UCSB history professor Anthony Barbieri-Low was recently awarded a $238,700 grant called the Mellon New Directions Fellowship by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The fellowship funds will be directed toward advancing his studies in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and archaeology.

The foundation is a not-for-profit New York corporation that offers grants in five main program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship; Scholarly Communications and Information Technology; Art History, Conservation and Museums; Performing Arts; and Conservation and the Environment.

Although his research specializes in early Imperial China, Barbieri-Low said he has always maintained an enthusiasm for ancient Egypt and its mysteries, and while he did not get the chance to specialize in Egyptology during his education, the Mellon New Directions Fellowship opens doors for him to pursue this passion.

“When I was choosing a specialization for graduate school, I chose ancient China over ancient Egypt for both personal and professional reasons, but I always wished I had the time to study Egyptology in a more formal fashion,” Barbieri-Low said. “Now I have that opportunity.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was founded by Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, the children of banker, art collector and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon. Over time, the foundation has amassed funds totaling to around $5 billion and now offers annual grants that amount to about $199.5 million.

Fellowships are awarded to intellectual leaders in various fields of interest known for their engagement in the foundation’s proposed ideas for new studies, according to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website. Barbieri-Low is the first UCSB scholar to receive the Mellon Fellowship and is one of a dozen scholars to receive grants from the foundation this year.
First-year pre-communication major Laura Montalto said she felt challenged and inspired by professor Barbieri-Low’s instruction and course.

“You hear about professors that are enlightening and delve into their profession wholeheartedly with a passion for learning and teaching, and that’s what I got from professor Barbieri-Low,” Montalto said. “He is an exceptional educator and I feel that he fully deserves recognition for that accomplishment. Congratulations to him.”

The Mellon New Directions Fellowship will begin as a year of studying at UCLA with the top archaeology and hieroglyphics experts, where Barbieri-Low will have the opportunity to learn Middle Egyptian, the language that comes out of hieroglyphs. Barbieri-Low, who is fluent in Chinese, will be the only scholar working on the project that can read and compare both ancient Chinese and Egyptian texts.

The last two years of the fellowship will be spent comparing the civilizations of 1200 B.C. Egypt and 200 B.C. China, when the empires experienced the evolution of bureaucracy, according to Barbieri-Low. He will be working on studying the similarities between the two civilizations in terms of artifacts, archaeology and language, as well as comparing and contrasting the written manuscripts of the time.

After his three-year study is over, Barbieri-Low said he hopes to create a new course at UCSB that deals with ancient Chinese oracle-bone script, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Mesopotamian cuneiform.

“I feel extremely lucky,” Barbieri-Low said. “This is a generous fellowship and will allow me to dedicate all my time and energy to this new study.”