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ARCE Lecture: Understanding Ancient Egyptian Comics: Conversations, Quarrel...

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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU

15 East 84th Street

New York, NY 10028

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ARCE Lecture: Understanding Ancient Egyptian Comics: Conversations, Quarrels, and Songs in Ancient Egyptian Tombs
Stephen Harvey, Ahmose and Tetisheri Project

Since Egyptian hieroglyphs could first be read again in the modern era, it has been recognized that texts recorded on tomb walls include conversations, speeches, songs, and exclamations. The discovery of the tomb of Paheri at El Kab by the French expedition in 1799 was followed by the recognition by Champollion as early as 1828 that a "Song of the Threshers" might be recognized amidst the other texts accompanying the agricultural scenes, an identification that was met at first with skepticism. A series of other songs, speeches and conversations are featured in the scenes illustrating the seasons of Planting and Harvest on the west wall of Paheri's burial chamber, and form a revival in the earliest New Kingdom of an important aspect of Old and Middle Kingdom tomb decoration. With their relatively straightforward sequences of tilling, sowing, harvesting, and processing, agricultural scenes have often productively been used in analyses of sequence in Egyptian visual narrative, and the recognition that speech captions function together with these scenes has led comics scholars (e.g. Scott McCloud) and some Egyptologists (Babcock, Angenot) to claim that Egyptian visual narratives may be seen as some of the earliest precursors to modern comics. A fresh look at some of the scenes and texts in Paheri's tomb attempts to specifically address the aptness of the comparison between Egyptian visual strategies and comics, within the broader project of a re- examination of Egyptian narrative art at the dawn of the New Kingdom.

Since 1993, Stephen Harvey (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) has been Director of the Ahmose and Tetisheri Project, which centers on excavation of the monumental complex of King Ahmose at Abydos, under the aegis of the Pennsylvania-Yale-Institute of Fine Arts, NYU Expedition to Abydos. Steve's fieldwork in and around the pyramid complex of Ahmose (ca. 1550-1525 B.C.) has provided important new insight into temple architecture and decoration at the outset of Egypt's New Kingdom. He has been working on archaeological projects in Egypt (including at Giza and Memphis) since 1987, and has also worked on projects in the U.S., Syria, and Turkey. Steve has been consulted on and interviewed for a number of television documentaries for NOVA on PBS, the History Channel, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel (among others). In 2013-14 and 2008-09, he lectured on the Archaeological Institute of America's national circuit. Steve has also been a lecturer on many study tours to Egypt sponsored by major U.S. and UK institutions, including twelve AIA tours of Egypt since 2002.


Unless otherwise indicated, public events sponsored by ISAW take place on the first or second floor of our building. Both floors are accessible by elevator from our entry lobby, and an ADA-compliant bathroom is available in the basement level, which is also accessible by elevator. Our Lecture Hall is equipped with an FM assistive listening transmitter. A small number of personal receivers, compatible with headphones and hearing aids, are available for checkout from staff on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU

15 East 84th Street

New York, NY 10028

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