Macquarie University
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Female engagement in domains of social power in Ancient Egypt's Dynasties 1-6: an interdisciplinary approach to women's titles

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posted on 2022-03-28, 18:33 authored by Susan Anne Kelly
Despite an exponential increase in women and gender studies in Egyptology over the last three decades, women's engagement in the socio-political-economic structure of the early Egyptian state remains underrepresented in modern scholarship. Historically, the State has often been investigated via hierarchical models of the male elite's autobiographical material, with prominence given to the study of official titles that act as barometers for the status and rank of the personnel. The dominant focus on male-centric state administration service has ignored women's participation in the State. This bias has resulted in an inadequate representation of women in both research and academic literature. The present research aims to address this imbalance by investigating records of female engagement in the early Egyptian state. This analysis was conducted on biographical details obtained primarily from women's titles from a cross-section of the society, from Dynasty 1 to 6 (c. 3000-2181 BCE). Using an interdisciplinary research methodology that combines textual evaluation and statistical analyses of 777 women's inscriptions, this dissertation engages with sociological theory to provide new interpretative models. The textual evaluation involved here deviates from a traditional title study in that female serekhs, cartouche and 129 titles are utilised to gauge the extent of women's engagement and social power in the State. Underpinning this theoretical approach is a refashioning of Michael Mann's theory of social power that defines resources as the medium through which power is exercised. In this research, social power is considered as the varying degrees of influence, prestige, rights and authority that is obtained through individual action and access to or control over symbolic, economic or productive resources of the State. Thus, by examining and classifying the women's titles based on the action and central area of responsibility, this study evaluates the different ways in which women had access to social power in the political, economic and ideological domains in early Egypt. The dissertation offers new perspectives and models validated by quantifiable data that demonstrates to want extent women had varying degrees of social power in the ancient Egyptian state. The current research also contributes an unparalleled database of 1400 women's details from the first six dynasties that can be utilised in future historiographic, comparative and gender studies to augment our knowledge about the early Egyptian state -- abstract.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Approach and methodology -- Chapter 3. Review of the literature and the development of the sub-discipline -- Chapter 4. The economic domain -- Chapter 5. Ideological domain -- Chapter 6. The political domain -- Chapter 7. Referent social power relationships -- Chapter 8. Conclusions -- Bibliography -- Volume Two: Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 182-214

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of History and Archaeology

Department, Centre or School

Department of History and Archaeology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Yann Tristant


Copyright Susan Anne Kelly 2021. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xii, 713 pages): illustrations

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