Empty seats were sparse in the half-moon business building rotunda Wednesday from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Down the waterfall seats, students’ laptops glowed and notebooks opened when anthropology professor Dr. Stuart Smith of UC Santa Barbara was introduced.
Smith’s presentation “Unwrapping the Mummy: Hollywood Fantasies, Egyptian Realities” focused on films of Egypt-inspired themes with a focus on the mummy genre.
A slideshow silently assisted Smith with visuals as he discussed the history of Egyptian excavation and interest.
Numerous jokes and animated speaking kept the audience laughing and attentive as Smith mentioned numerous movies that depicted Egyptian-based characters and historic stories. Several myths created by pop culture for entertainment purposes were dispelled.
“I was always obsessed with mummies so I really liked this presentation. It was interesting to hear the differences between pop cultural Egypt and the Egypt he knows,” sociology junior Amber Barton said.
Smith received a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, a master’s degree in education at the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. in archaeology at UC Los Angeles. He traveled to Egypt during grad school and typically returns every year from January to March.
Smith’s education and experience in Egyptian archaeology created the opportunity to not only discover an Egyptian pyramid in 2000 while on an archaeological expedition, but to be a consultant for three Hollywood films: “Stargate,” “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns.”
“I first became involved in films as a complete accident. When I was at UCLA we constantly got calls from film companies asking for accurate Egyptian information. And one day ‘Stargate’ called,” Smith said.
“I was on that set for probably half the entire shoot, and it was an amazing set with great people. Plus I’d just finished grad school, so everybody called me ‘doctor,’ which was so cool!” Smith laughed.
The presentation has been expanded with additional information. It has been shown mostly in universities, museums and local societies interested in Egyptology for the last five years.
“I’ll be doing more research in mummy films and pop culture. One of these days I’m going to write a book,” Smith said.
Smith has been teaching at UCSB for 10 years and remains active in anthropological and historical archaeology.
He is currently working in the Merowe Dam Salvage Project, an archaeological project to excavate locations that will be lost under the water of a reservoir in the Fourth Cataract region of Nubia.
“If I get another call from Hollywood I’ll definitely be interested. But the next (‘Mummy’ film) is going to be filmed in China. Don’t ask me how they’re going to incorporate mummies in that one.”