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Kathryn Howley

Lila Acheson Wallace Assistant Professor of Ancient Egyptian Art

PhD Egyptology, Brown University; BA (Hons) Classics and Egyptology, University of Oxford

I am an archaeologist and art historian of ancient Egypt and Sudan, particularly interested in questions of materiality and intercultural interaction. I am fascinated not only by how and why material culture crosses borders, but also by the active role that material culture plays in negotiating intercultural contact. My current research uses theoretical frameworks drawn from anthropology and art history in addition to more traditional Egyptological methodologies in order to reconstruct the roles that Egyptian material culture played in Nubian society in the first millennium BC, and investigate how foreign material culture was used to negotiate indigenous social systems in Nubia. I am currently preparing my first book, The Royal Tombs of Nuri: interaction and material culture exchange between Kush and Egypt c. 650-580 BC, for publication.

My research is supported by my current fieldwork project at the mid-first millennium BC Amun Temple of Taharqa, a Nubian king who also ruled over Egypt, at Sanam in Sudan. The project investigates how Egyptian material culture was used at Sanam to reinforce Nubian systems of economy and status, and, following our discovery of a monumental mud brick building from the early first millennium BCE, the early stages of the Napatan state which grew to rule over Egypt.  It has been supported by grants from the Levy White Foundation, the Egypt Exploration Society and the Explorers’ Club. Students regularly participate as team members on the dig as excavators, ceramicists, epigraphers and surveyors, joining a multi-national team that includes several Sudanese colleagues. 

The Nile Valley offers an amazing quantity, variety and time depth of evidence for the human past, and I am therefore convinced that ancient Egyptian evidence should be integrated into wider debates in the humanities and social sciences. My recent co-edited volume, Egyptology and Anthropology (published open access by the Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections), brings together papers from a 2017 symposium on the future of the engagement between the two fields. In this spirit, I teach on various themes from archaeological theory at the IFA as well as on Egyptological topics, and encourage a self-reflexive and critical stance towards the constitution of our “knowledge” of the ancient past. A vital aspect of my teaching is reckoning with the legacy of Egyptology’s racist and colonial past, and considering the impact of this disciplinary history on our modern understandings of ancient Egypt. 

My interest in material culture has led to extensive work in and with museums, researching collections and also in curatorial and educational roles. I am particularly interested in object-based teaching methods and enjoy utilizing the world-class Egyptology collections of New York in my teaching at the IFA, as well as examining the influential role that museums have had in shaping both the public conception of ancient Egypt and the academic direction of Egyptology.

Before coming to the IFA in 2018, I was Lady Wallis Budge Junior Research Fellow in Egyptology at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, and taught art history at the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of East Anglia in the UK.