Object Worlds in Ancient Egypt: Material Biographies Past and Present


Egypt looms large in the Western imagination. Whether it is our attraction to pharaonic art, the pyramids or practices of mummification, Egypt's unique understanding of materiality speaks to us across space and time. Is it because the ancient Egyptians fetishized material objects that we find their culture captivating today? And what exactly do Egyptian remains tell us about biography, embodiment, memory, materiality, and the self?Object Worlds in Ancient Egypt takes New Kingdom Egypt (1539-1070 BC) as its starting point and considers how excavated objects reveal the complex ways that ancient Egyptians experienced their material world. From life to death, the material world instantiated, reflected and influenced social life and existence for ancient Egyptians. Thus, in Meskell's unique approach to the materiality and sensuousness of subjects and objects, we uncover the philosophical, spiritual and human meanings embedded in these cultural artefacts. Meskell's book explores the fundamental existential questions that not only preoccupied ancient Egyptians, but continue to fascinate people today. What is the essence of persons and things? How might we understand the situated experiences of material life, the constitution of the object world and its shaping of human experience? How might objects successfully mediate between worlds? In the final analysis, Meskell moves forward through time and examines the consumption and appreciation of these Egyptian material objects in the contemporary world. Materiality is our physical engagement with the world, our medium for inserting ourselves into the fabric of that world and our way of constituting and shaping culture in an embodied and external sense. From that perspective it is very much the domain of anthropology and archaeology.Drawing on a wide range of objects, artefacts, and artwork, from Valley of the Kings through to Las Vegas, Meskell provides an elegant analysis of the aesthetics of ancient Egyptian material culture and insights into some of its more intriguing mysteries, including our ongoing fascination.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 2004