Before I got my iPhone, every time I entered an Apple Store to play around with the latest edition of this gadget, I always came cross this demo on ancient Egypt. Full out geared towards kids, I as an adult was still pulled in by the fascination that so many of us have for ancient Egypt. To find it as a demo version on the iPhone, I have wanted to do a review of this app for a long time and today I make that want a reality.
The app costs only CA$ 6.99 (£ 4.99) and is available in the App store. Versions are available for either the iPhone or the iPad (the review here concentrates on the iPhone version). The app features a spin wheel at the bottom, when click, you can browse the several features, which consist of:
Egypt Gods A-Z
Pics & Videos
Interactivity Enhancing Learning
The variety in tools available for the child to learn about Egypt is immense. If we just leave the information aside and focus only on the interactivity in its importance to learning, the child will walk away enthused about all things Egyptian. Why is that?
For instance, if you choose jigsaw puzzles, you get to turn several images of very important sites and objects into a puzzle, which certainly helps jot the memory, when you see it in a museum or in situ. Shuffle the puzzle and it is up to you to put the pieces back together.
This feature is perhaps the most interactive and fun part. You get to play an archaeologist here as you get to brush the sand off the screen using nothing but your bare fingers. This may hearken back to the time of Tutankhamun’s discovery, just as Howard Carter was peeking into the renown tomb of the boy king. Similarly, you get to experience your “find” first-hand as you brush the sand off.
What do you learn within the App?
The most appealing feature of this app is the actual information that is contained in the ‘Articles’ and ‘Egypt Gods A-Z’ section. There, the student can go back to the old ways, read up on all aspects of ancient Egypt and then deepen his knowledge through the interactive media available. None of the articles goes beyond the essential information needed and it is written in a concise and accessible English (none of that academic jargon that fills so many Egyptological journals). Within the articles, pictures are included, when tapped, they expand to full view. Thus, while reading about the Great Pyramids of the Old Kingdom, one can quickly appreciate their magnificence when tapped. Take it a step further, tap on the picture as you have it in fullscreen view, then you can start a jigsaw puzzle right there.
The River Nile
One such article concerns itself with the river Nile only. Why would you do that? If we take but one moment to think about ancient Egypt and its geographical setting, we are quick to find that the Nile is at the center of all things. It is the life source, if you will; life depended on it. For some scholars, the Old Kingdom’s demise may have been due to a dramatic climate change, initiating a wave of famine that spread throughout Egypt. That this app then devotes one article to this important part of Egypt is no surprise: in essence, it leaves the viewer cognizant of its importance.
Hieroglyphs – Medu Netjer
The article on ‘Writing’, basically comprising the history of Writing in Egypt as well as the mention of the different scripts, features a brief section on the importance of the Rosetta Stone to the decipherment of the hieroglyphic script. Again, similarly to the Nile, this stone is of monumental importance to the decipherment and elucidating some detail on its decipherment as the app creators have done is excellent. (1)
Gods and Goddesses
The most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon are rendered in encyclopedia format, but not all of them are included.
Learn through Videos
Another educative feature pertains to the videos the app possesses. Find the part ‘Pics & Videos’ and it takes you right there. In addition to all the information and interactivity available, it surely makes learning a little easier. Unfortunately, there are only two included: 1. an overview of the Nile and 2. an overview of the major sites and a map.
Time to test that what you know
As a final option, you can choose to take the quiz included to test your knowledge of all you have learned in the app. So that you do not take an eternity, it is timed. The question are not focused to a particular area, but range from archaeology to the language to the history, encompassing gods, kings and general information.
Yes, kids will absolutely love this app, when you give it to them on either your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Yet, I have to admit, even as an adult it makes it very hard for me to put it down. Now imagine you give it to an Egyptologist…
One may perhaps note that the Rosetta Stone is housed at the British Museum in London, UK. Perhaps the author could have mentioned the increased difficulties in terms of repatriation for the most important Egyptian artifacts. Making children mindful of such a topic would bring such often neglected aspects of Egyptology to the forefront. A great overview of this topic can be found at Egyptology News (from 11 December 2009).