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24-26 High Street, B4 7SL Birmingham, United Kingdom
Speaker: Dr Kathryn E. Howley
Speaker Bio: Dr Kathryn Howley grew up in Birmingham, where she was fascinated with all things ancient Egypt from a young age. She did her undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford, where she read Classics and Egyptology, before moving to America to complete a PhD in Egyptology at Brown University.
She specializes in the art and archaeology of ancient Nubia, and is currently directing a new field project in Sudan at the temple of Sanam, built by the 25th Dynasty king Taharqa. In addition to archaeology, Kathryn has been interested in museums ever since she did her school work experience placement at the Birmingham Science Museum; while living in the US she worked at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she made the acquaintance of literally thousands of shabtis.
She is now the Budge Junior Research Fellow in Egyptology at Christ’s College at the University of Cambridge, and trying to make sense of why other scholars aren’t as enchanted by shabtis as she thinks they should be.
Shabtis were one of the most enduring forms of ancient Egyptian visual culture, used in burials over the course of millennia, and are now one of the most numerous Egyptian objects to be found in museums. Modern audiences find these small, personified objects irresistible, all so similar and yet each with their individual differences. However, shabtis' popularity on the antiquities market has contributed to their status among Egyptologists as the domain of collectors, of limited interest to archaeology.
We know, however, that modern, Western collectors are not the only ones to have felt this way about shabtis. Historical records and archaeological evidence show us that throughout time and space, shabtis have been prized and collected by such diverse groups as 17th century Dutch adventurers and the élite of ancient Carthage. These people were not collecting shabtis for their religious function–why, then, have these figurines continued to prove so appealing?
Tickets cost £6 and are available on the door.