthology that is rarely utilized in it’s entirety. It was utilized by individuals that were preparing to depart from life into the afterlife. It contained large numbers of spells, incantations, guides and stories of the afterlife. The intention was to help the individual navigate the puzzles, trials and dangers of the underworld in order to reach the ideal afterlife of immortality. If these trials are failed then the individual will be doomed to mortality until they decay and fade into nothing. Different individuals and clergy will utilize different segments of the Book of the Dead that they deem necessary to the journey. Since the anthology is so vast not every piece included is absolutely necessary to everyone. This get figured out between the individual and the clergy to determine what spells they will need and what trials they might have difficulties getting through. The source opens up opportunities to explore this afterlife further, what types of conversations the clergy have with those departing soon, and how the clergy or afterlife passage might be manipulated for a better outcome. The limitations exist through the language barrier and the large time frame/many authors that contributed to it. There is no one “Book of the Dead” and the copies that do exist contain different portions of the collection.

An entry from the Book of the Dead

This research has somewhat taken a broad view as I work to understand what I want my thesis to be. At this point I am getting comfortable with asking “Why was such a great emphasis placed on death and afterlife in Egypt.” I am already starting to acquaint myself with the complexities of funerary rites, afterlife beliefs, and political structure of the clergy and can see how this complex question will have a complex answer. I decided to stay away from topics figuring out how or what and stick with the why. That way I am able to interpret the known information in primary sources and secondary sources and then synthesize in a way I have not found at this point.

Egyptian Priests

Introduction to Israel Berrocal III

Hello! My name is Israel Berrocal III (he/him). I go by Izzy or Israel, which ever one works for you works for me. I am originally from Bristol Borough, PA, but now live in Bensalem, PA. I am a fifth year senior secondary education and history major. I have a wide range of intellectual interests. I enjoy collecting different things (board games, cards, paintings). I also enjoy learning about ancient, classical, and medieval history from around the world. The closer we get to now the less interested I am in history. I also enjoy reading, mostly science fiction but I also dabble in fantasy and nonfiction reads. If I could pick a third major it would probably be physics, and if I find myself having an easy time with my academics I like to learn more about physics. I just like learning new things in every faucet of my life. My undergraduate career has entirely consisted of Temple University and my goal is to graduate in the fall. My career goals are to secure the bag so to speak and live the life that I have planned for myself. I currently work as a salesman trying to get people to switch to a cleaner form of energy (if you haven’t yet than what are you doing?) and would not mind staying in this field if I find that working as a history teacher or as a historian do not work out. Eventually I would like to attend graduate school for history, education, or physics. However, if I have the time and the money than I would love to get a graduate degree in all three fields.

The topic I have kind of narrowed myself down into is Ancient Egypt. There is three fields I am considering right now: the manuscripts and hieroglyphics of Egypt, the death and immortality of Egyptians, or the way the political structure changes over time. If I am able to find a way to research more than one of these ideas but still keep a narrow focus I would love that. I plan to develop these topics further to see what the roadmap of exploration and research will look like. At that point I will narrow my focus into one idea and a thesis.