UPenn Museum, Philadelphia
ARCE-PA Lecture & Holiday Party
Dr. Steve Harvey, Director, Ahmose and Tetisheri Project, Abydos, EGYPT
Understanding Ancient Egyptian Comics: Conversations, Quarrels, and Songs in Ancient Egyptian Tombs
Since Egyptian hieroglyphs could first be read again in the modern era, it has been recognized that texts recorded on tomb walls include conversations, speeches, songs, and exclamations. The discovery of the tomb of Paheri at El Kab by the French expedition in 1799 was followed by the recognition by Champollion as early as 1828 that a “Song of the Threshers” might be recognized amidst the other texts accompanying the agricultural scenes, an identification that was met at first with skepticism. A series of other songs, speeches and conversations are featured in the scenes illustrating the seasons of Planting and Harvest on the west wall of Paheri’s burial chamber, and form a revival in the earliest New Kingdom of an important aspect of Old and Middle Kingdom tomb decoration. With their relatively straightforward sequences of tilling, sowing, harvesting, and processing, agricultural scenes have often productively been used in analyses of sequence in Egyptian visual narrative, and the recognition that speech captions function together with these scenes has led comics scholars and some Egyptologists to claim that Egyptian visual narratives may be seen as some of the earliest precursors to modern comics. A fresh look at some of the scenes and texts in Paheri’s tomb attempts to specifically address the aptness of the comparison between Egyptian visual strategies and comics, within the broader project of a re-examination of Egyptian narrative art at the dawn of the New Kingdom.
Dr. Stephen Harvey received his Ph.D. in Egyptian Archaeology in 1998 from the University of Pennsylvania, and his B.A. in Archaeological Studies from Yale University in 1987. His fieldwork in and around the pyramid complex of Ahmose (ca 1550-1525 BC) provided important new insight into temple architecture and decoration at the outset of Egypt’s New Kingdom. In addition to extensive fieldwork at Abydos, he has worked in Egypt at Giza and Memphis, as well as on archaeological projects in the United States, Syria (Tell es-Sweyhat), and Turkey (Gordion).