Universiteit Leiden

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Spatial patterns of tomb location and court society in fifth dynasty Egypt

  • Massimiliano Nuzzolo
Wednesday 8 June 2016
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Massimiliano Nuzzolo (IFAO, Czech Institute of Egyptology) will give a lecture about his research on the topography of Old Kingdom elite tombs at Saqqara, Giza and Abusir during the 5th dynasty.

In light of the centrality of the funerary dimension in Ancient Egypt, the tomb has always represented a key element in the understanding of the cultural and social values of the Egyptian society, and the role of the individual in both the society and the afterlife. Tombs have been thus approached from a textual and visual perspective, by investigating their artistic facets, their architectural layout, and even the funerary equipment with which they were furnished.

However, a weak point of tomb analysis, particularly as far as the Old Kingdom is concerned, is the study of tombs topography. In fact, no complete examination of the placement of the Old Kingdom tombs in their respective necropolis has been attempted, if we exclude the area of Giza, which has been the subject of many studies. The tomb placement seems to be, instead, a fundamental aspect in the Egyptian culture, as evidenced, for example, by the striking differences in the planning of the three main cemeteries of the Memphite necropolis in the Third Millennium BC, i.e. Saqqara, Abusir and Giza. In addition, very few studies have been done on the placement of the tombs in a precise and limited time span.

This lecture will thus address the issue of the formation of court society in Egypt from a different perspective, that is through spatial analysis of the above three cemeteries during the fifth dynasty. By combining analysis of the natural environment with landscape phenomenology (visibility, accessibility, position, interrelation) and the current Egyptological discussion on tomb architecture and decoration, the conference will move to the main methodological and theoretical question:

Can spatial patterns of Old Kingdom elite tombs reveal aspects of the nature of early court society in Egypt that are not accessible through the written and visual sources?

This lecture is organized by the Leiden Mastaba Study group

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