2020 ARCE / NY Lectures

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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