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VIRTUAL - Painting Coffins at Akhmim in the First Millennium BCE

October 9, 2022 @ 3:00 pm PDT

This is an online event.

A registration link will be automatically sent to ARCE-NC members. Non-members may request a registration link by sending email with your name and email address to Non-members, please send any registration requests no later than noon Saturday, October 8. Registrations are limited to 100, so the sooner you register, the better.

Cartonnage of Djedhor in the Detroit Institute of Art

Cartonnage of Djedhor in the Detroit Institute of Art

About the Lecture:

After the New Kingdom, wealthy Egyptians were sent to their afterlives in dazzling decorated and inscribed coffins which were nested like Russian dolls. Our understanding of these vessels for rebirth centers on the city of Thebes, and focuses on dating the coffins through changes in their layout. Local traditions have long been neglected and assumed to be derivative of the Theban tradition; the work of artists and scribes outside of Thebes is often dismissed as “naive” or “provincial”–though, in reality, we know very little about the workshops that produced coffins, or the training of the artists and scribes who worked in them.

A large number of coffins are thought to come from the city of Akhmim, two hundred kilometers north of Thebes, and these present an excellent opportunity to characterize and evaluate a regional tradition. Unfortunately, the cemeteries of Akhmim were thoroughly plundered in the late 19th century, flooding the art market with coffins that had no find context and which can only be stylistically dated relative to similar Theban pieces.

A careful study and comparison of the artistic and scribal hands that produced these coffins opens the door to a more detailed understanding of the development of a vibrant regional style over a period of nearly seven-hundred years between the end of the New Kingdom and the beginning of the Ptolemaic period. Driving this development were artists working in multi-generational workshops. Their work expresses not only the desires of their clientele, the Akhmim elite, but the methods, training, creativity, and skill of the scribes and painters who decorated coffins at Akhmim.

Dr. Kea M. Johnston

About the Speaker:

Dr. Kea M. Johnston graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a PhD in Egyptology in 2022. Her PhD thesis deals with workshops that produced coffins at the Egyptian site of Akhmim in the period between 1100 and 330 BCE. She is interested in both the content and materiality of textual inscription on coffins, and Egyptian funerary art generally. She is also interested in using her skills as a software engineer to build tools that can be used for answering questions in the study of the Humanities. Kea is both a researcher and a technological lead on “The Book of the Dead in 3D” project ( and has done fieldwork at the site of el-Hibeh with the UC Berkeley Expedition. She has taught multiple courses, including most recently an intensive summer course at Berkeley called “Digital Humanities and Archival Design” in which students learned how to build online archives while exploring the ethical issues and technical challenges surrounding digital cultural heritage.

About ARCE-NC:

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October 9, 2022
3:00 pm PDT
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Glenn Meyer


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