2020 ARCE / NY Lectures

Maurice Nahman: Antiquities Collector, Dealer and Authority

October 18, 2020 at 3:00 PM ET/ 9:00 PM EET

Speaker: Iman R. Abdulfattah

The late 19th-early 20th century saw a proliferation of collectors and museums acquiring objects from the Middle East. What was being collected by these individuals and institutions was largely shaped by the connoisseurship of a well-connected network of dealers in possession of vast assemblages of antiquities. One such figure was Maurice Nahman (1868–1948). He operated in the Downtown area of Cairo starting in 1890, and his fingerprints are all over Egyptian antiquities sales to the top museums in Europe and the U.S.  

While Nahman is mostly recognized as the foremost dealer of ancient Egyptian artifacts, he similarly effected an interest in later periods of Egyptian history. He sold Coptic and Islamic objects of the highest quality to museums that had yet to establish independent departments dedicated to these fields, and helped shape public and private perceptions of a nascent discipline. The objective of this talk is to reconstruct his biography and professional trajectory through the lens of his relations with art historians, curators, collectors and buyers, with a focus on post-pharaonic material. 

About: Iman R. Abdulfattah:

Iman R. Abdulfattah is a PhD Candidate in Islamic Art and Archaeology at Universität Bonn, writing her dissertation on the urban complex commissioned by the Mamluk Sultan al-Manṣūr Qalāwūn (r. 678-689/1279-1290) in Cairo. She also teaches Islamic art and architecture at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. Prior to this, she was a Project Manager at the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt, where she worked on a number of museum and heritage projects, primarily coordinating the renovation of the Museum of Islamic Art. Her primary areas of research include the material culture and built environment of medieval Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean, and has published on the patronage of architecture in the Mamluk period. Separately, she researches the network of antiquarians who were active in Egypt during the first half of the 20th century, looking at their relationship with the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l’Art Arabe and contributions to building important Islamic Art collections in Egypt, Europe, and the US. 

The People who Built the Pyramids – How we Know

October 17, 2020 at 1:00

Speaker: Dr. Mark Lehner, President – Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA)

The American Research Center in Egypt, New York Chapter (ARCE/NY), in co-sponsorship with the Department of Egyptian Art of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the Archaeological Institute of America – New York Society, presents:

Egypt Research Center, Inc.’s (AERA) excavations at the Giza Pyramids Plateau. This project has revealed the settlements and everyday life of the people who built the pyramids, including their workshops, bakeries, barracks, and the houses of those who administered the pyramid projects.  Dr. Lehner’s talk will elaborate on recent discoveries, including the reconstruction of buried waterways and harbor basins that match information from the Wadi el-Jarf Papyri and Journal of Merer, the leader of a team who delivered stone for Khufu’s Great Pyramid. Come learn about the royal port and palace city sprawled below the Giza Pyramids and what we now know about the people who built the pyramids.

Repositioning Egyptologies

Solange Ashby

Respect Nubia

This talk is based on a simple premise. We can decolonize Egyptology by situating the culture of ancient Egypt in its African context. Acknowledging the origins of Nile Valley civilization among the cattle pastoralists of the Sahara in the 5th millennium BCE, we recognize the Africanity of ancient Egypt. This talk offers suggestions on how Egyptologists might decolonize the discipline by respecting Nubia. Organized around three simple themes: Know Nubia, Teach Nubia, Honor Nubia; this talk suggests that we discard the notion of Egyptian exceptionalism and learn something about the other cultures of the Nile Valley and east Africa.

Vanessa Davies

“The Evidence is with the Ethiopians”

Egyptology’s formal disciplinary history omits the voices of scholars of African descent. My research outlines the importance of ancient Egyptian culture to Black communities in America in the 19th and early 20th centuries and highlights conversations that occurred between white Egyptologists who held university posts and scholars of African descent in America.

Elizabeth Minor

Decolonizing the Practice of Archaeology in Sudan: Confronting Biased Legacies and Developing Collaborative Relationships

The history of collection and interpretation of the Kerma Kingdom — and other ancient African material culture — was subject to colonialist practices within displaced or directly violent conditions. Collected by the American archaeologist George Reisner only 15 years after the bloody defeat of Mahdist forces by the British, this ancient Nubian material from Kerma elucidates power structures inherent in the control of objects. Typical of racist and misogynistic biases in early 20th century scholarship on ancient Africa, ‘complexity’ found at Kerma was first posed as the result of outside ‘civilizing’ forces from Egypt, although the evidence clearly supports millennia of locally based cultural development. Original site publications even directly related the then contemporary form of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium colonial rule to an imagined ancient reality. Following the entanglement of collection, control, and knowledge production for the same objects in both their ancient and contemporary contexts highlights the imperative need for reimagining the relationships inherent in the practice of archaeology in Africa. In the past few decades, collaborative research and community outreach have become well established in Sudanese archaeology and can serve as a model for decolonizing scholarship.

Lisa Saladino Haney

From Egypt to Pittsburgh: Re-Imagining the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt

This talk presents and examines the concept of decolonization as it relates to the upcoming reinstallation of the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. After the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh each released a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. These statements further amplified internal work examining the issue of decolonization, particularly in the museum’s cultural halls, including Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt. This talk will focus on new signage created during the museum’s COVID-19 closure. This signage addresses the issues of colonialism in our Egyptian collection and the ethical display of human remains with the intent to prepare visitors for some of the new information and ideas they will encounter in the redesigned gallery space. It will also look at broader strategies for engaging the public on difficult questions and using transparency to share how scholars are dealing with and thinking about these issues.

About the Speakers

language and Nubian religion from the University of Chicago. She has researched in Egypt at the temple of Philae and participated in an archaeological excavation in El-Kurru, Sudan (royal Kushite cemetery). Her first book, Calling Out to Isis: The Enduring Nubian Presence at Philae, is published by Gorgias Press. Her current research explores the roles of women in traditional Nubian religious practices. Dr. Ashby is working on the first monograph dedicated to the history, religious symbolism, and political power of the queens of Kush.

Vanessa Davies, PhD, is a research administrator at Bryn Mawr College. Her earlier Egyptological work focused on the intersection of text and art. She is currently writing a book that opens up the disciplinary history of Egyptology to make it more inclusive.

Elizabeth Minor currently directs a field project in Massachusetts and co-directs a field project in the Northern Dongola Reach in Sudan with Sarah Schellinger (OSU). Her eighteen years of museum work include educational outreach, registration, development and digital imaging projects. She first visited a museum basement as a child and wanted to stay there forever, and now prioritizes sharing the important stories that can be told through global collections and hearing new perspectives from museum visitors.

Lisa Saladino Haney is the Postdoctoral Assistant Curator of Egypt on the Nile at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Previously, she served as a lecturer at the Kansas City Art Institute and University of Kansas. She has also held positions at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Penn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum. Dr. Haney earned her PhD in Egyptian art and archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania where her dissertation focused on the potential for coregency during Egypt’s 12th Dynastyand its possible representation in the royal statuary of that period. Her monograph, Visualizing Coregency: An Exploration of the Link between Royal Image and Co-Rule during the Reign of Senwosret III and Amenemhet III, is a part of the Harvard Egyptological Studies Series at Brill.

The Altered State of Religion Sekhmet and Ritual Revelries in the Reign of Amenhotep III

September 30, 2020 at 1:00 PM ET/ 7:00 PM EET

Dr. Betsy M. Bryan; John Hopkins University

About the Lecture:

The lioness-headed goddess Sekhmet was one of a number of Egyptian goddesses who controlled the activities of the cosmos as agents of the sun god. They supervised the inundation, the movement of the moon, the stars, and planets, and could be responsible for both beneficial conditions and natural disasters such as famine, flood, and plague. These goddesses, often associated with the cobra uraei seen on the king’s brow, were protective of Ra’s creations and punished those who rebelled against the sun god’s order. Sekhmet was an alter ego for a number of the uraeus goddesses, and more than one major Egyptian myth addressing the importance of a stabilized cosmos refers to her and the need to propitiate her. The so-called Drunkenness Festivals were among the rituals that involved the lioness goddesses and were celebrated at a significant number of temples and sites throughout Egypt from early times. This lecture will focus on the goddess Sekhmet and her ritual celebrations in the reign of Amenhotep III for whom many hundreds of seated and standing stone statues of that goddess were sculpted and placed in the king’s funerary temple at Kom el Hettan and at the Mut Temple south of Karnak. How this king and his priests incorporated the Sekhmet cultic revelries in combination with the enormous production of statuary will be considered, along with the ultimate types of celebration and their performative impact.

About Dr. Betsy Bryan:

I have spent nearly all my research life as an Egyptologist studying the New Kingdom’s Eighteenth Dynasty and the periods before and after. Yet, I’m fortunate to teach across several millennia from the Predynastic to the end of the New Kingdom. Having done my graduate studies under William Kelly Simpson at Yale University, finishing in 1980, I was exposed and heavily influenced by a rich combination of ancient language fused with material culture. It is seamless in my view and can be easily identified from almost the first page of my thesis on The Reign of Thutmose IV as well as in the program that I represent at Johns Hopkins.

My research interests are broadly historical and art historical, as well as archaeological, but always motivated by curiosity about the people connected to artifacts and monuments – their culture-wide community precepts and percepts which are in many cases accessible to us; and their more personalized experiences of the environments in which they lived – something far more rarely visible or discernible. Because I have primarily worked in Theban tombs and for twenty years, the Temple of the goddess Mut at Southern Karnak, my sources for new materials to communicate with the people of ancient Egypt have primarily been from these settings or from museum collections. Mut has been a phenomenal source of almost any type of new information and has particularly led me to study the rituals of drunkenness in the New Kingdom, after we unearthed the Hall of Drunkenness dated to Hatshepsut’s reign, ca. 1470s B.C.  The meaning of these communal rituals and the Mut Temple for the rulers of the New Kingdom and the people who worshiped there is a challenge of late. Many threads of evidence combine to inform these inquires.  

A Middle Kingdom funerary garden in Thebes

Date and Time: September 20 at 3:00PM ET/9:00 PM (Eastern European Time)

Speaker: José M. Galán  

A Spanish archaeological mission began working in Dra Abu el-Naga (West Bank, Luxor) in January 2002, in and around the early Eighteenth Dynasty tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery (TT 11 and TT 12).  A number of mud-brick chapels and funerary shafts dating to the Seventeenth Dynasty have been unearthed in this area, along with some Eleventh/early Twelfth Dynasty rock-cut tombs. A small square foot garden was discovered at the entrance to one of the large rock-cut tombs. The structure and its grid layout was made from sun-dried silt. The fertile dark soil that filled the squares still preserved the seeds that grew in them almost 4,000 years ago, in remarkably good condition. 

The Khufu Boat

Speaker: Bob Brier

Date: September 16, 2020

Over 60 years ago Egyptian archaeologist Kamal el-Mallakh made a surprising discovery: a 144-foot ship buried next to the Great Pyramid of Giza. The ship was interred in honor of Khufu, the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid and is one of the oldest surviving planked vessels from antiquity. Dr. Bob Brier’s lecture will focus on the design, propulsion, and function of this 4,600-year-old ship, based on recent tank tests conducted on a modern model. He will also discuss plans to build a full-scale replica of the vessel with the intention of sailing it on the Nile.

About the Speaker:

Bob Brier is recognized as one of the world’s foremost Egyptologists. As Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, he conducts pioneering research in mummification practices and has investigated some of the world’s most famous mummies, including King Tut, Vladimir Lenin, Ramses the Great, Eva Peron, Marquise Tai, and the Medici family of Renaissance Italy.

In 1994, Dr. Brier became the first person in 2,000 years to mummify a human cadaver using the techniques of the ancient Egyptians. This research was the subject of a National Geographic Channel special titled Mr. Mummy. He has hosted several award-winning television specials for The Learning Channel (TLC), including Pyramids, Mummies & Tombs and Mummy Detective. More recently, the National Geographic Channel presented his research in the documentary Secret of the Great Pyramid which highlights a new theory of the Great Pyramid of Giza construction. Dr. Brier’s research has been featured in such media venues as CNN, 60 Minutes, and The New York Times. His most recent books are: Cleopatra’s Needles: The Lost Obelisks of Egypt (Bloomsbury 2016) and Egyptomania – Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs (Palgrave MacMillan 2013).

The Historic Jewish Cemetery of Basatin in Cairo

“Karaites in Egypt: The Preservation of Jewish-Egyptian Heritage”

September 13, 2020 at 2:30 PM ET/ 8:30 PM EET

Speakers:

Jonathan R. Cohen, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Arab Republic of Egypt

Magda Haroun, Head of the Egyptian-Jewish Community 

Eli Eltachan, President of Universal Karaites

Dr. Yoram Meital, Professor of Middle East Studies, Ben-Gurion University 

Dr. Louise Bertini, Executive Director, American Research Center in Egypt 

Thanks to the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), in September 2019 ARCE was able to take on a new project, ‘A Management and Conservation Plan for the Historic Jewish Cemetery of Basatin in Cairo.’ ARCE has been working closely with one of the Jewish community representatives, the Drop of Milk Foundation, to successfully implement this project. 

Background on the Jewish Cemetery: 

The Jewish cemetery of Basatin is believed to be the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, with an original foundation deed dating to the 9th century. At the time, the land provided for the cemetery consisted of 147 acres and was located beyond the boundaries of the Tulunid capital of Egypt. In modern times the cemetery became fragmented into disconnected plots of land amounting to about 27 acres. The cemetery was previously divided into designated areas for the Rabbanite and Karaite Jews. However, the only remaining part of the Karaite graveyard is a small private plot belonging to the Leishaa and Menasha families. Egyptian Jews of all backgrounds have been buried in the site since its founding and continue to be despite their dwindling numbers and the advanced state of neglect of the cemetery. The Egyptian Jewish community included important historical figures such as the Rabbi Haim Capusi (whose eponymous synagogue still stands in Cairo’s former Jewish neighborhood), along representatives of the notable Jewish families of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who often commissioned significant pieces of architecture to commemorate their lives such as Moise Cattaui Pasha. 

Speaker: Solange Ashby

Title: The Goddess Isis and the Kingdom of Meroe

Date and Time: August 30 at 3:00pm ET / 9:00 pm EET

Discussions of the widespread appeal of the cult of Isis in antiquity often omit any mentionof the Nubian priests who served the rulers of the Kingdom of Meroe (located south of Egypt in the Sudan) and the royal donations of gold that they delivered to the temple of Isis at Philae, located at Egypt’s border with Nubia. Those funds were essential to the survival of the temple of Philae, allowing it to remain in active use for centuries after other temples had been abandoned in Egypt. Join us as Ashby describes the rites performed by the Nubian priests and their participation in a tradition of Nubian pilgrimage to this site that spanned one thousand years.  As a Black Egyptologist, Ashby finds it of personal importance to investigate the southern connections that are evident in the ancient religious practices of Egypt. Much work remains to be done to highlight these connections.

Bio:

Solange Ashby received her Ph.D. in Egyptology, with a specialization in ancient Egyptian language and Nubian religion, from the University of Chicago. She has researched in Egypt at the temple of Philae and participated in an archaeological excavation in El-Kurru, Sudan (royal Kushite cemetery). Her first book, Calling Out to Isis: The Enduring Nubian Presence at Philae, was released in July by Gorgias Press.  Her current research explores the roles of women in traditional Nubian religious practices. Dr. Ashby is working on the first monograph dedicated to the history, religious symbolism, and political power of the queens of Kush.

Milk for Isis
Amenirdis Milk Libation
Ba of Osiris / Hapi in the Grotto
Horus of Kubban

Speaker: May al-IbrashyTitle: Recent Findings from Megawra’s Athar Lina Conservation ProgramDate and Time: August 19 at 1:00 PM ET/7:00 PM EET

Since 2013, Megawra-BEC’s Athar Lina Initiative has conserved the domes of Shajar al-Durr, Sayyida Ruqayya, al-Ja’fari and ‘Atika and is currently working on the conservation of al-Imam al-Shafi’i Mausoleum and al-Shurafa Shrine, all in Historic Cairo’s al-Khalifa District.

The conservation process often results in discoveries and findings. Some are the result of deliberate investigation. Others are pure luck. They range from a small floral detail revealed after modern paint is removed, to inscriptions uncovered or deciphered for the first time to an entire shrine unearthed under an existing one. The challenge is always to find the time and mindset to do the necessary exploration and research while dealing with the day-to-day demands of a conservation site. 

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.

THE AMERICAN RESEARCH CENTER IN EGYPT/NEW YORK CHAPTER IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD PRESENTS THE FOLLOWING.

“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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