Colleen Manassa

Associate Professor, Egyptology


Colleen Manassa (B.A., Yale 2001, Ph.D. 2005) joined the faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations as the Marilyn M. and William K. Simpson Assistant Professor of Egyptology in 2006, and she was promoted to Associate Professor in 2010. Her research interests include Egyptian grammar, New Kingdom literary texts, military history, funerary religion, social history, and landscape archaeology.  She is the author or co-author of four books and over twenty articles, and directs an on-going archaeological expedition in Egypt, the Moalla Survey Project.

Prof. Manassa teaches widely on the history and literature of ancient Egypt.  In addition to introduction to Middle Egyptian and surveys of Middle Kingdom literature and historical texts, she has offered text courses entitled “Egyptian and Nubian Historical Texts” and “Late Egyptian Stories.”  Her lecture courses have included a Freshman Seminar on Egypt and Northeast Africa, an examination of the Amarna Period, “The Age of Akhenaton,” and a joint course with Prof. Beatrice Gruendler entitled “Egyptian Literature through the Ages,” which uses genre-based comparisons to examine literature of the Nile Valley from the third millennium until the present day.  Courses currently in development include an overview of the social history of pharaonic Egypt entitled “Lives in Ancient Egypt.”  She served as Director of Undergraduate Studies from Fall 2006 until Spring 2009 and again during the 2010-2011 academic year.

Her first monograph, The Great Karnak Inscription of Merneptah: Grand Strategy in the 13th Century BC (2003) presented a new translation and commentary of Merneptah’s longest historical inscription. She explored the lexicographic and grammatical complexities of the texts, including its interesting mixture of Middle, Late Middle, and Late Egyptian forms, as well as its historical context, particularly the participation of the Sea Peoples. A use of comparative military history enabled the first reconstruction of the strategic and tactical events of Merneptah’s Year 5 Libyan War.

Colleen Manassa’s second monograph is a revised and expanded publication of her PhD Thesis, The Late Egyptian Underworld: Sarcophagi and Related Texts from the Nectanebid Period (2007), which presents the reuse of Underworld Books on Thirtieth Dynasty and early Ptolemaic sarcophagi in their Late Period context. The study demonstrates that Late Period priests not only understood the then millennium-old Underworld Books, but continued to edit the texts, and most importantly integrated parts of different books to form new compositions.

A joint monograph with John Coleman Darnell entitled Tutankhamun’s Armies: Battle and Conquest in Ancient Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty appeared in 2007. Tutankhamun’s Armies provides an overview of the historical and religious trends of the Amarna Period, and an exploration of military organization and the development of Egyptian weaponry.  Three further chapters examine Amarna military strategy towards Nubia, Western Asia, Libya, and domestic police actions.

Her most recent monograph project is entitled Imagining the Past: Historical Fiction in New Kingdom Egypt, and provides the first critical edition of several literary texts of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties.  Imagining the Past presents an innovative definition of a genre of “historical fiction” in the Egyptian literary corpus and offers a new perspective on ancient historiographic processes.

Colleen Manassa’s publications have contributed to topics as diverse as Old Kingdom epistolography, Middle Kingdom ostraca, New Kingdom military and religion, Graeco-Roman tourism, and the archaeology of the third Upper Egyptian nome.  Two recent articles have focused on sound and soundscapes in ancient Egyptian religious and literary texts of the Middle and New Kingdoms, and her current research interests include the exploration of the multi-sensory experiences of Egyptian ritual practices.  In addition, she is preparing several joint monographs: The Middle Nubian Cemeteries of Toshka, Results of the Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition to  Nubia, 1961 (with Maria Carmela Gatto), An Introduction to Middle Egyptian Grammar (with Cara Sargent) and Inscribed Material from the Quarries of Gebel el-Asr (with John Darnell). Articles in progress include a publication of a hieratic text from the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, a diachronic grammatical study of an important particle, and several art historical investigations.

In 2008, Prof. Manassa established the Mo’alla Survey Project (MSP), which is currently in its fourth field season.  Under her direction, the MSP has surveyed an important northern extension to the Mo’alla necropolis (including a small Pan Grave cemetery) and rediscovered the ancient city of Agny.  She also was the first archaeologist to map a desert road that connected the region south of Mo’alla with other points north and south in the Nile Valley.  In 2010, her expedition discovered a previously unknown late Roman site in the north-eastern portion of the MSP concession (for more information about the MSP, see 

Recent Publications (Selection)


2007 The Late Egyptian Underworld: Sarcophagi and Related Texts from the Nectanebid Period, Ägypten und Altes Testament 72, Otto Harrassowitz.

2007 Tutankhamun’s Armies: Battle and Conquest during Ancient Egypt’s Late Eighteenth Dynasty, John Wiley & Sons (with John Darnell)


2011   “Loaves and Zirs: A Re-examination of a Hieratic Text from Abydos,” GM 229: 81-88.

2011   “Mo‘alla,” in W. Wendrich, et al., eds., The UCLA Encylopedia of Egyptology.

2011   “Soundscapes in Ancient Egyptian Literature and Religion,” in E. Meyer Dietrich, ed., Laut und Leise: Der Gebrauch von Stimme und Klang in historischen Kulturen, Transcript Verlag, pp. 147-172.

2010   “Defining Historical Fiction in New Kingdom Egypt,” in S. Melville and A.  Slotsky, eds., Opening the Tablet Box, Near Eastern Studies in Honor of       Benjamin R. Foster, Brill, pp. 245-269.

2010    “Isis, Mistress of the Field. A New Reading of an Epithet in the Hor Ostraca,”  Enchoria 32, in press.

2010    “The New Kingdom,” in I. Shaw and J. Allen, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Egyptian Archaeology, forthcoming.

2010    “The Yale University Mo‘alla Survey Project: First Season Results,” Egyptian Archaeology 37: 38-40.

2010    “A Trustworthy Seal-Bearer on a Mission: The Monuments of Sabastet from the Khephren Diorite Quarries,” in R. Parkinson and H.-W. Fischer-Elfert, eds., Studies in Honor of Detlev Franke (with John Darnell)

2009    “Preliminary Report for the 2008-2009 Season of the Mo‘alla Survey Project,”