Classics Major

Murray Lecture 2021

Faces in/of Color: Intersectional Identities in the Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt

Professor Anne Haeckl, Kalamazoo College

Date to be determined

Anne Haeckl

The mummy portraits of Roman Egypt (AKA “Fayum portraits”) comprise a uniquely relatable corpus of individualized ancient faces painted on wooden panels for insertion into the linen wrappings of mummified bodies. Largely dated to the first through the third centuries CE, these compelling countenances span the full range of human development, across gender lines and from childhood to old age. Building upon decades of painstaking research devoted to issues of typology, chronology and workmanship, this talk interrogates the portraits as intersectional constuctions of identity that emphasize the interplay of ethnicity, gender, sexuality. For example, in contrast to the Pharaonic Egyptian tradition of using skin color to indicate gender (white complexions for women and dark, tanned skin for men), many of the Roman-period mummy portraits of men, women and children seem proudly to privilege ethnic identity by employing a rich palette of brown skin tones and varied hair textures. Intersectional analysis of these diverse and multi-hued visages raises new awareness of their value as a powerful but under-studied resource for contesting the persistent assumption – and controversial recent assertions -- that the Mediterranean-centered Roman Empire was an exclusive preserve of whiteness.


Anne Haeckl is currently Senior Instructor and Co-Chair of the Classics Department at Kalamazoo College, where she has taught for the last 22 years. She received her BA in Ancient Greek from the College of Wooster (Ohio), her MA and ABD in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology (IPCAA) from the University of Michigan and a Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, where she has also participated in a 2008 NEH Summer Seminar on “Identity and Self-Representation in the Subcultures of Ancient Rome.” A specialist in Roman art and archaeology, Anne has excavated extensively at (and published on) Roman sites across the Mediterranean and Middle East: in the 1970’s at a Roman villa and Christian ecclesiastical complex in Carthage, Tunisia; in the 1980’s at the Roman circus of Carthage, as well as at the Roman legionary fortress of Lejjun and the Roman town of Umm el-Jimal in Jordan; in the 1990’s at a Roman cemetery in Carthage, along with two Ptolemaic and Roman Red Sea ports, Berenike and Marsa Nakari, in Egypt. Most recently, in the 2000’s, while continuing fieldwork at Berenike, Anne also served as Co-Director of the 2003, 2005 and 2006 seasons of the joint Kalamazoo College/University of Colorado Excavations and Archaeological Field School at the Villa of Maxentius on the Appian Way just outside of Rome, Italy.