Biography

I am a historian of archaeology, photography, and ancient Egyptian art. I am interested in how different people, at different times, have imagined, studied, and represented the culture we know as ‘ancient Egypt’. My current research focuses on the history of photography and archaeology, using archives from the 1920s excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb. I am currently finishing a book called Photographing Tutankhamun, which will appear in 2018 in the Bloomsbury series Photography, History: History, Photography, edited by Elizabeth Edwards, Jennifer Tucker, and Patricia Hayes. I am curating an exhibition of the same name, opening at The Collection, Lincoln in November 2017 and moving to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, in 2018.

I have also written extensively about ancient Egyptian art, religion, and material culture, including issues of cultural identity and exchange when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire. My book Unwrapping Ancient Egypt (Bloomsbury 2014) focused on the importance of textiles in Egyptian mummification and other religious rituals – and offered a critique of how Egyptology has conducted mummy unwrappings from the 18th century to the present day. This book was first runner-up in the 2015 BKFS prize for books in Middle Eastern Studies; it was also long-listed for the Textile Society of America's R. L. Shep Ethnic Textiles award.

For further information, and access to some of my published academic work and journalism, see my page on academia.edu (external link).

Career History

I have been based at UEA since 2007. During this time, my research has been supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), the British Academy, and the Leverhulme Trust. I have held fellowships at All Souls College and The Queen's College, Oxford, and I was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London in 2008.

Earlier in my career, I was the curator of the Egyptian collection at the Manchester Museum - one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in the UK. I also worked with Egyptian, Near Eastern, and Classical collections at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and at the Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge.

Academic Background

B.A. Archaeology; Brown University 1993

M.A. Ancient Mediterranean Archaeology and Art; University of California-Berkeley 1995

DPhil. Oriental Studies (Egyptology); Oxford University 2001

All Publications

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Riggs, C.

(2017)

Shouldering the past: Photography, archaeology, and collective effort at the tomb of Tutankhamun

Full Text UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2016)

Photography and antiquity in the archive, or how Howard Carter moved the road to the Valley of the Kings

Full Text UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2016)

An autopsic art: 'Dr Granville's mummy' in the Royal Society archives

Full Text UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2016)

Beautiful Burials, Beautiful Skulls: The Aesthetics of the Egyptian Mummy

Full Text UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2016)

The body in the box: archiving the Egyptian mummy

Full Text UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2015)

Egypt

UEA Repository

(Chapter)


Riggs, C.

(2014)

Unwrapping Ancient Egypt

UEA Repository

(Book)


Riggs, C.

(2014)

Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture: A Very Short Introduction

UEA Repository

(Book)


Riggs, C.

(2014)

Discussing knowledge in the making

UEA Repository

(Chapter)


Riggs, C.

(2013)

Greco-Roman Egypt

UEA Repository

(Chapter)


Riggs, C.

(2013)

Colonial Visions: Egyptian Antiquities and Contested Histories in the Cairo Museum

Full Text UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2013)

A Roman Period child's mummy in the Saffron Walden Museum

UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2013)

Mourning women and decorum in ancient Egyptian art

UEA Repository

(Chapter)


Riggs, C., Baines, J.

(2012)

Ethnicity

UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C., Riggs, C. (ed.)

(2012)

The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt

UEA Repository

(Book)


Riggs, C.

(2012)

Portraits, Prestige, Piety: Images of Women in Roman Egypt

UEA Repository

(Chapter)


Hardwick, T., Riggs, C.

(2010)

The king as a falcon: A "lost" statue of Thutmose III rediscovered and reunited

UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2010)

Ancient Egypt in the Museum: Concepts and Constructions

UEA Repository

(Chapter)


Riggs, C.

(2010)

The Body

UEA Repository

(Article)


Riggs, C.

(2010)

Funerary Rituals

UEA Repository

(Article)


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Key Research Interests

  • Uses of photography in late 19th-early 20th century Egyptian archaeology
  • Critical and post-colonial histories of Egyptology and archaeology
  • Textiles, wrapping practices, and the body in ancient Egypt
  • Ancient Egyptian art of any period, and especially Roman Egypt
  • Museum studies, history of collecting, cultural heritage

Current and Recent Research Projects

1. The Photographic Archive of the Tomb of Tutankhamun

Supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2015), a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford (2015), and a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2016), this project examines the extensive photographic archive compiled during the excavation and study of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The excavation records and glass plate negatives housed in the Griffith Institute at Oxford University will provide the basis of a study examining how photography informed method and meaning-making at every stage of the archaeological process. Photography was also crucial in mythologizing the ‘find of the century’ for the public eye, influencing cultural trends and nationalist politics in 1920s Egypt and beyond.

2. Ancient Egypt: Lost Civilizations

Commissioned for a new series published by Reaktion Books, this richly illustrated study will present a fresh and innovative look at the history and legacy of ancient Egypt – the ancient culture perhaps most closely associated in the public mind with marvels, ‘mysteries’, and endurance, yet very poorly understood in terms of its subsequent history and its relationship to the modern world. Considering the significance ancient Egypt has had in cultures from the Roman Empire, to the medieval Arab world, to the Victorian era, the book asks what is ‘lost’ when we understand that the past is created in the present – and that each present remakes the past in its own image?

Teaching Interests

  • Ancient Egyptian art
  • Archaeology and material culture studies
  • History of museums and collecting
  • History of photography

Research supervision

Interested in supervising research students in all areas of ancient Egyptian art and archaeology, including topics related to histories of the disciplines, collecting, visual studies, and museum practice. Past students have completed theses on human remains in museums, and the history of museums.

Examples of modules taught

  • ART-2Z13 Displaying the Past
  • ART-3Y28 Cleopatra’s Egypt
  • ART-MA67 Unwrapping Ancient Egypt
  • ART-MU01 Critical Perspectives in Museum Studies

External Activities and Indicators of Esteem

  • Editor-in-Chief, Archaeology, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford University Press
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London
  • Evans-Pritchard Lecturer, All Souls College, Oxford (Trinity Term 2012)
  • Visiting Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford (Hilary Term 2015)