The Arts of Ancient Meroe: Reassessing an Ancient African Visual Culture

April 3, 2021 1PM ET/ 7PM EET

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Speaker: Dr. Janice Yellin

Info about the lecture:

Lion Temple Musawwarat

The visual culture of Meroe encompasses a rich body of sculpture, as well as decorated pyramid chapels, temples, ritual objects, jewelry, ceramics, and faience and gold plaques. The art of Meroe is complex. Egyptian and classical elements, alongside indigenous features and tastes, are visible in much but not all of its art. The presence of these foreign features has allowed an outdated and unsupported Egyptocentric viewpoint to shape much of the discourse about Meroitic visual culture. Constructs that present Napatan and Meroitic Period arts as imitative and derivative of Egyptian art and, to a lesser extent, classical art have obscured the vibrant Kushite nature of their visual arts, as well as the very independent manner in which Kushite artists use and understand foreign features, particularly Egyptian ones. This presentation will explore the essential Kushite nature of ancient Meroitic art demonstrating how an Egyptocentric approach has, as in other areas of Kushite Studies, distorted our understanding of it. While providing visual pleasure in its own right, an exploration of Meroitic art free of an Egyptocentric viewpoint offers insights into the minds, activities, and tastes of the Middle Nile Valley’s ancient inhabitants- a particularly precious gift given that written sources from Meroe are both scarce and not fully translated. 

About Janice Yellin:

Yellin is Professor of Art History, Babson College. Her research centers on the ancient African Kingdoms of Kush, particularly the Kingdom of Meroe. She has published numerous articles on Meroitic religion and its elite funerary culture, particularly as documented in the royal pyramid chapels at Meroe and Jebel Barkal, as well as on Meroitic visual arts. Her research on the royal pyramids of Meroe with the late Friedrich Hinkel, their conservator, was funded by National Endowment for the Humanities and Getty Senior Research Grants. A member of the recently completed Qatari Mission for the Pyramids of Sudan project, she now continues this work in tandem with the German Archaeological Institute, home of the Hinkel Research Archives. She is particularly interested in exploring the dynamics of Kushite and Egyptian interactions and in identifying the Egyptocentric bias that has distorted our understanding of Kushite culture as it plays out in these areas of cultural expression. 

Registration will close 24 hours before the lecture starts. Registration does not include any future lectures in this series.