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Reconstructing Osiris: Dismemberment, Decapitation, and Mummification in Predynastic Egypt

October 21, 2023 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm EDT

Penn Museum
3260 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States

In-Person Lecture
Saturday, October 21 at 3:30pm
Penn Museum, Anthro Classroom 345

Speaker: Dr. Jane Hill, Asst. Prof. of Anthropology, Rowan University

Lecture Topic: Reconstructing Osiris: Dismemberment, Decapitation, and Mummification in Predynastic Egypt

Cases of well provisioned Predynastic graves containing both disarticulated skeletons and plentiful and costly burial goods have invited various interpretations since their earliest documentation by W.M.F. Petrie and James Quibell in their publications of the excavation of the great Predynastic cemeteries of Naqada and Ballas. While Petrie’s initial interpretation of cannibalism is not supported by the surviving osteological or material records, the presentation of these burials nevertheless raises interesting questions about the beliefs and ritual behind these postmortem skeletal arrangements. More recent discovery of a collection of disembodied skulls at the site of el-Adaima seems to indicate a more sinister practice. Evidence suggests that while the dissolution of the body in death was to be carefully avoided in some cases, it was actively sought in others, depending on the social role that each of these individuals inhabited. How may we understand decapitation, dismemberment, and re-articulation within the developing religious practice of Predynastic Egypt? Using the Predynastic mummy of a mature male in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology collections as a lens through which to analyze these burials, the author will discuss the possible religious and ecological reasons for the treatment of these bodies.

Speaker Bio:
Dr. Jane Hill holds a doctorate in Egyptian Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She also holds masters degrees in anthropology and art history/Egyptology from the University of Memphis. She has excavated and done epigraphic work on archaeological projects at the sites of Giza, Abydos, el-Amra, Saqqara, and Karnak Temple in Luxor Egypt. At her project site of el-Amra she discovered evidence of a Predynastic Egyptian town. In the United States, Dr. Hill has excavated Native American sites of the Mississippian Period in the southeast. Currently Dr. Hill teaches anthropology, archaeology and Egyptian Archaeology at Rowan University where she serves as co-curator of the Museum of Anthropology at Rowan University (MARU). Her research interests include co-development of major elite cemeteries and urbanism in Upper Egypt’s formative period, and the development of Egyptian administrative and writing systems. Most recently she participated in the analysis of human remains found in the Second Intermediate Period royal cemetery at Abydos under the direction of Dr. Josef Wegner.

Lectures are FREE for ARCE members. For non-ARCE members admission is as follows: $10 general admissions; $7 for Penn Museum members, Faculty & Staff; $5 for Students with ID (12 and under FREE).

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October 21, 2023
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm EDT
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JJ Shirley


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Penn Museum
3260 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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