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ARCE ONLINE: “Backwater Puritans”? Racism, Egyptological stereotypes and the intersection of local and international at Kushite Tombos


The American Research Center in Egypt: Orange County Chapter

Stuart Tyson Smith received his Ph.D. in Archaeology from UCLA and is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Egyptological and more popular perceptions of Nubia and the Kushite Dynasty (c. 747-654 BCE) have framed Kush as a periphery to civilized Egypt, unsophisticated interlopers in Egypt and the broader Mediterranean world during the first millennium. Depictions of Nubians from earlier periods of Egyptian history, like Tutankhamen’s painted box, reinforced these ideas of Nubian inferiority compared to Egypt and the Near East. But to what extent was Nubia a “backwater” to “effete and sophisticated” Egypt as John Wilson once asserted? For the Persians, depictions of Nubians and other foreigners presenting gifts at Persepolis represent the diversity of the empire paying homage to the Persian king as an all-lord whose rule encompasses numerous peoples. Archaeological evidence supports the more cosmopolitan Persian view of Kush against older racist Egyptological stereotypes of “barbaric” Nubians. It is clear from recent archaeological work at Tombos and elsewhere that Nubia was not an unsophisticated backwater. Objects with Egyptianizing motifs in the international style asserted a cosmopolitan social status that connected their owners to an international elite culture that spanned Nubia, Egypt and extended across the Mediterranean during the Iron Age. Yet consumption of this material culture was mediated by cultural preference, and balanced by objects like pyramids and black topped pottery that reflected ties to an Egyptian colonial and deeper Nubian past. The Kushite civilization that flourished for a thousand years was not an imperfect imitation of ancient Egypt, as some Egyptologists have asserted. Instead, features taken from Egypt and the Mediterranean world were adapted and thoroughly integrated with local practices and belief systems.

Location: ONLINE

Ticketed Event: Free for Bowers and ARCE Members | General $10 | Ticketholders will receive their link at 11 am the day prior to the event. Official 24-hour access begins at midnight.

TICKETS: Online or onsite. Questions? E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 714.567.3677. Proceeds benefit Bowers Museum Education Programs. Tickets are non-refundable.


Event details

December 11, 2021 12:00 am - 11:59 pm


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