2020 ARCE / NY Lectures

ARCE/NY LECTURE, Thursday, January 30, 2020

The American Research Center in Egypt, New York Chapter (ARCE/NY) in co-sponsorship with the Department of Classics & Ancient Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University, presents the following lecture in its Winter/Spring 2020 Lecture Series:

“Sacred Dancers: Nubian Women as Priestesses of Hathor”

SPEAKER: Dr. Solange Ashby, Fellow, Catholic University’s Institute of Christian Oriental Research and the American Research Center in Egypt.

LOCATION: Barnard College, 223 Milbank Hall (Ella Weed Room), New York.

ABSTRACT: Nubian women appear in Egyptian tomb and temple paintings as dancers for the goddess Hathor during much of Egyptian history.  The women perform wearing multi-colored leather skirts, cowrie shell belts, and displaying tattoos on their breasts, abdomens, and thighs. Recently, several tattooed, mummified female bodies have been excavated from the C-Group Nubian cemetery at Hierakonpolis in southern Egypt. Similar tattoos appear on priestesses of Hathor who were also queens of the Egyptian king Mentuhotep II (2061-2010 BCE). In the nomadic C-Group culture of Lower Nubia, ritual and worship were not organized around a sacred text, nor were they carried out in a temple. Rather, many important rites of passage and worship were based in communal performance of dance and music. In such rituals the power of music and movement were harnessed to transport the worshipper into an ecstatic encounter with the Divine. Worshippers engaged in nocturnal rituals for the goddess Hathor sought this type of ecstatic encounter.Ancient Egyptian texts preserve the name of this sacred dance (ksks) and document the ritual processions of Nubians into Egypt as they accompanied the return of the goddess Hathor who was believed to reside in Nubia and return annually to Egypt. This paper will trace the enduring presence of this sacred dance through its performance in Egypt, Nubia, Meroe, and perhaps its survival among groups living in Ethiopia today.

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