Liam McNamara


Assistant Keeper for Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Department of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum; Co-director of the Griffith Institute

Faculty / College Address:

Oriental Institute


Research Interests:

My research interests centre on the archaeology and material culture of ancient Egypt and Sudan. I specialise in the late Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods (late 4th-early 3rd millennium BC), for which the Ashmolean holds the most significant collections anywhere in the world outside Egypt. I focus on the dynamics of the transformation to statehood, when Egypt became a unified polity ruled by a single king, and the processes by which dynastic traditions in art, religion, and written language became established. My current work re-examines a major group of early votive objects and the temples from which they are presumed to originate.

I am also interested in the history of museums, particularly the relationship between archaeological fieldwork, object distribution and the development of museum collections, as well as the disciplinary histories of archaeology, anthropology and Egyptology.

I have worked as an archaeological illustrator and field archaeologist on excavations at Kom Firin in the western Nile Delta (directed by Neal Spencer), and at Hierakonpolis in southern Egypt (directed by Renée Friedman). I have also worked on an epigraphic survey of sites in northern Sudan with the British Museum (directed by Vivian Davies).

I was the Lead Curator on the redevelopment of the Egypt and Nubia galleries at the Ashmolean which opened to the public in November 2011. Prior to my appointment at the Ashmolean in August 2010, I was a Project Curator in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum. I also co-curated (with Paul Collins) the temporary exhibition Discovering Tutankhamun at the Ashmolean from 24th July–2nd November 2014.

Current Projects:

Courses Taught:

  • History and  culture of dynastic Egypt
  • Ancient Egyptian art and architecture
  • Ancient Egyptian artefacts in the Ashmolean Museum
  • Urbanization and Change in Complex Societies (School of Archaeology and Anthropology)

Recent Publications:

2014. The ivory statuette from HK6 Tomb 72. Nekhen News 26: 7–9.

2014. Colossal statue of the fertility god Min; Statuette of a woman; Ceremonial mace-heads of Kings Narmer and Scorpion; Statue of King Khasekhem; Pottery lion; Statue of King Akhenaten; Shrine of King Taharqa; The ‘Two-Dog’ palette; Cosmetic spoon in the form of a swimming girl; Nested coffins of Djeddjehutyiuefankh; Mummy of a young boy; The ‘Sinuhe Ostracon’; The daughters of King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti (the ‘Princesses Fresco’); Double-sided mummy portrait  [in:] K. Wodehouse (ed.) The Ashmolean Museum. Crossing cultures, crossing time. (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum): 42–45, 48, 50, 54–55, 106–107, 118, 188–191, 272, 374–375, 376–377.

2014. Discovering Tutankhamun in Oxford. Egyptian Archaeology 44: 2.

2014, with P. Collins. Discovering Tutankhamun (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum).

2014, with P. Collins. Discovering Tutankhamun. Ashmolean Magazine 67: 3–5.

2014, with P. Collins. Discovering Tutankhamun at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Ancient Egypt Magazine 85: 34–40.

2011. Statue of King Khasekhem [in:] E. Teeter (ed.) Before the pyramids: the origins of Egyptian civilization. Oriental Institute Museum Publications 33 (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago): 224–225.

2011, with P. Collins and G. Criscenzo-Laycock. Ancient Egypt and Nubia at the Ashmolean, Gallery Guide (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum).

2011, with G. Criscenzo-Laycock. Unveiling ancient Egypt and Sudan. Ashmolean Magazine 62: 9–10.

2010, with N. Spencer and E. O’Connell (eds). 13 papers presented at the colloquium, The Book of the Dead - Recent research and new perspectives, held at the British Museum on 21st–22nd July 2009. British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 15:

2009, with R. Friedman (eds). 11 papers submitted for publication in the Proceedings of the Third International Colloquium on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt, held at the British Museum from 27th July to 1st August 2008. British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 13:

2008. The revetted mound at Hierakonpolis and early kingship: a re-interpretation [in:] B. Midant-Reynes and Y. Tristant (eds.) Egypt at its Origins 2. Proceedings of the International Conference "Origin of the State: Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt", Toulouse, 5th–8th September 2005. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 172 (Leuven: Peeters): 901–936.

2008. Egypt’s Origins in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Nekhen News 20: 28–29.

2008, with R. Friedman (eds). Abstracts of papers presented at the Third International Colloquium on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt, The British Museum, London, Sunday 27th July–Friday 1st August 2008.

2008, with R. Friedman. Return to the Temple Part II. Nekhen News 20: 6–7.

2007, with J. Baines. The twin stelae of Suty and Hor [in:] Z. Hawass and J. E. Richards (eds.) The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt: Essays in Honor of David B. O'Connor (Cairo: Supreme Council of Antiquities Press): 63–79.

2006. Review of D. Wengrow, The Archaeology of Early Egypt: Social Transformations in North-East Africa, 10,000–2650 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006). Antiquity 80: 1014–1016.

2006. Resurrecting Horus and Pepi. Nekhen News 18: 27–28.

2006, with X. Droux. When is a tomb not a tomb? Nekhen News 18: 9–10.