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Non-elite mortuary variability in the Early Dynastic Memphis region



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Janulíková, Barbora 


No settlement remains at Early Dynastic Memphis, the first ‘capital’ of the newly emerging Egyptian state, have yet been located. This study draws together exclusive evidence from three well-known non-elite Memphite cemeteries Saqqara-Serapeum, Turah and the recently excavated site of Helwan (all dating from 3200 to 2700 BC) to explore the society of this early urban centre through its funerary remains. The study engages in statistical analyses of cemetery data comparing grave parameters such as volume, quantity of grave goods, their materials and pottery vessel types, but also architecture, body protection, skeletal sex and the age of the deceased across sites. The application of statistical hypothesis testing techniques forms a methodological cornerstone highlighting some pitfalls of mortuary analyses rooted in Processual theoretical frameworks. As a result, a nuanced funerary culture with a significant degree of mortuary variability was revealed at each of the sites investigated. Non-elite funerary provision at Memphis was influenced by a complex web of factors such as economic potential, relationships to local elites, communal and personal identities, choice, and practicality. While mortuary differentiation by sex could not be proven statistically, evidence emerged for significant age differentiation in the funerary provision. The four communities investigated are distinct and each represent a different population within the Memphite region ranging from a main necropolis (Helwan) to a cemetery of a secondary or tertiary local centre (Turah). The smallscale regionality observed at Memphis should serve as a springboard for future research on Early Dynastic Egypt. Finally, the study has highlighted the research potential of statistical analyses to extract vital information from old data, alongside the importance of hypothesis testing in the evaluation of such analyses.





Spence, Kate
Köhler, E. Christiana


Egyptian Archaeology, Mortuary analysis, Statistical methods, Early Dynastic, Memphis, Cemetery studies


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge