Visual and Written Culture in Ancient Egypt

Visual and Written Culture in Ancient Egypt

Visual and Written Culture in Ancient Egypt

Visual and Written Culture in Ancient Egypt


A generously illustrated selection of John Baines's influential writings on two core areas of ancient Egyptian civilization: the role of writing, which was very different in antiquity from what is familiar in the modern world, and the importance of visual culture. These questions are explored through a number of case studies. The volume assembles articles that were scattered in publications in a variety of disciplines, making available key contributions on core problems of theory, comparison, and analysis in the study of many civilizations and offering important points of departure for further research. Three wholly new essays are included, and the overall approach is an interdisciplinary one, synthesizing insights from archaeology, anthropology, and art history as well as Egyptology.


This volume collects related studies that I have published over many years, together with three hitherto unpublished or partly published pieces. The newly composed introductory essay is intended to supply an overall theoretical and comparative context, draw together threads, and point toward future questions.

Although I am an Egyptologist, only two of the essays included here first appeared in publications addressed to Egyptologists. As a whole they were written for interested readers and colleagues in various related subject areas, including Egyptology, which in this perspective has the character of a representative of area studies rather than of an autonomous discipline. The essays were thus composed in order to address at least two types of non-specialist: non-Egyptologists who have a cross-cultural interest in one or other of the issues and phenomena that I study; and Egyptologists who wish to explore broader theoretical and interpretive frameworks in relation to their interests within Egyptology.

I have assembled these studies for two main reasons. First, colleagues within and outside Egyptology have remarked that it is difficult to find such widely scattered but related publications and have encouraged me to bring my work together. Second, I have increasingly perceived connections among topics on which I have published and have concluded that an intellectual gain should result from gathering them in a single publication. I shall not have the opportunity to rework this material into a full synthesis. Such an exercise would in any case be rather artificial, because I addressed the subjects singly, not as part of an overall design even when they were quite closely related. It is therefore appropriate to present the articles more or less as they were first published and to allow readers to make any connections they wish among them, with the introductory essay (Prologue, Ch. 1) and the introductory note to the third part (Ch. 8) serving as linking elements. I also give quite numerous cross-references between chapters. I have not removed duplications between the chapters, because to do so would have compromised their integrity as arguments.

Most of the republished articles are presented with only minor changes. Details of the original publication are given in a note at the start of each. The existing titles are retained for consistency, even though the words 'ancient Egypt' are dispensable here. By keeping close to the previous versions, I hope to remove the need to search them out. The order of Chapters 2–7 and 8–14 . . .

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