Foreign Objects in Local Contexts: Mortuary Objectscapes in Late Colonial Nubia (16th–11th Centuries BC)
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
MetadataShow full item record
Lemos, R. (2020). Foreign Objects in Local Contexts: Mortuary Objectscapes in Late Colonial Nubia (16th–11th Centuries BC) (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.71911
From the 16th to 11th Century BC (in this thesis referred to as the Late Colonial Period), the ancient Egyptians colonised Nubia—the geographical area which today comprises Egypt south of Aswan and the north of Sudan as far as the 5th Nile cataract. In the Late Colonial Period, the material culture from various Nubian sites started to follow foreign, Egyptian standards. Colonial towns housing temples dedicated to Egyptian deities and pharaohs were founded, and large cemeteries developed in association with those places. Their material culture consisted, overall, of Egyptian-style objects, including imports and local versions of these objects—e.g. various pottery types, coffins, masks, shabtis, heart scarabs, jewellery items, cosmetic utensils, tools, weapons, and seals etc. Scholars have traditionally interpreted the substitution of Nubian material culture for Egyptian-style objects, especially in cemeteries, as an expression of the acculturation or Egyptianisation of local populations. Today, Late Colonial Nubia is under renewed scholarly scrutiny, with alternative theoretical frameworks (such as cultural entanglements) guiding new excavations at various areas in Sudan. Such approaches emphasise Nubian agency in contexts of cultural interaction, which resulted in ‘entangled’ cultural phenomena and material culture. This thesis follows a different path; it emphasises the social role of foreign objects in the constitution of local social relations. Based on extensive data sets comprising thousands of objects from dozens of sites in Late Colonial Nubia, either previously published or analysed by the author in museums, this thesis aims to answer the following questions: (1) What does the overall spread of Egyptian-style material culture across Nubia mean? (2) Were the standardising/global Egyptian-style sets of material culture adopted equally by different groups in various regions within Nubia in the Late Colonial Period? (3) If standardising objects were not adopted equally by people across Late Colonial Nubia, what kinds of social relations did they perform, and what kind of society did they help to shape? These questions will be tackled in a twofold manner. Firstly, this thesis focuses on an analysis of how particular categories of foreign objects spread across different Nubian sites. Distinctive frequencies and combinations of foreign objects in local contexts reveal a socially diverse Nubia. Secondly, in order to unveil the social relations behind discontinuous distributions of the same foreign objects, each subsequent chapter includes a case study on a specific category of object. Contextual analysis reveals that the same categories of foreign objects could perform quite different tasks locally, according to the social context in which they were inserted; e.g., elite versus non-elite contexts; groups with access to local production and distribution centres versus groups limited to recycling daily life objects in burials etc. As a general reassessment of the material culture of Late Colonial Nubia, this thesis argues that foreign objects performed local tasks in Nubia, at the same time they affected social relations by materialising colonisation in local contexts. Far from materialising the adoption of Egyptian cultural practices, or representing the mixing of ‘Nubian’ and ‘Egyptian’ patterns, the present thesis reveals the existence of various ‘Nubias’, each with its own set of complex social relations of power, hierarchies and strategies for negotiating identities based on people’s ability to consume foreign objects and their ways of handling them.
Ancient Egypt, Ancient Nubia, Archaeology of Colonialism
Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust. Additional grants were provided by the Thomas Mulvey Fund, the H.M. Chadwick Fund and Emmanuel College.
Embargo Lift Date
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.71911
All rights reserved