Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom: The Archaeology of Female Burials

Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom: The Archaeology of Female Burials

Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom: The Archaeology of Female Burials

Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom: The Archaeology of Female Burials

Synopsis

During the late Middle Kingdom (about 1850-1700 B.C.E.), ancient Egyptian women of high standing were interred with lavish ornamentation and carefully gathered possessions. Buried near the pyramids of kings, women with royal connections or great wealth and status were surrounded by fine pottery and vessels for sacred oils, bedecked with gold and precious stones, and honored with royal insignia and marks of Osiris. Their funerary possessions include jewelry imported from other ancient lands and gold-handled daggers and claspless jewelry made only to be worn in the tomb.

Extensively illustrated with archival images and the author's own drawings, Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom describes and compares the opulent tombs of eminent and royal women. In addition to the ornaments, many of which are considered masterpieces of Middle Kingdom craft, Egyptologist Wolfram Grajetzki examines the numerous grave goods, artifacts of daily life, and markers of social status that were also placed in tombs, presenting a more complete picture of funerary customs in this period. By considering celebrated examples of female burials together for the first time, Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom sheds new light on the role and status of women in the royal court and explores how the gendered identity of those women was preserved in the grave.

Excerpt

The late Middle Kingdom in ancient Egypt, c. 1850 to 1700 BCE, is exceptionally rich in undisturbed burials of women. These tombs are often lavishly equipped with jewelry of the highest quality. Much of this jewelry has been regularly depicted in books on ancient Egypt. The burials are not often discussed as a whole, however; the other object types found in them are frequently barely mentioned. In this book my aim is to fill this gap. In the first part I provide a description and synthesis of the latest research on several of the most important late Middle Kingdom burials belonging to women. In the second part I give an overall view of late Middle Kingdom burial customs, again with the main focus on burials of women. An advantage of studying female burials is that in them certain trends in burial customs are particularly visible, such as concentration on the social identity of the tomb owner and “Osirification” (discussed in Chapter 4) in the “court type burials.” The technology of jewelry production, already covered by several other expert studies, is not the subject of the book.

Studies of ancient Egyptian burial customs often concentrate on inscribed objects of the funerary industry. These include coffins, canopic jars, shabti figures, funerary papyri, and amulets. Especially from the Ramesside Period onward, these are certainly the most important items placed in the burial chambers, next to or on the deceased. Looking at the whole of Egyptian history and across all social classes, however, the picture is different. A wide range of uninscribed objects was placed in the tomb, including many items that had already been used in daily life, such as pottery vessels, cosmetic items, tools, and jewelry. Taken together, these latter . . .

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