ARCE Lecture: The Other Woman

Encoded Messages in Egyptian Art

Phyllis Saretta

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Middle Kingdom stelae play an important role in the study of ancient Egyptian society. Subtleties expressed in the pictorial evidence of these monuments offer information not given elsewhere. Though most of the stelae are inscribed, the inscriptions are often brief and limited in content. Meant as memorials or historical monuments, they consciously include information which the owner wished to convey, though unconsciously, may include symbolic visual nuances -- i.e., identifying markers, understood in their time and place, but lost to the modern viewer. This presentation will take a closer look at the representation of the female Asiatic servant, Seneb-reniseneb, whose image appears on the Thirteenth Dynasty Stela of Reniseneb from Abydos, and determine what other roles she may have played in his household.

Phyllis Saretta received her Ph.D. from New York University in Egyptology, and Ancient Near East Archaeology and Languages in 1997. She was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Department of Egyptian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1994-95, where she completed the research for her dissertation, which focused on cultural interconnections between Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Levant. Dr. Saretta has conducted independent research at the site of Beni Hasan in Egypt and has also participated in archaeological fieldwork at the ancient Mesopotamian site of Lagash (Tell al-Hiba) in Southern Iraq where she was a Site Supervisor. She has taught undergraduate courses at The New School and was a part-time Staff Lecturer and Researcher at the Metropolitan Museum for 19 years.

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