Living betwixt and between: a study of the title 'elder of the porch' (sms.w h)y.t) and its holders - a prosopographical approach
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 23:18 authored by Milena Kooyman
Titles are one of the primary sources about ancient Egyptian society and government providing invaluable information on how each sphere was organised. The title 'elder of the portal' (sms.w h)y.t) is an enigmatic title belonging to the administration of the Egyptian palace and occurs in sources throughout Egyptian history. Yet very little prior research on this office has been undertaken. As a result, the meaning of this title and the function and status of its holders has remained unresolved. This study begins with the cataloguing of all individuals who bore the title 'elder of the portal' from the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the New kingdom in a prosopography. The corpus of 176 title-holders, their titularies, social networks, and monuments, is assessed within the framework of each historical period. The common characteristics and attributes of holders of the title 'elder of the portal' are identified to determine their role and social position in the state and in society. Any other sources referring to the 'elder of the portal' are also incorporated into the analysis. The orthography and lexicography of the elements 'elder' and 'portal' is completed to ascertain their meaning, which greatly impacts how the title is to be interpreted. Finally, the Egyptian palace as well as the concept of 'liminality' is explored to situate the 'elder of the portal' in the physical space of the king's residence and within the socio-political networks of the royal court. The primary finding of this investigation is that the 'elder of the portal' was an official active in a specific liminal zone in the palace. Title-holders were courtiers at the royal court physically and socially close to the king and were frequently involved in affairs of the state. The 'elder of the portal' was a functional regular palace appointment from the Old Kingdom to the end of the Second Intermediate Period. A shift from a palace to a temple context occurred during the New Kingdom, which altered the nature of the title and the function of its holders in society.