Macquarie University
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Shadows in the hidden chamber : a study of the šw.t ín funerary texts and art of ancient Egypt

posted on 2022-03-28, 03:14 authored by Renée Riskalla
In ancient Egypt, death marked the uncontrollable separation of the physical and non-physical forms of the person, which resulted in the non-material constituents of the deceased being thrust into the afterlife. The embodiment of the individual encompassed various states of being, all of which could act independently from the other, yet the collaboration of each of these aspects were vital to the survival of the person as a whole. This project examines one incorporeal aspect known as the shadow or translated as Sw.t in ancient Egyptian and can be explained as the “personality” of the individual. This entity appears within funerary literature and links to the realm of the dead. It is mentioned in texts linking synonymously with the fan hieroglyph (S36) and later (S35) and in art it is represented as a black silhouette, human outline with shade overhead or S35 or S36 sign. There are two principal aims of this study. The first of these is to provide a linguistics analysis of the orthography of the lexeme Sw.t by diachronically and synchronically analysing the funerary texts of the Old Kingdom until the New Kingdom. Such collected material is then utilized according to its rate of recurrence to determine the significance of Sw.t in various spells from each period. The second aim is to deliver an iconographic analysis of the various forms of the Sw.t within the New Kingdom scenes of the afterlife. Both aims serve to present innovative outcomes regarding the nature and significance of Sw.t within texts and art. An emphasis is placed on the associations of the Sw.t, bA, Ax and the corpse in addition to revealing the link between the orthography of a word and its adaptation into an artistic feature. It is hoped that through the detailed presentation of the orthographic changes and rate of recurrence of the lexeme, in addition to the exploration of the Sw.t in iconography, it may assist in future studies on this subject. It is hoped that this study may reveal a greater understanding of the Sw.t within the belief system and reveal how the ancient Egyptians perceived themselves and their human composition. The results reveal that the orthography of Sw.t was constantly changing as older forms were in use synonymously with new variants. The corpus of two hundred and forty-two attestations within the scope reveals that the role and significance of the Sw.t was more prominent in some spells and less significant in others, and its importance within the belief system grew over time. Additionally, the iconographic examples reveal that the Sw.t changed visually throughout the New Kingdom and consequently, this change identified a fundamental shift in the ancient Egyptian belief system.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction to research -- Chapter 2. Review of the literature -- Chapter 3. Analysis -- Chapter 4. Discussion of the evidence -- Chapter 5. Conclusions -- Appendices -- References.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 132-136

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

Boyo Ockinga


Copyright Renée Riskalla 2018. Copyright disclaimer:






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