Ellen Morris headshot

Ellen Morris

Associate Professor of Ancient Studies, Chair of Columbia University's Classical Studies Graduate Program


Classics and Ancient Studies, First Year Foundation


219b Milbank
By appointment



Ellen Morris has published extensively on subjects related to ancient Egyptian imperialism, including The Architecture of Imperialism: Military Bases and the Evolution of Foreign Policy in Egypt’s New Kingdom (Brill, 2005), Ancient Egyptian Imperialism (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), and numerous articles. Her ongoing research interests and other publications, however, focus on the dynamics of political fragmentation, state formation, sexuality and sacred performance, retainer sacrifice, landscape theory, and divine kingship (most of her publications are accessible at https://barnard.academia.edu/EllenMorris). Her forthcoming book, Famine and Feast in Ancient Egypt will be published by Cambridge UP in 2023 and investigates the social memory of famine in Egypt. She has excavated in the Nile Valley at Abydos, Mendes, Deir el-Ballas, and at the site of Amheida in the Dakhleh Oasis. Morris earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology at the University of Pennsylvania and earned her B.A. from Barnard College in Ancient Studies.

  • Imperialism in Egypt and the ancient Near East
  • Social history of ancient Egypt
  • Sexuality, power, and performance
  • Political fragmentation

Professor Morris teaches lecture courses on the archaeology and society of ancient Egypt (Identity and Society in Ancient Egypt, The Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Egypt in the Classical World). She teaches a seminar on the archaeology of the Southern Levant as well as a First Year Seminar entitled On Dreams and Nightmares. In 2020 she'll be teaching three online immersive classes. Fall A: Society and Environment in the Ancient Mediterranean World; Fall B: The Archaeology of Crisis: The Collapse of the Late Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean World; Summer A: Race and Ethnicity in the Greco-Roman World.



   In press   Famine and Feast in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


   2018       Ancient Egyptian Imperialism. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Press.


   2005       The Architecture of Imperialism: Military Bases and the Evolution of Foreign Policy in Egypt’s New Kingdom. Probleme der Ägyptologie 22. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

2023a        On the fringe benefits of life in the shatter zones of Egypt’s Empire. In Power and Identity at the Margins of the Ancient Near East, ed. S. Mohr, S. Thompson. Denver: University Press of Colorado, 159-180.


   2023b     Reassessing the value of autobiographical inscriptions from the First Intermediate Period and “pessimistic literature” for understanding Egypt’s social history. In Ancient Egyptian Society: Challenging Assumptions, Exploring Approaches, ed. D. Candelora, N. Ben-Marzouk, and K. Cooney. New York: Routledge, 265-278.


   2022       Daggers and axes for the queen: considering Ahhotep’s weapons in their cultural context. In The Treasure of the Egyptian Queen Ahhotep and International Relations at the Turn of the Middle Bronze Age (1550 B.C., eds. G. Miniaci and P. Lacovara. Middle Kingdom Studies 11, London: Golden House Productions, 165-186.


   2020a     Machiavellian masculinities: historicizing and contextualizing the “civilizing process” in ancient Egypt. Journal of Egyptian History 13.1-2. Special Issue: “Egyptology and Global History,” 127-168.


   2020b     Writing trauma: Ipuwer and the curation of cultural memory. In “An Excellent Fortress for His Armies, a Refuge for the People”: Egyptological, Archaeological, and Biblical Studies in Honor of James K. Hoffmeier, eds. R. E. Averbeck and K. L. Younger, Jr. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press/Eisenbrauns, 231-252.


   2019       Ancient Egyptian exceptionalism: fragility, flexibility and the art of not collapsing. In The Evolution of Fragility: Setting the Terms, ed. N. Yoffee. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 61-87.


   2018       Théorie insulaire et affordances des oasis du désert égyptien, trans. Lise Garond. In Mer et désert de l’Antiquité à nos jours: visions croisées, ed. G. Tallet and T. Sauzeau. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 63-90.


   2017a     Middle Kingdom clappers, dancers, birth magic, and the reinvention of ritual. In Company of Images: Modelling the Imaginary World of Middle Kingdom Egypt (2000-1500 BC), ed. Gianluca Miniaci, Marilina Betrò, Stephen Quirke. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, pp. 285-335. 


   2017b     Prevention through deterrence along Egypt’s northeastern border. Or the politics of a weaponized desert. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies 5.2: 133-147.


   2015a     Egypt, Ugarit, the god Ba’al, and the puzzle of a royal rebuff. In The Crossroads II, Or There and Back Again. Proceedings of an International Conference on the Relations of Egypt and the Near East in the Bronze Age, Prague 15-18, 2014, ed. J. Mynářová. Prague: Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts, pp. 315-351.


   2015b     Exchange, extraction, and the politics of ideological money laundering in Egypt’s New Kingdom Empire. In Policies of Exchange: Political Systems and Modes of Interaction in the Aegean and the Near East in the 2nd Millennium B.C.E., Proceedings of the International Symposium at the University of Freiburg Institute for Archaeological Studies, 30th May-2nd June 2012, ed. B. Eder and R. Pruzsinszky. Oriental and European Archaeology v. 2. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, pp. 167-190.


   2014a     Mitanni enslaved: prisoners of war, pride, and productivity in a new imperial regime. In Creativity and Innovation in the Reign of Hatshepsut, eds. J. Galán, B. M. Bryan, and P. F. Dorman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 361-379.


   2014b     (Un)Dying loyalty: meditations on retainer sacrifice in Ancient Egypt and elsewhere. In Violence and Civilization: Studies of Social Violence in History and Prehistory, ed. Rod Campbell. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 61-93.


   2013       Propaganda and performance at the dawn of the state. In Experiencing Power, Generating Authority: Cosmos, Politics, and the Ideology of Kingship in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, ed. J. A. Hill, et al. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum Press, pp. 33-64.


   2011       Paddle dolls and performance in ancient Egypt. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 47: 71-103.


   2010a     Insularity and island identity in the oases bordering Egypt’s Great Sand Sea. In Thebes and Beyond: Studies in Honour of Kent R. Weeks, ed. Zahi Hawass and Salima Ikram. Cairo: Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, pp. 129-144.


   2010b     The pharaoh and pharaonic office. In The Blackwell Companion to Ancient Egypt, ed. A.B. Lloyd. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 201-217.


   2010c     Opportunism in contested lands, B.C. and A.D. Or how Abdi-Ashirta, Aziru, and Padsha Khan Zadran got away with murder. In Millions of Jubilees: Studies in Honor of David Silverman, vol. I, ed. Zahi Hawass and Jennifer Houser Wegner. Cairo: Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, pp. 413-438.


   2007a     Sacred and obscene laughter in The Contendings of Horus and Seth, in Egyptian inversions of everyday life, and in the context of cultic competition. In Egyptian Stories: A British Egyptological Tribute to Alan B. Lloyd, ed. Thomas Schneider and Kasia Szpakowska. Alter Orient und Altes Testament Series. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, pp. 197-224.


   2007b     On the ownership of the Saqqara mastabas and the allotment of political and ideological power at the dawn of the state. In The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt: Essays in Honor of David B. O’Connor, vol. II, ed. Zahi Hawass and Janet Richards. Cairo: Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, pp. 171-190.


   2007c     Sacrifice for the state: royal funerals and the rites at Macramallah’s Rectangle. In Performing Death. Social Analyses of Ancient Funerary Traditions in the Mediterranean, ed. Nicola Laneri. Chicago: Oriental Institute, pp. 15-37.


   2006a     Lo, nobles lament, the poor rejoice. State formation in the wake of social flux. In After Collapse: The Regeneration of Complex Societies, ed. Glenn Schwartz and John Nichols. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, pp. 58-71.


   2006b     Bowing and scraping in the Ancient Near East: an investigation into obsequiousness in the Amarna Letters. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 65: 179-195.

In The News

Barnard’s expert Egyptologist — Professor Ellen Morris ’91 — steps back in time with her new book on famines to illustrate the impact of societal memory on avoiding modern-day catastrophes.

July 10, 2023