Monday, February 18, 2019

Recent Egyptological Dissertations from. the University of Cambridge

Recent Egyptological Dissertations from the University of Cambridge

Lourenço Gonçalves, P. M. (2019). Landscape and environmental changes at Memphis during the dynastic period in Egypt (Doctoral thesis).
Memphis is considered to have been the main metropolis of dynastic Egypt. For more than 3000 years the settlement played a primary role in political, economic and cultural life of the state, functioning as capital for long periods. Nonetheless, little is known about the setting and archaeology of the city itself, even when compared to other Egyptian settlements. This work investigates the context and archaeology of Memphis, recognising distinctive development phases, and examines potential reasons for historical changes. Sedimentary records of 77 boreholes taken in the area of Mit Rahina are analysed to detect palaeoenvironmental conditions and palaeo-landscape features. Their interpretation is sustained by a multidisciplinary approach drawing together prior archaeological, historical and geomorphological studies. A model reflecting the transformations of Memphis is formulated and multi-scale landscape and environmental changes in the Memphite region over the last 5000 years are established. According to this new model, a settlement was founded during the Early Dynastic Period on a complex of sandbanks which were separated and surrounded by three branches of the Nile. After its foundation and during the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom, the city grew on the western cluster of sandbanks while the West Channel was losing flow. During the First Intermediate Period and the beginning of the Middle Kingdom extreme floods significantly affected the settlement. It recovered during the Middle Kingdom when large-scale landscape management initiatives and strong interventions on the margins of the Central Channel were undertaken. By the New Kingdom, the Middle Birka was already dry land, mainly as a result of human intervention. The East Channel became the only active branch of the Nile serving the city and the Eastern Koms were intensively settled. In the Late Period the city had expanded to the Northern Koms and the North Birka silted up. During the Ptolemaic Period, the city reached its maximum extension, despite important changes in its status and social-economic background. Subsequently, the importance of the city declined with the end of the dynastic state, while the East Channel started to migrate slowly eastward. The city decayed and was abandoned after a few centuries. Some landscape and environmental changes are positively associated both with urban mutation and with different social, economic and political phases of Memphis’ history. Human interventions actively induced the evolution of both landscape and local environment. Events at the supra-regional level, both natural and especially anthropic, also had impact and are linked to changes at Memphis. Conversely, contingencies restricted to the Memphite region influenced the development of the state. Local situations at Memphis—e.g., crisis, disaster, conflict, prosperity, or affluence—could be magnified to the extent that they have been perceived as having affected the state as a whole. The foundation and development of Memphis were tightly interconnected with the fortunes of state and power. The city embodied the cultural and political identity of the state and maintained its prominence through dynastic Egyptian history. Triangular complex cause–effect relations between local changes in Memphis, historical change in Egypt, and climatic and environmental evolution both at regional and supra-regional scales are recognised. The significance of each varied with time, determining the evolution of Memphis and also of dynastic Egypt.
Janulíková, B. (2018). Non-elite mortuary variability in the Early Dynastic Memphis region (Doctoral thesis).
No settlement remains at Early Dynastic Memphis, the first ‘capital’ of the newly emerging Egyptian state, have yet been located. This study draws together exclusive evidence from three well-known non-elite Memphite cemeteries Saqqara-Serapeum, Turah and the recently excavated site of Helwan (all dating from 3200 to 2700 BC) to explore the society of this early urban centre through its funerary remains. The study engages in statistical analyses of cemetery data comparing grave parameters such as volume, quantity of grave goods, their materials and pottery vessel types, but also architecture, body protection, skeletal sex and the age of the deceased across sites. The application of statistical hypothesis testing techniques forms a methodological cornerstone highlighting some pitfalls of mortuary analyses rooted in Processual theoretical frameworks. As a result, a nuanced funerary culture with a significant degree of mortuary variability was revealed at each of the sites investigated. Non-elite funerary provision at Memphis was influenced by a complex web of factors such as economic potential, relationships to local elites, communal and personal identities, choice, and practicality. While mortuary differentiation by sex could not be proven statistically, evidence emerged for significant age differentiation in the funerary provision. The four communities investigated are distinct and each represent a different population within the Memphite region ranging from a main necropolis (Helwan) to a cemetery of a secondary or tertiary local centre (Turah). The smallscale regionality observed at Memphis should serve as a springboard for future research on Early Dynastic Egypt. Finally, the study has highlighted the research potential of statistical analyses to extract vital information from old data, alongside the importance of hypothesis testing in the evaluation of such analyses.
Strong, M. (2018). Illuminating the path of darkness: social and sacred power of artificial light in Pharaonic Period Egypt (Doctoral thesis).
Light is seldom addressed in archaeological research, despite the fact that, at least in ancient Egypt, it would have impacted upon all aspects of life. When discussing light in Egyptology, the vast majority of scholarly attention is placed on the sun, the primary source of illumination. In comparison, artificial light receives very little attention, primarily due to a lack of archaeological evidence for lighting equipment prior to the 7th century BC. However, 19th and 20th century lychnological studies have exaggerated this point by placing an overwhelming emphasis on decorated lamps from the Greco-Roman Period. In an attempt to move beyond these antiquarian roots, recent scholarship has turned towards examining the role that light, both natural and artificial, played in aspects of ancient societies’ architecture, ideology and religion. The extensive body of archaeological, textual and iconographic evidence that remains from ancient Egypt is well suited to this type of study and forms three core data sets in this thesis. Combining a materials-based examination of artificial light with a contextualized, theoretical analysis contributes to a richer understanding of ancient Egyptian culture from the 3rd to 1st millennium BC. The first three chapters of this study establish a typology of known artificial lighting equipment, as well as a lexicon of lighting terminology. A comparison of the archaeological and textual evidence allows for a discussion on the consumption of lighting in ancient Egypt and its impact on social and economic spheres. From this material it becomes apparent that artificial light was a luxury and this corresponds to its inclusion in religious texts and iconography, as well as the presence of lighting implements in tombs of the wealthy elite. The second half of the thesis examines the ritual application of artificial light, incorporating iconographic and textual evidence, consideration of ritual space and timing, and experimental archaeology. This interdisciplinary approach allows for a discussion of the sensory experience of artificial lighting and its perceived potency in ancient Egypt. It also demonstrates the contribution that Egyptology can make to lychnological and sensory studies of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean by examining the impact of light on phenomenology and aesthetics.
Hinson, B. S. P. (2018). Coming of Age or an Age of Becoming? The Role of Childhood in Identity Formation at Deir el-Medina, New Kingdom Egypt (Doctoral thesis).
This thesis explores the role of childhood in identity formation. The concept that childhood contributes to an individual’s identity—how a person becomes who they are, and how childhood influences this—is universally relevant. However, whilst the influence of childhood is universal, exactly what ‘childhood’ means is not. Because the existence of children is a common thread linking all societies, it is unsurprising that every society has a different conception of what ‘childhood’ means, which members were considered children, and the freedoms, restrictions or expectations placed on those at this stage of life. The discussion here is framed within the context of ancient Egypt—specifically, the site of Deir el-Medina—but its approach is also relevant to those studying childhood in other areas. Today, identity is considered equivalent to how we define and understand ourselves, influenced by our personal experiences. However, these experiences are themselves informed by how society defines and groups us, based on factors such as gender, ethnicity or religion. Identity therefore involves two inter-linked components: how society defines the individual, and how individuals define themselves. In exploring the role of childhood in identity formation, the aim of this thesis is to consider both components as they relate to children. The first reflects how society at Deir el-Medina constructed and conceptualised ‘childhood’, informing how children were treated, their scope for social participation, and the relationships they engaged in. The second reflects how children as individuals lived within these social structures, and how such personal experiences contributed to a sense of self. Only by considering both elements can a holistic picture be formed.
 Ownby, M. (2010). Canaanite jars from Memphis as evidence for trade and political relationships in the Middle Bronze Age (Doctoral thesis).
Trade between two regions often necessitates that the respective parties are political entities. This was indeed the case for trade between Egypt and the Levant during the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000-1550 BC, MBA) and Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550-1200 BC, LBA). Scientific analyses of Canaanite jars, transport vessels, from the site of Memphis, Egypt provided an ideal proxy for examining the relationship between trade and politics. During the MBA, Levantine peoples were present at the site of Tell el-Dabca in the eastern Nile Delta. However, archaeologically there is little evidence for contact between these peoples and the Egyptians at Memphis. Results of comparison of MBA Canaanite jars from both sites suggest the political situation fostered trade with the Levant and limited interaction with the Egyptians. During the LBA, Egyptian kings controlled territory in the Levant. A comparison of MBA and LBA Canaanite jars from Memphis revealed that the political changes in some cases affected the trade partners but not in others. Further, the production of the jars appeared to have altered in some regions. These results suggest that the affect of political situations on trade can vary, from only minor changes, to the complete exclusion of trade partners and the introduction of new trade contacts. However, the influence of lucrative trade networks on political developments was also illustrated. The utility of provenance studies of ceramics for understanding the complex relationship between trade and politics was confirmed.

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