National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Colleen Manassa Darnell

Affiliation: University of Hartford

Colleen Manassa Darnell teaches Egyptian art history at the University of Hartford, is Curatorial Affiliate with the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and is the former William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Associate Professor of Egyptology at Yale University.  She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale in 2005.  Her recent publications include The Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books (with J. Darnell, Society for Biblical Literature, 2018), Imagining the Past: Historical Fiction in New Kingdom Egypt (Oxford University Press, 2013), and Echoes of Egypt: Conjuring the Land of the Pharaohs, the 2013 catalog for an exhibition that she curated at the Peabody Museum of Natural History.  Her research interests include Egyptian grammar, New Kingdom literary texts, military history, funerary religion, social history, and landscape archaeology.  From 2008 to 2015 she directed the Mo’alla Survey Project, an archaeological expedition that made several discoveries in a province of Upper Egypt.


In May 2017, the Elkab Desert Survey Project (of Yale University and the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels) discovered the earliest monumental hieroglyphic inscription at the site of El Khawy, just north of the ancient city of Elkab.  High on a cliff face along an ancient road, this ancient “billboard” is an undeniable expression of power by an early Upper Egyptian ruler, quite possibly King Scorpion, whose tomb at Abydos (ca. 3250 BCE) contained the other earliest datable proto-hieroglyphic texts.  In combination with Predynastic rock art of the fourth millennium BCE in the Eastern and Western deserts of Egypt and Nubia (including several important tableaux also discovered by the Elkab Desert Survey Project), the El Khawy site offers an unparalleled glimpse into the “phonetic zoo” of hieroglyphic writing—the process by which the symbolic world of Predynastic animal imagery became the nascent script of pharaonic Egypt.

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