Rediscovering the Empires of Ancient Nubia In the 21st Century

  • Rita E. Freed (Author)

    RITA E. FREED received her PhD in Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She currently is John F. Cogan, Jr. and Mary L. Cornille Chair of Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Identifiers (Article)


The Nubian collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is arguably the finest outside Khartoum thanks to the excavations of George Reiser in the early 20th century and the partage system in place at the time. Yet for a long time, relatively few people outside the scholarly world knew of its existence. This paper presents the display history of the Nubian collection, with a focus on the 2019 temporary exhibition Ancient Nubia Now, which featured the cultures of Kerma, Napata, and Meroe, and also explored race, prejudice and African-American scholarship on Nubia. Through both community consultation and engagement as well as visitorship, the exhibition demonstrated that ancient Nubia is indeed very relevant in the 21st century, and can be used to excite and inform, and help bring inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility to the Museum.