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Art, Art History and Film

Diana McDonald

fine arts department

Diana McDonald

Part-time Faculty, Ancient Art

Ph.D., Columbia University
Dissertation: Serpent Imagery on Ancient Near Eastern Pottery
BA, Fine Arts, Harvard University

Devlin Hall 423
Phone: 617-552-8590

Fields of Interest

Diana McDonald specializes in the art of the ancient world. She has two primary geographic fields: the art and archaeology of the Ancient Near East, and that of Ancient America—the Pre-Columbian world. She specializes in animal iconography and aspects of evolution that help explain the origin of art and symbolic images.

Her recent work focuses on interrelationships between ancient societies and their artworks, feline (lion jaguar, puma) symbolism, animals associated with ancient deities, and the history of the horse and its role in ancient art. Dr. McDonald has written and lectured extensively around the world in these fields, and about the looting of museums and archaeological sites.


Diana McDonald teaches FA 207: The Ruins of Ancient America, and FA 208: Way Before Columbus. She has also taught FA211: Art of the Ancient Mediterranean. Dr. McDonald has been teaching at Boston College since 1997, and also lectures frequently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including semester-long courses on Egypt, Nubia, the Ancient Near East, and Ancient American Art. In addition, she has taught at Columbia University and given guest lectures in numerous museums and venues. She will be featured at ProfTalks in Toronto, Canada, in 2014.


In 2013 The Great Courses released Dr. McDonald's 36-lecture DVD series on "Masterpieces of Ancient Art." Dr. McDonald also lectured in South America, rounding Cape Horn, for Insight Cruises and The Great Courses cruise, giving a series of lectures on the subject of Andean Aesthetics and ancient art. In 2011 she advised on and lectured in the Symposium for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts exhibition Aphrodite and the Gods of Love, writing the first chapter for the exhibition catalogue. Dr. McDonald worked as an independent curator for the Michal C. Carlos Museum's proposed exhibition on horses in the Ancient World. In addition, she has worked at the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta (as a Henry Luce Scholar); the Ministry of Culture, Warsaw, Poland; and as a curator for the Arthur M. Sackler Collections in New York. In 2005 she led a tour and taught a course—Art and Culture of Brazil—for students at the Massachusetts College of Art, traveling through Brazil's major cities, highlighting their architecture and art. She is on the Visiting Committee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Department of Ancient Art; the Collections Committee of the Harvard Art Museums; and the Advisory Board of Zoo New England.

Awards and Fellowships

Henry Luce Scholar; Fulbright Scholar (declined in favor of Luce); Presidential Scholar, Columbia University; Visiting Scholar, Harvard University.

Representative Publications

30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World

30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World. A 36-lecture DVD series and guidebook. (Chantilly, VA: The Great Courses, 2013).

Aphrodite and the Gods of Love

"Aphrodite's Ancestors: Ancient Near Eastern Goddesses of Love," in Museum of Fine Arts exhibition catalogue Aphrodite and the Gods of Love (2011). Exhibition held 2011-2012 at MFA Boston and Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades, CA.

Review for American Journal of Archaeology, vol.116, no 1( January 2012) of Assyrian Reliefs from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, Ada Cohen and Steven Kangas, ed. (University Press of New England, 2010).

The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad

The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, Milbry Polk and Angela Schuster, ed. (New York: Harry Abrams, 2005). Contributed nine essays.

"The Serpent as Healer: Theriac and Ancient Near Eastern Pottery," in Source: Notes in the History of Art, vol XIII, no. 4, (Summer 1994).

Crosscurrents: The Art of the Ancient Mediterranean (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts Department of Education, 1994).

Ancient Iranian Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1987). Preface for exhibition booklet.


Curator, Ancient Iranian Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, 1987-88).

Art of the Andes: Pre-Columbian Sculptured and Painted Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Memphis, 1986).

Art of Costa Rica: Pre-Columbian Painted and Sculpted Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Edinburgh, 1985; Duke University, 1985-86; Cedar Rapids, 1986).

Animals, Monsters and Demons in the Ancient Near East (Morgan Library, NY, 1983).