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Photo of Dr Ellena Lyell

Dr Ellena Lyell

Honorary Research Fellow

I studied Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham (2013-2016), where I also completed my AHRC-funded MRes (2017) and PhD (2020) in Hebrew Bible. I then joined Exeter's Department of Theology and Religion in 2021 on a fixed-term teaching contract.

My research sits at the intersection of biblical studies, classics, anthropology, and ancient Near Eastern studies. My doctoral research analysed the material, cultural, and theological significance of colour in Homeric epic, Herodotus’ Histories and the Hebrew Bible. By comparing the categorisation and perception of colour, I demonstrate that ancient-world constructs of colour not only reflect culturally-specific values, but also index the material and theological worldviews of ancient societies. In doing so, I challenge the dominant scholarly tendency to examine colour in the Hebrew Bible from a universal point of view, rather than relative to particular social and cultural themes. Some of these findings are forthcoming in my monograph, The Material and Cultural Understanding of Colour in the Hebrew Bible (under review, Brill), whilst other insights have been incoroporated into an article currently under review with Journal of Biblical Literature and an essay relating to this project has been published with the Scandinavian Journal of Theological StudiesI am also the editor of a volume, Colour and Culture: Polychromy and Perception in the Hebrew Bible (under contract, Bloomsbury T&T Clark), which will include contributions on the significance of colour as a literary device in biblical, ancient Greek, Egyptian and Mesopotamian literature.

My work on colour has led to further research on adornment and clothing. Two articles arising from this research (Vetus TestamentumHebrew Studies) and an invited essay contribution (Dress and Hermeneutics and the Hebrew Bible: Let Your Garments Always Be Bright, Bloomsbury T&T Clark). I was also invited to contribute to a special journal issue for Hebrew Studies on the Queen of Sheba (in press), where the Queen's anonymity led to an interest in "unnamed" figures in the biblical world and thus, a proposal of a special volume in the Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, which I am currently co-editing. 

My new major research project focuses on precious metals in the Hebrew Bible, looking specifically at the often-overlooked theological value of gold, silver and bronze in temple, royal and cultic contexts. I am also currently researching Daniel, the Red Sea, light and dark, and food and drink.

Outside of academia, I have a big Bernese Mountain Dog called Gwyn who I adore, and I also captain my local women's football team. 

Twitter: @ellenaclyell