Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford

By Gary N. Knoppers; Antoine Hirsch | Go to book overview

EGYPT'S OLD KINGDOM 'EMPIRE' (?): A CASE STUDY
FOCUSING ON SOUTH SINAI1

Sarah Parcak

Diverse disciplines have debated the exact nature and even the existence of “empires” in various ancient and modem cultures, while Egyptologists have applied such theoretical discourse primarily to the Middle and New Kingdoms.2 However, an assessment of whemer Egypt's Old Kingdom had an empire has received insufficient consideration given Egypt's Old Kingdom territorial and economic expansion beyond its cultural boundaries to Nubia, the Western Oases, Eastern Desert, and Sinai. Although case studies will be drawn from other regions and periods, Egypt's exploitation of South Sinai in the Old Kingdom provides a particularly good example for this study. For instance, Wadi Maghara in South Sinai has rock texts and depictions showing several Old Kingdom pharaohs smiting the local Mentju, reflecting the presence of state-sponsored mining expeditions accompanied by military forces in a non-Egyptian locality inhabited by foreign semi-nomadic populations. The economic and military expressions of Egypt's Old Kingdom empire are conceptualized and portrayed in royal iconography and sculpture as Pharaoh's domination of foreign lands. This translated into reality through Egypt's military expeditions to populated adjacent, foreign regions, in Sinai and elsewhere, to retrieve various economic resources, such as metals, minerals, stone, lumber, crops, livestock, finished products and captives. The assimilation of modem imperial studies into Egyptological theoretical frameworks for imperialism, and the supporting evidence from the contemporary

1 I would like to thank Professor Redford for all of his encouragement, and
especially for giving me my first opportunity to excavate in Egypt at Mendes. This
paper is an expanded version of a talk given at the American Research Center in
Egypt's annual meeting in Berkeley, California, April 28th-30th, 2000. I should like
to thank Gregory Mumford and Larry Paviish and for their comments and editorial
suggestions, and Harvey Weiss for his initial suggestion of this research topic. Any
errors contained within this text are purely my own.

2 There are a number of papers that have dealt with the study of empire and
imperialism in ancient Egypt (e.g., Kemp 1978, 1997; Frandsen 1979; Redford 1981;
Weinstein 1981; Murnane 1983; Adams 1984; S. T. Smith 1991; 1993; 1995; 1997;
Morkot 2001).

-41-

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