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Durham University

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Prof. Christina Riggs

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Professor (History of Visual Culture) in the Department of History

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I am a historian of photography and archaeology, with a particular interest in North Africa and the Middle East. My research has considered how different people, at different times, have imagined, studied, and represented the culture we know as ‘ancient Egypt’ – and how the fields of archaeology, art history, and Egyptology developed in tandem with colonial and imperial expansion.

Trained as an Egyptologist, I began my career working on the visual culture of Roman Egypt and curating museum collections of Egyptian antiquities. After joining the art history department at the University of East Anglia in 2007, I undertook an AHRC-funded research project on the wrapping and unwrapping of ancient Egyptian mummies. I presented the research as the Evans-Pritchard Lectures at All Souls College, Oxford University, in 2012, published as Unwrapping Ancient Egypt (Bloomsbury 2014).

Most recently, I have worked on the photographic archive from the 1920s excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, considering the impact those photographs had both at the time and up to the present day. Presented in my book Photographing Tutankhamun (Bloomsbury 2019), and in a touring exhibition of the same name, this research was supported by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

I am currently extending my research to other photographic archives, media representations, and museum collections, for two reasons: first, to explore the history of colonial-era archaeology in Egypt, and second, to investigate the ways in which the dissemination of images and objects shaped ideas about ancient Egyptian art. More broadly, I am interested in how photography informs historical methods and how photographs function as social and material objects.

Research Supervision

I welcome inquiries from potential postgraduate research students interested in the history of photography, archaeology, and visual culture. I am primary supervisor of Maarten Horn (at the University of East Anglia), on the materiality of 'predynastic' Egypt in the excavations of Guy Brunton.

With my Durham colleague Dr Robert Witcher, I will be second supervisor on an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award, held in conjunction with the British School at Rome, on the photographic archive of the South Etruria Survey, 1955-75.

Research Groups

Department of History

Research Interests

  • History of photography
  • History of museums, collecting, and display
  • Archaeology, colonialism, and empire

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

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