Macquarie University
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Behind every great man: the position of women as expressed through tomb design in Middle Kingdom, Middle Egypt

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posted on 2022-03-28, 23:58 authored by Heather Johnston
The purpose of this research is to analyse how women are incorporated into the decoration of Middle Kingdom tombs, and how this reflects their broader role in society. This has been done by focusing on the main elements of design within the tombs, at the neighbouring necropolises of Meir, Deir el-Bersha and Beni Hassan. Through analysis of the text, art and architectural features it is demonstrated that the representation of women in tombs was tied to that of the tomb owner, who were typically their husbands, fathers or sons. With few exceptions noble women have little independent representation within the broader decorative program; and women across the board only accounted for approximately 10% of human figures. Likewise women have a limited presence within the cultic focus of the tomb during the Middle Kingdom, namely on the false door or within the shrine. This is paralleled with developments in female titles during this period. Ultimately however, the design of the tomb reinforced the patriarchal social hierarchy. Although upper Egypt has some of the most extensive and well-preserved necropolises from the Middle Kingdom period, there has been limited research into the elite women of these sites; with only cursory investigations into their lives. More research is needed to fully understand how women were incorporated into tomb design.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Artistic depictions -- Chapter 3. Textual references -- Chapter 4. Architecture -- Capter 5. Discussion and conclusion -- Bibliography -- Appendix.


Bibliography: pages 52-58 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Naguib Kanawati


Copyright Heather Johnston 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




Equatorial Guinea


1 online resource (65 pages) black and white illustrations

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