Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

'Keeping Enemies Closer:' Ascribed Material Agency in Ancient Egyptian Rock Inscriptions and the Projection of Presence and Power in Liminal Regions
by Brown, Marina Wilding, Ph.D., Yale University, 2015, 1367; 3663479
Abstract (Summary)

The liminal regions beyond the Nile valley, ideologically equated with regions of chaos and disorder, nevertheless played host to virtually continuous Egyptian activity spanning the Predynastic to the Greco-Roman period. Chief among the material sources available to researchers studying the ancient Egyptian use of and interaction with these liminal regions are the vast corpora of rock art and rock inscriptions that line the ancient Nilotic and desert routes. While many of the inscriptions record historical content – such as information on the goals of an expedition, the course of military campaigns, the composition of the army, or the relationship between individuals and their gods – the majority of inscriptions are seemingly simple markers of identity, 'mere' names and titles carved into the landscape. This dissertation contends that rock inscriptions are a material expression of the relationship between Egyptians and their environment and in this way the corpus has the potential to expand or supplement extant non-rock inscription corpora related to activities and site formation in liminal areas.

While rock inscription evidence forms an important supplemental source to many historical studies an emphasis on the content of the rock inscriptions often results in the neglect of the more laconic carvings. Diverging from content-focused analytical frameworks the present study proposes that the application of a structuralist-functionalist inspired framework has the potential to unlock additional information. Drawing on the theoretical underpinnings of phenomenology, material culture studies, and material agency studies this dissertation formulates a new theoretical framework that understands rock inscriptions as affective material agents of social construction that are ascribed the power to establish, maintain, and influence social networks between individuals, geopolitical entities, and the environment.

Four case studies, drawn from the corpus of rock inscriptions that lie between Elkab and Kurgus (the geographic jurisdiction of the Viceroy of Nubia during the New Kingdom), instrumentalize the theoretical framework: a dynasty XVI inscription from Elkab; the campaign inscriptions from the reigns of Kamose to Thutmose I, the rock inscriptions of Ahmose Turoi; and the viceregal inscriptions in the Egyptian Eastern Desert from the reign of Amenhotep III. These case studies first examine the interplay between the landscape, human actors, and the material agencies embodied in a rock inscription, and subsequently integrate the results of the analysis with the historical record. The dissertation concludes that the mechanical efficacy of rock inscription functionality lay it is ability to socialize the landscape by imposing a simulacrum of Egyptian order onto the landscape, establishing traditions of rock inscription production as the functionally parallel to predynastic and protodynastic rock art traditions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Manning, Joseph
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ancient languages, Cultural anthropology, Ancient history
Keywords: Agency, Deserts, Graffiti, Nubia, Rock inscriptions, Viceroy
Publication Number: 3663479
ISBN: 978-1-321-92965-2
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