Department of Egyptology and Assyriology

News and Announcements

Open Graduate Education Scholars push academic boundaries through their scholarship. The 10 newest members of the Brown University Graduate School’s open education program will customize their Ph.D. studies by seeking a master’s degree in a secondary field.

Despite the COVID-19 disruptions our wonderful students continue to achieve impressive goals.  Congratulations to Margaret Geoga and Federico Zangani, who successfully defended their dissertations in the past month.  Very well done, especially given the extraordinary pressures of this unique and challenging period.

Long before the spring semester transitioned to remote learning, doctoral student Victoria Almansa-Villatoro had developed and implemented Brown’s first online Egyptology course for undergraduates. She was motivated by an interest in continuing to participate in archaeological excavations at the MenkaureValley Temple in Giza, Egypt, while also working to fulfill her teaching responsibility to undergraduates at Brown. Thus EGYT 0500, The Pyramids in Context: Archaeology of Life and Religion of Death in Old Kingdom Egypt, became an online course from the start.

Silvia Štubňová was one of six PhD recipients across the disciplines to receive the honor of a Visiting Assistant Professorship for the Spring 2020 semester.  Through this award Silvia was supported to design and teach her own class.  Titled “Life on the Nile: Ancient Egypt beyond the Pharaohs", it has been well-received by her students and will be a strong addition to her curriculum vitae. You continue to develop your talents, Silvia, congratulations!

Congratulations to Silvia, who successfully defended her dissertation today!  With her are her committee members, Professors James Allen, Leo Depuydt, Matthew Rutz and, using the Zoom application to connect from EPHE (Paris), Andreas Stauder.  Excellent work, Silvia!

The department of Egyptology and Assyriology and the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World celebrated Professor Shiyanthi Thavapalan's first book "The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia"  (actually her second publication, as she co-edited "The Value of Colour. Material and Economic Aspects of the Ancient World" with David Warburton).  Well done, Shiyanthi!

It is with sadness the the Department of Egyptology and Assyriology shares the news of the passing of Professor Lanny D. Bell on August 26, 2019.  Lanny was a kind and gifted teacher, researcher and friend to many and will be remembered long beyond that date.

The Department is very pleased to relay the news that Professor Shiyanthi Thavapalan received the International Association of Assyriologists (IAA) Dissertation award at this year's Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (RAI) meeting in Paris July 8-12, 2019.  Her dissertation, which is titled 'The Meaning of Colour in Ancient Mesopotamia' will be published by Brill Publishers later this year.  Congratulations, Shiyanthi!

The Department of Egyptology and Assyriology is very pleased to announce that Margaret (Maggie) Geoga has been awarded the Best Student Paper at the 2019 Annual American Research Center in Egypt conference.  We are not surprised, but definitely proud of you, Maggie!  Congratulations.

The following report from Vicky Almansa was submitted upon her return from working at an excavation site in Giza, with funding from the Brown University Middle East Studies:

We are delighted to share the news that second year graduate student Sara Mohr has been awarded funding for her work on 3D modeling of cuneiform tablets. The competition was organized by Digital Hammurabi, which was created to provide funding for current PhD students working on Ancient Near East-related topics. 

We invite you to join a diverse range of scholars reviewing the reception, use, and misuse of the Ancient Near East in early modern art, literature, scholarship, and politics. Fourteen speakers will explore the ways that the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, and Persia were imagined and their history constructed by scholars, artists, and writers during the early modern period (ca. 1600–1800) – and the political and social uses that they were put to.

Jessica Tomkins '18 Ph.D. has been selected to be Cal State San Bernardino’s inaugural W. Benson Harer Egyptology Scholar in Residence for winter quarter.

With sincere gratitude to Beatrice Parker, daughter of former Professor and Chair of Egyptology Richard Parker, we are pleased to share with you the lovely new wall hanging - a print of  King Tut's funeral mask.

NEH grant will enable Brown researcher to digitally preserve Syrian tablets. With ancient documents threatened by modern-day conflict in Syria, Matthew Rutz’s project will make the text of more than 1,800 cuneiform tablets available digitally. 

We are pleased to announce that Professor Mathieu Ossendrijver (Humboldt University, Berlin) will present the second Annual Otto Neugebauer Lecture in the Exact Sciences in Antiquity, titled "Chaldeans on the Nile. New evidence for the transmission of Babylonian astronomy to Egypt."  Please join the Department of Egyptology & Assyriology for this talk at 5 PM in Petteruti Lounge, Stephen Roberts Ctr, 75 Waterman St on Monday, April 9.  Refreshments follow.

Please join us in congratulating Professor Laurel Bestock, recipient of the John Rowe Workman Award in Excellence in Teaching in the Humanities, 2018.  The award recognizes Brown faculty for "sustained and continued excellence in teaching".  Of course we all know she is an outstanding educator and we are very happy that Professor Bestock is here, and that her significant abilities and contributions are realized.  Congratulations, Professor!

We are pleased to share the news that Kathryn Howley, PhD'15, has accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor in Art and Architecture in Ancient Egypt at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.  Congratulations, Kathryn, we look forward to seeing you either in NY or back for a visit at Brown!

The Department of Egyptology and Assyriology at Brown University invites you to the interdisciplinary workshop Rethinking the Origins which will take place on April 13-15, 2018 at RI Hall 108, 60 George Street, Providence, RI 02912 (the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World). If you would like to attend this event, we would appreciate it if you registered for the workshop by sending an email with your name to [email protected]

We are very pleased to announce the first annual Parker Lecture in Egyptology,  Tuesday, September 26 at 5 PM in Petteruti Lounge of Faunce House.  Brown PhD ['09] Ramadan Hussein, currently at the University of Tubingen, will present "Tending to the Dead: Rites, Texts and Embalming Workshop at Saqqara".  

We are very pleased to announce the first annual Parker Lecture in Egyptology,  Tuesday, September 26 at 5 PM in Petteruti Lounge of Faunce House.  Brown PhD ['09] Ramadan Hussein, currently at the University of Tubingen, will present "Tending to the Dead: Rites, Texts and Embalming Workshop at Saqqara".  

A pleasant reunion at the International Congress of History of Science and Technology in Rio de Janeiro.

Three Brown Students got Best Poster recognition at the Annual ARCE conference in Kansas City, MO: Christian Casey, Darcy Hackley and Martin Uildriks; meanwhile, two of three Best Papers went to Jen Thum and to Brendan Hainline (Brown BA, now working on PhD at Chicago). Well Done, Team!

Not surprisingly, Jen's talk, "Adventures in Living Rock Stelae" was extremely well attended, presented and received. Thank you, Jen.

Professor Matthew Rutz has been promoted to Associate Professor, with tenure, effective July 1, a well-deserved accomplishment which the department celebrated together with colleagues, friends and family on March 16. 

Julia Troche, PhD '15 has been awarded a tenure-track Assistant Professorship in the History Department at Missouri State University.  Well done, Julia, we knew you would do it.  Looking forward to a visit sometime!

Congratulations are due to Jessica Tomkins for having received an Interdisciplinary Opportunities Program award!

We are pleased to report that the Assyriology conference planned for February 27 is coming together nicely.  The title and topic is "Ancient History: Assyriological Perspectives" and the field of participants is impressive.  Heather Baker (University of Toronto), Eckart Frahm (Yale University), Grant Frame (University of Pennsylvania), Jacob Lauinger (Johns Hopkins University) and Jonathan Tenney (Cornell University) will join Brown Professors John Steele and Matthew Rutz for a full day of discussion of historic issues in Assyriology.  Please call 863-3132 for details and to register (no charge to attend).  

We are pleased to share with you  information about a just-published book edited by John Steele, with contributions by many of our department members:  Yuzhen Guan, M. Willis Monroe, Matthew Rutz, Zackary Wainer and our former Post-Doc Andreas Winkler.

Zackary Wainer successfully defended his dissertaion Monday, April 4, and the Egyptology and Assyriology Department happily gathered to congratulate him.  We join his family in celebrating his achievements and in wishing him the very best going forward.  Well Done, Zack!

The gathering of several preeminent Assyriologists at Brown on Saturday, February 27 resulted in a wonderful exchange of knowledge and ideas.  Professors Heather Baker (University of Toronto), Grant Frame (University of Pennsylvania), Eckart Frahm (Yale University), Jacob Lauinger (Johns Hopkins University) and Jonathan Tenney (Cornell University) joined Professors Matthew Rutz and John Steele for a day of lively presentations and discussions.  Thank you to our guests and conference attendees for participating in this rewarding event.

We are delighted to share with you that Laurel Bestock has been promoted to Associate Professor, with tenure, effective July 1, 2016.  Well deserved for her scholarship, enthusiasm and teaching excellence, as well as her service to the department and university.  We are lucky to have her with us and extend our sincere congratulations for this milestone.  Additionally, it should be noted that Laurel must have had the Fountain of Youth elixir in her goblet, she looks exactly as she did in her senior year at Brown '98-'99!

The life and work of Otto Neugebauer (1899-1990), founder of Brown's Department of History of Mathematics and recipient of Brown's most prestigious honor, the Rosenberger medal, in 1987, is examined in a newly published book, A Mathematicians Journey's: Otto Neugebauer and Modern Transformations of Ancient Science, co-edited by the department's John Steele. The book looks at Neugebauer's career from his student days in Göttingen and Copenhagen, his principled stand against the Nazis in resigning from his position at the famous Mathematical Institute in Göttingen in 1933, and his move to Brown University in 1939. Neugebauer was unquestionably the most important historian of ancient science of the twentieth century, and his legacy lives on at Brown with the Department of Egyptology and Assyriology continuing to be a major center for the history of ancient science.

On Thursday, December 10, Willis Monroe successfully defended his dissertation and department members were very pleased to gather to congratulate him.  Willis is one of the first Dean of Faculty Fellowship recipients and will teach a class in our department next semester.   Congratulations on both achievements, Willis!

Ramadan Hussein, PhD '09, has been awarded a prestigious grant by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for the conservation, documentation and publication of the Saite-Persian tombs in Saqqara. The grant (a total of 412.000 €) is for three years and comes with a three year Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter [Research Associate] position at the Universität Tübingen, effective April, 2016. We in the Egyptology and Assyriology Department at Brown share in the pleasure and pride of this achievement and look forward to continued news and successes.  Congratulations, Ramadan, and best wishes to you and your family!

We are very pleased to add Amanda Davis to our proud list of PhD recipients. Amanda successfully defended her thesis, "Egyptian and Minoan Relations during the Eighteenth Dynasty/Late Bronze Age", on August 3. She recently took an intensive course in teaching English as a second language and really enjoyed the program, as a result of which she is planning to enter a one-year program at Lesley University in Boston to get a Massachusetts teaching license to teach elementary school English as a second language.

Congratulations, Amanda, we look forward to following your career and wish you continued success.

Andreas is now at the University of Oxford, Faculty of Oriental Scientists, as Departmental Lecturer in Egyptology and Coptic. Nice for him that he is closer to ‘home’ in Sweden, yet enjoying milder weather! We are pleased to share the news that TWO of his recent proposals have been granted.

The first, "Digital Archive of Coptic Ostraca in Sweden (DACOS)", was granted by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond - The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences. That was applied for together with Åke Engsheden, the PI, and is a three year project aiming at publishing roughly 300 Coptic ostraca.

The second, also a 3-year project, was with the Swedish Research Council. Andreas remarked he will return to Providence to prepare future proposals, as he wrote both those successful submissions while here at Brown.

Congratulations, Andreas, and you are welcome back anytime. 

The Department of Egyptology and Assyriology  is very pleased to congratulate our three newest colleagues on their successful completion to candidacy and defense of their dissertations: 

Dr. Guan Yuzhen, "The Treatment of Eclipses in Early Chinese Astral Sciences"

Dr. Kathryn Howley, "The Royal Pyramid Tombs of Nuri: Cultural Interaction between Nubia and Egypt in the Middle Napatan Period"

Dr. Julia Troche, "Origins of Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt"

We give you our warm best wishes for your continued success.

The department is very pleased to announce that PhD candidate Julia Troche for her outstanding presentation at ARCE last week, where she received Third Place of all the papers presented for her work, "On the Origins of Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt."  Congratulations, Julia!   Additionally, former under graduate Katherine Davis '10, now at Johns Hopkins for her PhD, was also recognized for her exceptional work.  Wonderful for the recipients and for the whole department. 

March 23-24, 2015, University Paris Diderot, Paris
Building Condorcet, Room 646A Mondrian.

This international conference is co-organized by Christine Proust and John Steele and supported by the European project SAW (CNRS & University Paris Diderot) and the Department of Egyptology and Assyriology at Brown University.

Graduate student Kathryn Howley will be featured in the National Geographic documentary 'Rise of the Black Pharoahs' airing October 1, 2014 at 10:00PM on PBS. The documentary was filmed while Kathryn was doing fieldwork at el Kurru in Sudan. 

An ancient token-based recording system from before the dawn of history was rendered obsolete by the birth of writing, according to popular wisdom. But now, latest excavations show that, in fact, these clay tokens were integral to administrative functions right across the Assyrian empire – millennia after this system was believed to have vanished.

During a recent visit to China to give a series of lectures Professor John Steele was awarded the honorary title of Guest Professor in the School of History and Culture of Science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The honor is in recognition of his research on the history of ancient astronomy and in fostering links between historians of science in China and at Brown.

M. Willis Monroe, a 4th year PhD student in Ancient Western Asian Studies, has been awarded a fellowship from The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII) for his research project "Innovation in Seleucid Astrology: Re-investigating the Micro-Zodiac". The fellowship will support Willis's travel to several European collections to undertake research on cuneiform tablets this summer.

New book by James P. Allen
This book, the first of its kind, examines how the phonology and gram-mar of the ancient Egyptian language changed over more than three thousand years of its history, from the first appearance of written documents, ca. 3250 BC, to the Coptic dialects of the second century AD and later. Part One discusses phonology, working backward from the vowels and consonants of Coptic to those that can be deduced for earlier stages of the language. Part Two is devoted to grammar, including both basic components such as nouns and the complex history of the verbal system. The book thus provides both a synchronic description of the five major historical stages of ancient Egyptian and a diachronic analysis of their development and relationship.

"Mentor program launches with mummy unwrapping"
The collaboration will connect undergraduates and graduate students in Egyptology
By Joseph Zappa
Staff Writer
Brown Daily Herald
Friday, October 25, 2013

A mummy unwrapping party marked the launch of a mentoring partnership between the Egyptology-Ancient West Asian Studies Department Undergraduate Group and the Egyptology department’s graduate students Thursday night.

The Mellon workshop, established by a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, is awarded to graduate students in the Humanities. Typically Brown awards only five graduate workshops each year. The workshop is intended to both provide a means by which to facilitate dissertation completion and to foster communication across disciplines within the academy. Each group is encouraged to bring visitors to campus who will enable their participants to refine their writing and promote new depths of understanding in their work. On a more regular basis, the groups serve as forums to discuss their participants’ writing and explore topics of mutual interest, thus fostering an environment of collaboration and intellectual exchange. 

New book on the lunar calendar co-edited by John Steele published.

This collection of papers explores the way cultures have dealt with the vagaries of a lunar calendar on everyday life. The volume, co-edited by John Steele, includes contributions by Steele and the department's Leo Depuydt.

Congratulations to Professor Laurel Bestock for receiving a Henry Merritt Wriston Fellowship Award at the Sheridan Center University Awards Ceremony on May 7th, 2012.  Katherine Bergeron, Dean of the College, presented the award. The Henry Merritt Wriston Fellowship is awarded each year to regular untenured members of the faculty (assistant professors and lecturers) who have achieved a record of excellence in teaching and scholarship during their first years at Brown. The winner, chosen by a faculty committee, is granted one semester of leave on special assignment.

The department is delighted to announce that Kathryn Howley, a third-year PhD student in Egyptology, has been awarded this year's Best Student Paper Award at the annual conference of the American Research Center in Egypt for her paper "A Reexamination of Early 'Sed Festival' Representations". Congratulations, Kathryn, on this prestigious and well-deserved award!

Assyriology graduate students, Willis Monroe and Zack Wainer, recently translated a song by the The Dirty Projectors "The gun has no trigger" into Akkadian.  Willis wrote out the cuneiform using an Old-Babylonian lapidary script. The website for the single is

The American Oriental Society will be meeting on March 16-19, 2012 in Boston.   Professor John M. Steele will be presenting Numbers, Signs and Meanings in Babylonian Astral Medicine on Friday afternoon, March 16th.  Also presenting Friday afternoon will be Zackary Wainer Etiologies of Illness: 
 A Late Babylonian Understanding of the "Hand of Ishtar" and Yuzhen Guan A New View on Solar Eclipse Records in the Pre-Qin Period.   M. Willis Monroe will present Tablets and Tokens: Methods of Administration on Assyrias Northern Frontier Saturday morning, March 17th. 

March 23, 2012 Professor Laurel Bestock leaves for Sudan to begin a new Brown project at the site of Uronarti. Uronarti is a currently uninhabited island in the Nile in northern Sudan, where the 12th Dynasty Egyptian kings built one of a string of monumental fortresses.  In conjunction with Vienna University Professor Bestock  will be inaugurating a program of survey and excavation that they hope will clarify many aspects of the Middle Kingdom Egyptian involvement in Nubia.

Springer Publications announces a new book by John M. Steele Ancient Astrononomical Observations and the Study of the Moon's Motion (1691-1757)

John M. Steele tells the story of how the secular acceleration of the moon was discovered, the reception of its discovery, and the first attempts to determine its size of the acceleration from historical data. Additionally, this study addresses the wider question of how ancient and medieval astronomy was viewed in the eighteenth century; particularly European perceptions of ancient Greek, Arabic, Babylonian, and Chinese astronomy. 

Ziyaret Tepe
Follow the archaeological excavations at Ziyaret Tepe, the Assyrian city of Tushhan, in southeastern Turkey with daily updates on the latest discoveries, journal entries from the excavators and scientific specialists, and a candid snapshot of life on a real dig in the modern Middle East
Posted on July 19, 2011 by matney