Did You Sleep Well? – The Body, the Senses and the Ancient Egyptian Headrest

Author(s): Katharina Zinn

Year: 2018


This paper explores the possibility to extract information about sensory experiences inherent in the material culture of ancient Egypt which are often overlooked due to the difficulty to track them in the material. By implementing new intellectual frameworks like New Materialism and the consequent application of methodologies from archaeology and anthropology we gain insight in the actions of ancient bodies.

Taking inspiration from Latour’s actants (2005), Barad’s agential realism (2007) and Bennett’s thing power (2010) – relating the potential of agency to materials and objects in human lives – the study discusses the physical relationship of material objects and the human body. With the additional help of experimental and experiential archaeology as well the focus on hitherto neglected objects we not only can bring the objects but also senses in the past to life.

This is explored using unpublished headrests from Cyfarthfa Castle Museum by looking on the intersection of bodies with the material that also could be interpreted as inter-material communication. Impressions of fabric on their wooden surface are presumably the imprint of bedding intended to ensure comfortable sleep telling us about the sensual experience using these artefacts. The contact between skin and rough wood needed to be alleviated.

Cite this Record

Did You Sleep Well? – The Body, the Senses and the Ancient Egyptian Headrest. Katharina Zinn. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 445235)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: 24.961; min lat: 22.065 ; max long: 35.332; max lat: 31.616 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21960