Maggie Bryson: A Numbers Game? The Reign of Horemheb and the Puzzle of New Kingdom Chronology

Friday, January 18, 2019

6:30 p.m.—Pre-lecture reception ($5.00 per person)

7:00 p.m.—Lecture (free) 


Chronology—the matter of when key events in Egyptian history happened—is a challenging subject. It can seem impossibly dry, involving complex astronomical calculations and endless statistical wrangling over radiocarbon dates. It can also be contentious, with scholars debating particular chronological questions for years, even decades. For more than a century, one of the topic’s most vexing points was the length of the reign of the pharaoh Horemheb. Based on a highly ambiguous body of evidence, Egyptologists were divided as to whether he ruled for a decade and a half, or for as much as thirty years. 
Recently, the discovery of new evidence in the pharaoh’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings has led to widespread consensus that the matter has been settled in favor of a short reign. But has it? What do the documents that we use to determine the length of his reign really tell us? There are, in fact, still reasons to doubt that we know how long Horemheb held the throne. This lecture will present the data on which our ideas about the king’s reign length are based, and show how even numbers—seemingly beyond the vagaries of interpretation—can confuse and mislead. We will discuss the ways in which the great Egyptologists of the 19th century left us a legacy of expectations that may influence how we interpret the evidence uncovered in the 21st century. Finally, the audience will be given data points and asked to join in puzzling out what they could mean—can we solve this chronological mystery? 


Maggie Bryson received her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Johns Hopkins University in 2018. She specializes in the history of New Kingdom Egypt, particularly the later 18th and 19th Dynasties. Her dissertation on the reign of the pharaoh Horemheb combines the study of art and texts to shed new light on the tumultuous period that followed the Amarna “revolution.” Bryson’s work in the field in Egypt has included five seasons as a member of the Johns Hopkins University expedition to the Temple of Mut at Karnak, where she was involved in particular in the excavation and recording of human burials on the site. In the spring of 2016, under the auspices of an ARCE pre-doctoral fellowship, she used 3D imaging to conduct a stylistic study of post-Amarna period painting and relief in the Theban necropolis. Her main research interests include the relationship between political history and artistic production, the application of digital methods to the study of ancient Egyptian art, and modern historiography of ancient Egypt.


505 East Braddock Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314

(across the street from the Braddock Road station on Metro’s blue and yellow lines)

Venue sponsored by Maria and Richard Calderon in association with

 Hands Along the Nile Development Services Inc. (HANDS)


During the pre-lecture reception, there will be a raffle for Egyptian-themed items such as books, journals, jewelry, and DVDs. ARCE-DC members receive a free raffle ticket for each one they buy.

Meet-the-Speaker and Networking Dinner—

After the lecture, join ARCE-DC members and guests for a dinner with the speaker. We will meet at Lena's Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, just a few blocks away. Each attendee pays for his or her own dinner and contributes an extra $5.00 to defray the cost of the speaker's meal.  Please RSVP to Carol Boyer at