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Lecture: Kathryn Howley (IFA, NYU)

  • 612 Schermerhorn Hall 1190 Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

Lecture Title: The modern values of foreign art in the ancient world: interpreting the use of Egyptian style in first millennium BC Nubia

Though the Nilotic cultures of ancient Egypt and Nubia developed independently, Nubia in the first millennium BC is chiefly noted in scholarship for how Egyptian it appears to be. The rulers of Nubia in the Napatan period constructed pyramidal tombs, built monumental stone temples with pylon gateways, and filled both types of structure with a wide variety of Egyptian-style objects. This extensive use of foreign material culture by the Nubians has been interpreted by modern scholarship to represent anything from eager copying of a more civilized neighbor to proud pronouncement of a distinct Nubian or even African identity, stances that reflect modern preoccupations with identity and cultural distinctiveness more than they do archaeological or visual evidence. This lecture will consider some alternative methods for both investigating the origins of "foreign" material culture in archaeological contexts and for analyzing how such objects functioned in ancient societies. It will also explore how these new approaches might suggest more productive avenues of interpretation for such traveling visual culture beyond the question of cultural or ethnic identity, incorporating some of the most recent results from fieldwork at Sanam Temple in Sudan.