Highlights of the 20th Annual NMCGSA Symposium

Last week, the NMCGSA within my department organized the annual symposium, which is celebrated this year in its 20th year! We ended up hosting this year’s festivities at the prestigious Hart House, one of UofT‘s distinct icons. As our department is a mix between the ancient, mediaeval, and modern Near East, we experienced a huge variety of topics from queenship in Old Kingdom Egypt to a recent survey in Kurdistan and investigations into the legal theory on Islam.

The Welcome Screen of the 20th Annual NMCGSA Symposium

Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

The first talk within the Ancient Near East session explored the rich history of the site of Godin Tepe in western Iran and its importance during the late 4th millennium BC. PhD candidate Rasha Elendari is focusing her thesis on this site and examined the pottery in great detail using petrographic analyses. In tracing the impact of the Uruk expansion here, Ms Elendari also found that Godin material showed up as far away as Susa in this time period. The next speaker Robert Martin elucidated the highly complex nature of the commodities trade in the ancient Mediterranean. He investigated the changes taking place within Phoenician ‘Maritime Transport Containers’ and found that by the 8th century BC it had spread all across the Mediterranean as far as Carthage and Italy!

Robert Martin speaking on Phoenician MTCs

Arthur Stefanski had the opportunity to participate in a series of surveys that are carried out in the Duhok province within Kurdistan. His project is among several that have gotten off the ground in recent years and it was striking also to hear, how in close proximity they seemed to be within the troubled areas.

Egyptology and its Various Topics

Laura Ranieri started off the next session by giving us an enlightening insight into the intriguing life of Charles T. Currelly, the founder of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Tracing his obsession with the arts and crafts of the ancient Egyptians back to his own personal upbringing, Mrs Ranieri showed the impact his background had on the archaeologists of the day. For example, through his personal fervour, he amassed a collection of over 10,000 flints that date to the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods. Of course, his legacy lives on in the museum! The next speaker, Annissa Malvoisin, explored the ceramics associated with Meroitic culture with some examples in the collection of the ROM. She elucidated briefly the major aspects of the pottery of the A- and C-Group and proceeded to speak about various schools associated with the pottery of Meroë.

The Entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum

Following Ms Malvoisin, Emily Hotton tackled the nature of divine queenship during the Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom. Utilizing the available textual and archaeological data from five royal women, Ms Hotton was able to trace the development of “divine queenship” throughout this period. Subsequently, Hanna Kurnitzki-West investigated the development of the funerary mask from the Predynastic Period through to the Middle Kingdom. She cited a well-known mask that was recently excavated at Hierakonpolis as the earliest example of a funerary mask. In the next step, she cited the Reserve Heads of the Old Kingdom, which she saw more as a precursor to the mask rather than being a portrait of the deceased. Interestingly, for the latest stage in her typology, she remarked about aspects of regional perspectives with evidence of both genders represented. In the last talk of this session, Tristan Samuels approached the nature of the ‘democratization of the afterlife’, a term often applied to the ‘opening up’ of the afterlife beyond the royal court in the Middle Kingdom. In adding another dimension to this ‘debate’, Mr Samuels suggested one should look at this development through aspects of African communalism, which emphasizes the importance of the individual only through their contribution to their community.

Looking Ahead to 2017

This year’s talks ranged in many topics and gave a supportive platform to emerging scholars. We were lucky to witness not only students within the University of Toronto, but also welcome contributions from outside Toronto. In one particular instance, a scholar from Poland was unable to make it to the symposium and instead we had him skype in to give his talk! Thus, the annual NMCGSA symposium has a proud tradition to bring emerging scholars together in a supportive environment, whether one is in Toronto or abroad. I am already looking forward to the 21st Annual symposium in 2017!

NMCGSA on Social Media

I highly recommend following the Facebook and Twitter (@NMCGSAUofT) profiles of our Graduate Student Association to stay in the loop for events coming up!


I unfortunately was not able to attend all talks, so I am giving here only a brief synopses of the talks that I did attend.


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