Saturday, March 11, 2023

Walls of the Rulers: The Development of Monumental Enclosure Walls in Ancient Egypt Prior to the New Kingdom

This project investigates the emergence and development of monumental enclosure walls in ancient Egypt, drawing on a wealth of evidence from published excavation reports and new fieldwork conducted at the sites of Tell Edfu, Dendara, and Uronarti. Enclosure walls were defining features of ancient Egyptian communities: they divided sectors within settlements, delimited temples, administrative buildings, citadels, fortresses, mortuary monuments, or palaces, encompassed entire towns, and in rare instances restricted access across broader regions. This dissertation argues that ancient Egyptian monumental enclosure walls should be reconceptualized as an architectural tool through which Egyptian authorities attempted to exert control over the geographic and symbolic landscape. Their ubiquity, monumentality, and physicality readily facilitated their appropriation as a symbol of power, protection, and control by the Pharaonic state—walls figured prominently in metonyms for the traditional Egyptian capital at Memphis and even in the etymology of the word “Egypt”, to say nothing of their prominence in funerary spells and literary texts. The nature of the authorities demanding the construction of such walls might vary, whether embodied in the form of a royal decree from the Pharaoh himself, royal officials acting on behalf of the Pharaonic state, or more communal impulses towards defense in times of crisis and insecurity. Whatever defensive functions they might have, walls, inevitably, are political constructions: they divide the intramural from the extramural, reinforcing socially imposed or negotiated boundaries. Particularly in the case of mudbrick walls that require regular maintenance and refurbishing, such walls could only could continue to function with the support of local authorities, or else they would inevitably be replaced, erode, and collapse into obsolescence. Yet even in these cases, the memory of massive walling projects at times impacted much later settlement planning. The dissertation begins by outlining functional categories of enclosure walls and words in the Egyptian language used to describe walls and various constructions typically surrounded by an enclosure. The materiality of enclosure walls is then interrogated before the walls of Tell Edfu are discussed in greater detail as a more focused case study. Subsequent chapters detail how enclosure walls were built and how such labor might have been organized, the symbolic and political power of such constructions, and finally, the legacy of monumental enclosure walls within ancient Egyptian settlements. A site gazetteer is included as an appendix to aid future researchers.



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