University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Eleventh Annual Kolb Senior Scholars Colloquium

The Eleventh Annual Kolb Senior Scholars Colloquium with the theme "Political Corrections: Social Control through Word and Image in Antiquity" took place on October 28, 2016, from 2 to 5 pm in Widener Lecture Hall at the Penn Museum. 

2:00 Professor C. Brian Rose, Kolb Society of Fellows Faculty Coordinator
Welcome and Introduction

Rose Coll

Professor Rose provided an introduction to the topical colloquium, discussing the use of historical kings and the ideology of kingship in modern political contexts.

2:15 Dr. Jane A. Hill, Fellow
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Rowan University
Symbols before the Crown: Reading Early Egypt’s Iconography of Power

This study draws on iconography found in rock art, paintings, carvings, and glyptic from Egypt and neighboring regions to trace the development of symbols associated with authority figures during the gradual coalescence of the Egyptian dynastic state. Available evidence suggests that in addition to its own rich and varied symbolic system Egyptians adopted and adapted symbols found on imported Mesopotamian material in the early Naqada II. Some of these symbols were included in semiotic categories denoting rulership, social institutions, and administrative roles in the formative Egyptian state of the Naqada III period. Not only were these symbols necessary in building networks of influence in the polities of Upper Egypt, a few later became icons denoting the power and authority of kingship for the duration of the ancient Egyptian state. The author suggests that coalescence of economic, coercive, and religious power embodied in ancient Egyptian kingship has its beginnings in this symbolic system.

JaneHill Coll

Jane Hill's paper focused on royal representation in Egypt during a period at the very beginning of the use of writing and the formation of a united Egyptian kingdom. She examined a variety of material sources with representations of the ruler, demonstrating the influence that Mesopotamian royal imagery, for instance the "master of the animals" and the "priest king" had on Egyptian symbolism of the ruler. She posited that the influx of trade goods and decorated items replete with external images of the ruler during the Naqada II period had an affect on the internal representation of kingship. And those symbols of royal authority became embedded in the language of kingship for the Egyptian rulers and their subjects.

2:45 Dr. Josh Jeffers, Fellow
Research Specialist, Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period Project, Penn Museum
The Assyrian Propaganda Machine: Shaping the Past Through Text and Image

Josh Coll

The Neo-Assyrian empire of the first millennium BCE based in upper Mesopotamia was established through the brutal conquest of much of the Near Eastern world. At its height, the empire extended from Elam in the east to Egypt in the west. It maintained its hold over this expansive territory and ensured the loyalty of its subjects by means of fear and various forms of population control, such as mass deportation. As a part of its ruling ideological program, the Assyrian king was envisioned as a mighty warrior, savvy in military strategy and dauntless in combat. Scribes recorded the king’s deeds in writing on clay prisms and tablets, and artisans memorialized his victories through images carved on stone wall slabs that lined the palaces of the capitals. However, from the modern historian’s perspective, the portrayal of the invulnerability of the Assyrian empire and its king could lead to a skewing of historical events and “reality” in these sources that was a result of their efforts to preserve just such a grandiose image of the kingdom.

Jeffers 1

Josh Jeffers gave a presentation that highlighted the connection between propaganda, history, and historical representation in text and image during the Assyrian Empire, and in particular during the reign of Sennacherib. He focused on the palace reliefs depicting Sennacherib's campaign against the Phoenician cities and the besieged but unconquered city of Tyre, demonstrating how text and image could be manipulated to snatch victory from the reality of defeat. Josh's examination of the king's conquests represented on the walls for posterity showed the interplay between text and image and the ambiguity in details that allowed for the unfettered promotion of the victorious ruler.

3:30 Dr. Matt Waters, Fellow
Professor of Classics and Ancient History, Department of Foreign Languages, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
By The Will of Ahuramazda: The Conjunction between Royal and Divine in Achaemenid Persia

Waters 1

The close link between the king and the divine has deep roots in Near Eastern royal ideology, so it was hardly surprising to find the phenomenon manifest during the Achaemenid period (c. 550–330 BCE). Exactly how close was it? However one chooses to answer that question, the king is to be considered a fulcrum: the glorification of the King balances his own roles within the Achaemenid ideological scheme, as manifest in both textual and iconographic evidence. The Achaemenids were masters of adoption and adaptation of previous structures in the fashioning a compelling royal ideology, one that incorporated several Persian and Iranian elements. The varied evidence is at times ambiguous, and this is not necessarily an accident. Some recent scholarship has suggested elevating the Achaemenid king to divine status, though there are no text markers – e.g., the presence of the DINGIR determinative – to indicate royal divinity. This presentation considers Achaemenid royal ideology in its function of the glorification of the king and the intersection with the divine. It will be explored via written and pictorial sources, as well as its manifestations in other traditions that are traceable to Achaemenid originals.

Matt Coll

In his paper Matt Waters examined an important aspect of kingship in the Near East, the relationship between the ruler and the gods and the question of divine kingship. Using text and image, Matt examined the ruler's use of divine creation, divine right, and divine attributes. He focused in particular on the Mesopotamian concept of divine radiance (melammu), which was used by the Persian ruler to inspire awe and fear in subjects and enemies alike. Matt ended his presentation with a discussion the winged disk depicted above the Persian ruler in royal iconography, which he associated with Ahuramazda, the Achaemenid greatest of all gods and protector of the just king, and postulated the identification of the Persian ruler with this god.

4:00: Dr. Simon Martin, Guest Speaker
Associate Curator and Keeper of Collections, American Section, Penn Museum
Strategies in Stone: Rhetoric and Realpolitik in Classic Maya Politics

The nineteenth century discovery of ancient Maya ruins opened a new chapter in the history of Pre-Columbian America. The wealth of monumental carvings they contained, including copious amounts of hieroglyphic text, presented a unique opportunity to understand an ancient New World civilization on its own terms and in its own words. How the numerous cities were organized politically was a topic of debate right up until the decipherment of the Maya script, which began in earnest only in the 1980s. With the hieroglyphs now spilling their secrets, we can appreciate the intricate interactions and overarching systems at work during the Classic Period (300–900 CE)—peering through the vainglorious displays of kings to perceive some of the political realities beneath.

Simon Coll

Simon Martin ended the colloquium with a paper investigating the reconstruction of political relationships and the political structure using Maya glyphs and royal representations. With the decipherment of Maya glyphs and examination of the titles of the rulers, the underlying connection between the four great capitals controlling the Maya area and the smaller sites that also sported kings was illuminated. Using examples from ancient Greece, Bronze Age Ireland, and pre-colonial India, Simon demonstrated a political reality of kings supervised and controlled by other kings in a hierarchical organization that encompassed protection and allegiance, as well as political shift, all depicted in the monuments left for posterity.

The Eleventh Annual Kolb Senior Scholars Colloquium was followed by the Kolb dinner in the Egyptian gallery of the Penn Museum.