The Practices of Death: The Archaeology of Mortuary Ritual in Ancient Egypt and Sudan

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Excavations and surveys in Ancient Egypt and Sudan have provided archaeologists with a wealth of information about the practices surrounding death, unearthing not only the physical remains of the deceased and their grave goods, but also material related to mortuary ritual ranging from the written and visual to the environmental. This richness of material has fostered a long tradition in regional archaeology of focusing on conspicuous display as a direct reflection of deceased individuals. However, the social persona expressed through mortuary ritual may reflect less on the 'lived life' of the departed than it does the motivations of the survivors who organized the funerary rites and the negotiated relationship between the dead as ancestors and society as a whole. To that end, this symposium will present diverse levels of analysis, with papers drawing from primary mortuary material such as osteological evidence and material culture, and larger contexts such as texts, iconography, architecture and landscape. Questions posed will serve to elucidate the recursive relationship between society and its members as presented in the mortuary sphere. Addressing these issues in Egypt and Sudan comparatively promotes discussion of the complexity of ancient northeast Africa as a whole.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-13 of 13)

  • Documents (13)

  • The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead on Coffins: Ritual Protection and Justification of the Deceased. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rita Lucarelli.

    The collection of texts and illustrations known as the ancient Egyptian "Book of the Dead" was especially en vogue on papyrus from the beginning of the New Kingdom through the Graeco-Roman period. However, abridged versions of Book of the Dead texts and vignettes have also been widely used to decorate a number of other funerary and magical objects. Among others, the anthropoid coffins produced during the Third Intermediate Period and the 25th Dynasty present a few intriguing features in relation...

  • Death at Birth: Changing Mortuary Practices from the Late Ptolemaic to the Romano-Christian Period in Egypt (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sandra Wheeler. Lana Williams. Tosha Dupras.

    Human burials and mortuary practices are the result of cultural attitudes and ideological beliefs that have been selected and shaped by the living for the dead. These beliefs and concomitant mortuary practices have changed through time, thus the treatment, space, and place for the dead varies, particularly in the context of the very young. While it is likely that adults were given the opportunity to make decisions about their own place of burial, treatment of the body, or grave assemblage, in...

  • Death from Above: Using Remote Sensing Data to Examine Mortuary Landscapes along the Nile 4th Cataract (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christopher Sevara. Brenda Baker.

    The Bioarchaeology of Nubia Expedition project area stretches for over 30 kilometers along the right bank of the Nile in northern Sudan, from the modern village of Abu Tin at the top of the Great Bend west to the area across from Shemkhiya. Many of the numerous archaeological resources located within the concession have principal funerary components from multiple time periods, and their placement in the landscape with regard to specific topographic and environmental features is difficult to...

  • Death on the Middle Nile: Mortuary Traditions and Identity at the Top of the Great Bend (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brenda Baker.

    Our understanding of ancient Nubian mortuary traditions principally derives from monumental elite cemeteries such as Kerma, El-Kurru, and Meroe and the 1960s salvage excavations in Lower Nubia. More recent work in Upper Nubia, in northern Sudan, however, has revealed substantial regional variation. Assessment of habitation, rock art, and cemetery sites from the Mesolithic through Christian periods in the Bioarchaeology of Nubia Expedition (BONE) project area on the right (north) bank of the Nile...

  • Fragmented Bodies and Splintered Coffins: What can they tell us about Ancient Egyptian Mortuary Practices? (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Anne Austin.

    Intrusions into the burial chamber directly impact the mortuary assemblage, often erasing the purposeful placement of grave goods and destroying the peaceful preservation of the body. So what can these palimpsests of havoc actually tell us about original mortuary practices? In this talk, I answer this question through analysis of Theban Tomb 290, the ancient Egyptian tomb of Iry-Nefer. This tomb, studied in 2013-14 as part of the French Institute mission at Deir el-Medina, contains up to 70...

  • The Human Osteology of Tell El Hibeh: Preliminary Observationis (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Robert Yohe.

    , considerable data regarding the human remains, both from human skeletal remains and mummies has been garnered from controlled excavation of Byzantine (Coptic) burials and surface collections of disturbed graves dating to as early as the Third Intermediate Period. This paper summarizes those data and compare with similar osteometric information from other areas of Middle Egypt. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital...

  • Living on the Edge: Syncretism, Acculturation and the Meroitic Kingdom (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alicia Cunningham-Bryant.

    Although Greco-Roman Egypt has received more scholarly attention, the contemporaneous Meroitic civilization of Nubia deserves recognition as an important culture in the history of North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean world. Examination of the archaeological evidence from the Meroitic civilization of Sudan (ca. 400 B.C.E. to ca. 400 C.E.) presents the opportunity to further current understandings of evolving cultural interaction on the fringes of several distinct world powers (namely Egypt,...

  • Mortuary Practices Through Time at El Hibeh, Egypt (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carol Redmount.

    El Hibeh is an isolated urban site some three hours south of Cairo. The walled town was founded at the beginning of Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period, when it reached its greatest importance, and was occupied for approximately a millennia and a half--at least into Coptic/Early Islamic times. Hibeh was an important provincial town during Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period (early first millennium BCE) after which it lost much of its regional significance. The town mound is surrounded by burials cut...

  • Shaping Health: An Examination of Health, Social Identity and Burial Practices in the Egyptian Predynastic (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amanda Wissler.

    Patterns of disease manifestation in individuals and within a community reveal how health is affected by social and economic identity. Differences in wealth and social status can lead to disparities in diet, living conditions and healthcare. This interaction is explored using data from skeletal remains and grave architecture from the Predynastic Cemetery N7000 at Naga-ed-Der, located in Upper Egypt. In his Ph.D. dissertation, Stephen Savage (1995) organized individuals into six spatial clusters...

  • A Tale of Two Tombs: the relationship between Khonsu's funerary monument and that of Userhat (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Deanna Kiser-Go.

    Egypt is well known for its long-running funerary traditions, and one of the most fruitful avenues of research on the topic is the study of decorated tombs at the ancient site of Thebes (modern Luxor). The cemetery complex that served this large settlement and religious center during the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1070 BCE) contains thousands of graves. This paper examines two nearly contemporaneous tombs that although commissioned to hold the burials of different men, have a great deal in...

  • Variations on an Osirian Theme: Gendered Expressions of Identity in Osiris Funerary Shrouds from Roman Egypt (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lissette Jimenez.

    Throughout the Roman Period in Egypt, decorated shrouds with images of the god Osiris were used in mortuary rituals and wrapped around the mummified body of the deceased. Full-length painted images of the dead in the guise of Osiris, flanked by Egyptian funerary scenes, were effective modes of representation that reveal how gender was used to facilitate the transfiguration of the deceased and aid his or her journey in the afterlife. This paper examines gendered expressions of self-presentation...

  • Where's your Mummy? The Business of Mummification in Late and Roman Period Egypt (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jessica Kaiser.

    It is often said that the practice of mummification became a veritable business during the Late and Roman periods, when it was extended to include not only the elite, but also those on the lower end of the status scale. The increase in the number of bodies being embalmed led to the widespread adoption of more expeditious techniques, sometimes resulting in mummies that, though outwardly pleasing in appearance, concealed nothing but a jumbled mess of bones beneath their wrappings. The non-elite...

  • Who Wants to Live Forever? The Practice of Mass Human Sacrifice During Early State Formation in the Nubian Classic Kerma Period (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth Minor.

    As the ancient Nubian Classic Kerma kings undertook military campaigns into Egyptian territory (1700-1550 BCE), their mortuary practices grew to include mass inhumation of their subjects within their burial tumuli. The tumulus of the second Classic Kerma king (KX) contains over 300 human sacrifices and is the largest group found at the site. The sacrificed Kermans were arranged in the tumulus corridor alongside Egyptian statues taken as spoils of war, emphasizing the king’s control of internal...