Barry Kemp Lecture at the Metropolitan Museum – November 7, 2010

by Marie Parsons

The New York Chapter of ARCE-The American Research Center in Egypt- has been offering a series of exceptional lectures to members and guests this fall. On Sunday November 7, Dr. Barry Kemp spoke to a packed room at the Metropolitan Museum about the work he and his team are doing at the site of the ancient Egyptian city known today as el-Amarna. 

Dr. Kemp, the author of Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization, has been excavating at Amarna for thirty years. He has written scholarly articles and books on the various discoveries made there. Through the Amarna Project he also provides a newsletter providing updates on the work.

As part of his ARCE lecture, Dr. Kemp showed his audience a series of slides. Hearing Dr. Kemp’s engaging British accent describe, for example, the terrain which could present challenges to their digging or their conservation work, or, provide insights as to new places to dig, was certainly one of the highlights of this lecture.

King Amenhotep IV, also called Akhenaten, established Amarna.  The city lasted only 15 years. Akhenaten altered much of the religious practice of his time in his focus on devotion to the Aten. One noticeable feature of that change related to the architecture of the two Aten temples excavated in Amarna. Dr. Kemp described how, although temples generally were roofed over, with a darkened sanctuary so that none except priests would see the image of the deity, in Amarna, since the Aten had no image, the temples were built with no roofs, left open to the sun. 

Much of what we know about Amarna today is due only to the excavations done by Dr. Kemp and his team. Houses and walls consisted in large part of mud-brick as opposed to stone. Where stone existed, it was eventually removed during succeeding reigns and re-used elsewhere. The mud-brick over the years crumbled, leaving little evidence of its existence. 

Dr. Kemp shared many fascinating aspects of his work at Amarna: he showed how the people worked with glass in order to make the feather-like decorations of an elite coffin, and described how they melted bronze to rework it; he described how a colleague surveyed the nearby terrain to eventually discover a cemetery where none had been even considered to have existed. 

Dr. Kemp showed examples of the extensive conservation work his team does to rebuild walls and part of homes and roads, describing how they rebuilt walls and parts of houses. He illustrated how the city was laid out. One question he faced was, in a city inhabited by thousands, where were they buried? His team eventually found several cemeteries: the North and South Tombs, where the elite, or high administrative officials such as Meryra, priest of Aten, were buried; the Royal Tombs, where Akhenaten and his queens were buried, and the Stone Village, a most recent discovery, where common people were buried.  

Only in a lecture such as this could the audience appreciate Dr. Kemp’s description of how he and colleague Luc Gabolde went out one February morning before sunrise to test a theory. Dr. Gabolde surmised that in antiquity the spring equinox fell in mid-February, not in March as it does presently. So one morning they went outside before dawn, and watched as the sun rose, in a pose identical to the Egyptian hieroglyph for the horizon, and illuminated the small Aten temple through its doorway.

Dr. Kemp also described the work being done to determine the physical nature of the Amarna inhabitants. Dr. Jerry Rose and his team are studying the skeletons found in the various graves--to-date over 200. They have found so far that the people were shorter than average, and probably had weak bones and may have been malnourished. Whether that was from the hard work they endured, carrying overly heavy loads, or whether disease ran through the population, is not yet clear.
Dr. Kemp hopes to be able to continue working at Amarna. ARCE’s NY Chapter also hopes to continue to provide informative and interesting lectures.

May both succeed well.   

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Barry Kemp answering           Barry Kemp, Dorothea Arnold and Marsha Hill 
a question.
2010 Lectures
The screen about the lecture.
Nicole Leist helping Barry set up
Photos of the Barry Kemp lecture are courtesy of Dana Ivey for ARCE/NY.
This lecture will be available on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's YouTube channel at

Thursday, December 9, 2010
6:30 PM

"Egypt, Israel and Judah in the Assyrian World Order"

Dr. Peter Feinman , Founder and President of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education,

Location: Alston & Bird, LLP
90 Park Ave, 15th Floor Lecture Room
New York (between 39th and 40th Streets)

 A holiday party followed the lecture.  

Description: Egypt had been the gift of the river for centuries before the Greeks coined that description.  The Nile River dominated the physical landscape and culture of the pre-dynastic, Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom periods.  During those times it was easy for Egypt to see itself as the cosmic center of the universe, the home of the real people.  Given the areas of the world with which it had frequent contact, Egypt truly did dominate militarily, politically, and culturally.  While Egypt certainly was aware of the existence of Mesopotamia, it had no real direct impact on the lives of the Egyptians during these two millennia.

Israel/Judah were a people of the covenant with cosmic centers at Shiloh, Shechem, Jerusalem and Samaria during the Iron Age.  Over the course of centuries their geographical perspective had changed from that of a wilderness people and deity to one in the highlands of the land of Canaan to one from Dan to Beersheva and then to a deity who was king from the Euphrates River to the River of Egypt.  While’s Israel’s claim that its God was king in the land of Canaan violated Egypt’s sense that the land was within its sphere of influence, no threat to Egypt proper had emerged from its neighbor since the time of the Hyksos.

These circumstances changed with the rise of Assyria.  Beginning in the 9th century BCE, accelerating in the 8th century, and climaxing in the 7th century BCE, Assyria expanded westward crossing into Egypt itself.  Thebes and Babylon were sacked but Jerusalem was spared.  One entity now ruled and dominated the known world.  This new age of imperialism necessitated a new way of envisioning the universe. How could the Nile Valley be the center of the world that stretched from Nubia to Elam?  How could the covenant apply in a world centered at Nineveh?   What was to be center of the world in a time of ancient Near Eastern empires and how were Egypt and Israel/Judah to define themselves if their cultures were to remain viable?

About the Speaker: Dr. Peter Feinman is the founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a non-profit organization which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers, and public programs.  He received his B.A. in history from the University of Pennsylvania, a M. Ed. from New York University, an MBA from New York University, and an Ed. D. from Columbia University.  His interests cross disciplinary boundaries including (i) Egypt, with the forthcoming “The Tempest in the Tempest Stela: A Cosmic Story in History,” Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar festschrift to Dorothea Arnold, (ii) biblical, “When Israel and the Arabs Were Allies” published as part of the proceedings of the Israeli-Palestinian Pathways to Peace conference, and (iii) American, “Chautauqua America,” in The American Interest.  He recently organized and spoke at a conference on “Immigration: The Melting Pot and the American Dream” and is busy organizing county history conferences in New York State. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010
3:00 PM 

This lecture will be available on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's YouTube channel at

The American Research Center In Egypt, New York Chapter (ARCE/NY) in co-sponsorship with The Metropolitan Museum of Art  and The Egyptological Seminar of New York is pleased to present the following lecture

"Toward A Better Understanding of Amarna: Recent Research in the City and Its Main Cemetery"

Dr. Barry Kemp, Professor of Egyptology, Cambridge University, England; Director, Amarna Project

Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education (New York, N.Y.)

Description:  Pharaoh Akhenaten's city of Tell el-Amarna has been the subject of investigation for more than a century. The lecture assesses what the purpose of its founder was, how his vision was implemented and the impact that the creation of Amarna had on the people who went to live there.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER:  Barry Kemp was, for many years, a teaching officer in Egyptology at the University of Cambridge, becoming eventually Professor of Egyptology. For much of that time he devoted himself to research upon the nature of towns and cities in ancient Egypt, focusing increasingly upon the best preserved example, Akhenaten's city at Tell el-Amarna. Since 1977, he has directed surveys and excavations at Amarna, resulting in series of scholarly publications. Upon leaving his teaching post at the time of retirement, he moved to Cairo and set up the Amarna Trust as an independent body to finance the continuing work at Amarna. He remains director of the Amarna project and chairman of the Amarna Trust.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010                      
6:30 PM                                                                    
Catharine H. Roehrig
Curator in the Department of Egyptian Art at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

"A New Look at Hatshepsut’s Foundation Deposits"

Location: Alston & Bird, LLP
90 Park Ave, 15th Floor Lecture Room
New York (between 39th and 40th Streets)

Wine and Cheese reception followed the lecture. 

Description: Of the eleven excavated foundation deposits that are connected with the Eighteenth Dynasty temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, one was discovered by Naville in 1894-95, two were discovered by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1910 and 1911, and nine were discovered by the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1922 and 1927. Largely based on the positions of these foundation deposits, Herbert Winlock postulated an original, unrealized plan for the temple that was very similar to the neighboring Eleventh Dynasty temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II. 

A careful examination of the notes and photographs taken by the Metropolitan Museum excavation team does indicate that there are two sets of foundation deposits laying out an earlier and a later building phase. However, the first layout appears to be influenced by the existence of an early Eighteenth Dynasty structure, not by the plan of Mentuhotep’s temple.

About the Speaker: Catharine H. Roehrig received her PhD in Egyptian Archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley. While studying at Berkeley, she became assistant director of the Theban Mapping Project. As a result, one of her principal areas of study has been the architecture of the early New Kingdom royal tombs on which she has given lectures and written extensively. After leaving Berkeley, she worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she helped organize the exhibition Mummies and Magic: the Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt.

Since 1979, Dr. Roehrig has been a curator in the Department of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. While at the Met she has worked on a number of gallery installations and exhibitions, including Egyptian Art at Eton College: Selections from the Myers MuseumThe Pharaoh’s Photographer: Harry BurtonTutankhamun, and the Metropolitan’s Egyptian Expedition, and Hatshsepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh. She is currently studying the foundation deposits for Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri and working on a publication of the tomb of Wah, whose burial equipment has been on display in the Museum since its discovery in 1920. She also works with the Museum’s expedition to the site of Malqata at the southern end of the Theban necropolis.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010
6:30 PM

"Greco-Egyptian Magic: a Dark Side to Egyptian Ritual" Jacco Dieleman PhD, Associate Professor of Egyptology, UCLA
Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW, NYU 2010-11
Editor of the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology

Location: Alston & Bird, LLP
90 Park Ave, 15th Floor Lecture Room
New York (between 39th and 40th Streets)

Wine and Cheese reception followed the lecture  

Description:  In the course of the Hellenistic Period, a new form of private ritual emerged in Egypt. This type of ritual is today commonly called Greco-Egyptian magic. In its nature and form, it is Egyptian ritual in a Hellenistic guise. Yet it is radically more cosmopolitan, intercultural, and syncretistic in character than the earlier and foundational traditions of pharaonic Egypt and Classical Greece. Catering towards the Egyptian, Greek and Jewish inhabitants of the cities of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, Greco-Egyptian spells were believed to offer protection, healing, luck, love and occult knowledge. They offered means to deal with misfortune, competition, interpersonal conflict, in short, with the uncertainties of life. Its material culture consists of carved gems for protection and healing, inscribed lead tablets for cursing, gold and silver lamellae for health and good fortune, and extensive bilingual manuals – in Koine Greek, Demotic Egyptian and Old Coptic – with instructions on how to perform the rituals. In the Roman Period, such materials spread all over the Roman Empire and have been recovered from Britain to Luristan and from Germany to Nubia. In this presentation we will take a close look at the various types of Greco-Egyptian ritual and trace how Egyptian priests adapted their rituals to serve a Hellenized clientele.  

ABOUT THE SPEAKER:  Jacco Dieleman holds his PhD in Egyptology from Leiden University, the Netherlands (2003). He currently works as Associate Professor of Egyptology at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures of UCLA, where he teaches ancient Egyptian religion, literature, and language in all its phases and script forms. He is also co-founder and editor of the web-based UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. During academic year 2010-11, he is a visiting research scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU. His research focuses on tracing continuity and innovation in Egyptian scribal traditions to follow changes in religious thought and cultural identity throughout pharaonic Egypt's long history. The sociolinguistic study of bilingualism and script varieties is always at the core of his projects. He is currently preparing for publication an edition of an Egyptian funerary liturgy that collects a number of temple rituals adapted for the burial of an otherwise unknown woman with the name Artemis. The manuscript, which is inscribed with incantations in Classical Egyptian written in the hieratic script and with instructions for use in Demotic, can be dated to the late Ptolemaic or early Roman Period. He also continues his work on the corpus of the so-called Demotic Magical Papyri to determine their nature and relationship to the Greek Magical Papyri. 

Photo courtesy of C.H.Roehrig