2020 ARCE / NY Lectures

The Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69): The Art, Culture, and Science of Painting in an Egyptian Tomb

With Melinda Hartwig

On July 15 at 1:00 PM ET/7:00 PM EET, past ARCE project director for the Tomb of Menna, Melinda Hartwig, will speak in an online lecture about the international team of conservators, Egyptologists, scientists,  and digital specialists that conserved the Tomb of Menna between 2007 and 2009. 

The tomb chapel of Menna (TT 69), is considered to be one of the most beautiful and complex painted tombs from ancient Egypt. From 2007-2009, an international group of conservators, Egyptologists, scientists,  and digital specialists brought the tomb chapel back to its former glory, using cutting-edge non-invasive methods. This talk will focus on the results which relay important information about the tomb owner and the time in which he lived as well as artistic methods and status materials in the ancient world. The resulting book, edited by Melinda Hartwig, volume 5 of the American Research Center in Egypt Conservation Series (Cairo & New York: American University in Cairo Press) is about to undergo its second printing. The project was directed by Hartwig and administered by the American Research Center in Egypt as part of its Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project (EAC). The project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), sponsored by Georgia State University (GSU), and carried out in collaboration with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.  

About Melinda:

Melinda Hartwig is a specialist in ancient Egyptian art history, ancient Near Eastern interconnections, and the applications of science in art. Her expertise is recognized internationally with widely published books and articles. Her latest book, A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), received the 2016 PROSE award. She is the Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. She is also a Professor Emerita at Georgia State University, where she taught ancient art history. Melinda holds a Ph.D. in Egyptian and Near Eastern Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. 

Melinda has worked for over 30 years in Egypt, directing Theban tomb projects both large and small, as a recipient of NEH and USAID grants, among others. She has curated several national exhibitions about ancient Egyptian art and culture and received numerous awards and honors to further her work. She is also the past-President of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). Melinda is a frequent on-air expert for the National Geographic Channel, the Science Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, PBS, and the BBC. Currently, she is completing a 24-part series for The Great Courses entitled “The Great Tours: A Guided Tour of Ancient Egypt,” that will focus on the art and architecture of the Nile Valley. 

Conserving Coptic Heritage: an Historic Egyptian-American Partnership

An Online Lecture with Elizabeth S. Bolman

On June 3, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. EEST, ARCE will host an online lecture with Elizabeth S. Bolman, past director of the Red Monastery conservation project, titled ‘Conserving Coptic Heritage: an Historic Egyptian-American Partnership.’ This event is free and open to the public. To register, click here.

An historic partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Coptic Orthodox Church has brought to life three spectacular Coptic churches and the earliest painted Christian tomb in Egypt. At the start, these monuments were only known within Egypt and to a small group of Coptologists (specialists in the history of the Copts). Now, all four are shining examples of the Christian tradition of creating wall paintings featuring holy figures, for devotional purposes.

The earliest, the Tomb of St. Shenoute at the White Monastery, dates to the middle of the fifth century C.E. Monks at the Red Monastery built a magnificent painted church in the late fifth century, and repainted it two more times in quick succession. Over thirty patrons paid to have a major program of wall paintings created in the Old Church at the Monastery of St. Antony, in the early thirteenth century. The tradition of painting large-scale religious images on the walls of churches in Egypt died out in or shortly after the fourteenth century. Monks in the Monastery of St. Paul revived it in the early eighteenth century, using for some of their inspiration the thirteenth-century paintings in the nearby Monastery of St. Antony. Major wall painting conservation and publication projects at these four sites revealed treasures that had not been seen for centuries. Previously ignored by scholars of the larger medieval world, these monuments and their painted interiors are now seen as making major contributions to the corpus of medieval art. The Egyptian/USAID/ARCE partnership has caused a fundamental rethinking of the role of Egypt in the creation of eastern Mediterranean visual culture, and has added four jewels to world heritage. 

About the Speaker

Elizabeth S. Bolman engages with the visual culture of the eastern Mediterranean in the late antique and Byzantine periods. She is best known for her work in Egypt, in which she has demonstrated the vitality of Christian Egyptian art and presented new understandings of the nature of artistic production in the early Byzantine and Medieval periods. She edited and was the principal contributor to the award-winning Monastic Visions: Wall Paintings in the Monastery of St. Antony at the Red Sea (Yale University Press and the American Research Center in Egypt, 2002) and to The Red Monastery Church: Beauty and Asceticism in Upper Egypt (Yale University Press and the American Research Center in Egypt, 2016). This most recent book is the product of a multidisciplinary project that she founded and directed, which included the cleaning and conservation of spectacular and unparalleled early Byzantine paintings at the Red Monastery church. The conserved church has received a considerable amount of international attention; among other subjects, it includes a monumental secco painting of the Nursing Mother of God. Currently, she is completing a gender studies analysis of depictions of the Byzantine Galaktotrophousa (nursing Virgin Mary), and is preparing the  Rostovtzeff Lectures which she gave at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, for publication.

She was appointed Elsie B. Smith Professor in the Liberal Arts and Chair of the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University in August 2017, charged with building the Keithley Institute for Art History in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art, and leading the Joint Program between CWRU and the Cleveland Museum of Art. At Temple University Bolman received the Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Great Teacher Award, and the College Art Association has recognized her expertise with its  Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Preservation She is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright program, National Endowment for the Humanities, Dumbarton Oaks, the American Research Center in Egypt, and the United States Agency for International Development, among others. 

Sorry, but Dr. LeBlanc’s lecture was canceled – we hope to reschedule it in the Fall

April 2, 2020. ARCE NY/ ISAW Lecture.


“In Accordance with the Documents of Ancient Times”: The Ancient Egyptian Sed Festival (Jubilee Festival)

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

SPEAKER: Marc J. LeBlanc, PhD, Associate Director for Academic Affairs Institute for the Study of the Ancient WorldNew York University

ABSTRACT: The Sed Festival is one of the most frequently depicted royal iconographic motifs in the decorative relief programs of ancient Egypt’s numerous temples and royal precincts. Upon taking the throne, each Egyptian ruler hoped to celebrate not one, but many Sed Festivals—both in life and in the perpetually renewed state of existence the ruler hoped to achieve after his death. While previous studies of the Sed Festival have mostly ignored early evidence for the festival prior to the political unification of the Egyptian state at the end of the 4th millennium BCE, careful analysis of Predynastic and Protodynastic iconography suggests that, as early as Naqada I, local Upper Egyptian rulers celebrated rituals that later formed part of the celebration of the Sed Festival.

A close examination of textual and iconographic evidence for the celebration of the Sed Festival from the Predynastic, Protodynastic and dynastic periods suggests that the cycle of rituals that comprised the Sed Festival served three main purposes. First, by means of ritual, the Egyptian ruler symbolically transforms into a creator deity and attains the ability to effect his own rejuvenation and to continue to rule Egypt effectively. Second, by symbolically demonstrating his control over cyclical phenomena of the natural world, the Egyptian ruler establishes and maintains order in Egypt and in the cosmos at large. Third, in order to suppress the potentially disruptive and destructive inimical forces of chaos in the cosmos, the Egyptian ruler eliminates all possible threats to himself and to the Egyptian state during the celebration of the Sed Festival.

British Museum 32.650; Ebony label from the tomb of the 1st Dynasty Egyptian king Den in Abydos; © Trustees of the British Museum

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Egyptology at ISAW, where he teaches introductory and advanced ancient Egyptian language courses. He received his B.A. in Egyptology and Classics (Latin and Greek) from Brown University and his M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Egyptology from Yale University. His dissertation, a diachronic study of the Sed Festival in ancient Egypt, includes new translations of ancient texts describing the ritual performances of the Sed Festival and sheds new light on the prehistory of the Sed Festival and the development of royal iconography and ideology in Predynastic Egypt. His academic publications include “An Egyptian Priest in the Ptolemaic Court: Yale Peabody Museum 264191” (Co-author, David Klotz), in C. Zivie-Coche and I. Guermeur, eds., “Parcourir l’éternité”. Hommages à Jean Yoyotte (Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Sciences Religieuses 156; Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), pp. 645-698, and “The Zoomorphic Transformation of the King in Early Egyptian Royal Military Victory Rituals and Its Relationship to the Sed Festival,” in M. Massiera, B. Mathieu, and F. Rouffet, eds., Apprivoiser le sauvage – Taming the Wild (Les Cahiers  Égypte Nilotique et Méditérranéenne 11; Montpellier, 2015), pp. 229-243.

“Striking Power: Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt”  

SPEAKER: Dr. Edward Bleiberg, Senior Curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum

LOCATION: Columbia University, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, NY., NY. 10027, Schermerhorn Hall, Room 612 Campus Map: http://www.columbia.edu/files/columbia/content/morningsidemap_2013july.pdf 

ABSTRACT: Why are the noses broken on Egyptian statues? Why were other sculpted body parts, including eyes, arms, and feet, purposely shattered in antiquity? This talk examines the patterns of damage inflicted on images for personal, political, religious, and criminal reasons in ancient times. It illustrates how the damage to a statue can be read to reveal who broke it and why. The talk concentrates on the ancient world of the pharaohs and on the Late Antique world that emerged following Egyptian conversion to Christianity.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Egyptologist Edward Bleiberg is the Senior Curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum. He joined the Brooklyn Museum in 1998 from the University of Memphis, Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology, where he had been Director and Associate Professor. A Pittsburgh native, he graduated from Haverford College in Pennsylvania. After graduate work at Yale University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Bleiberg received an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He is the author of several books and articles on ancient Egyptian economy, Egyptian coffins, and the Jewish minority in ancient Egypt and ancient Rome. Exhibitions that Dr. Bleiberg has organized for Brooklyn include Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt, Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics from the Roman Empire, and To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum, an exhibition exploring Egyptian burial customs that began an eleven-city tour in the summer of 2008.

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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