Research Focus Group Discussion: “Backwater Puritans”? Racism, Egyptological Stereotypes, and the Intersection of Local and International at Kushite Tombos

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Stuart Tyson Smith

May 12, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

6056 HSSB and Zoom

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Stuart Tyson Smith - "Backwater Puritans"?

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. But to what extent was Nubia a “backwater” to “effete and sophisticated” Egypt, as John Wilson once asserted? 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 the Mediterranean during the Iron Age. The Kushite civilization that flourished for a thousand years was not an imperfect imitation of ancient Egypt, as some Egyptologists have asserted, or even the fount of Egyptian civilization, as some Afrocentric scholars have argued. Instead, features taken from Egypt and the Mediterranean world were adapted and thoroughly integrated with local practices and belief systems to create a new and vibrant African tradition.

Stuart Tyson Smith is Professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, specializing in the archaeology of Egypt and Nubia [the Sudan], ethnicity, culture contact and imperialism.

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Sponsored by the IHC’s Crossing Borderlands Research Focus Group


May 12, 2022
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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