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Toponymy on the periphery: placenames of the Eastern Desert, Red Sea, and South Sinai in Egyptian documents from the Early Dynastic until the end of the New Kingdom
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 11:17 authored by Julien Cooper
The study of placenames in Egyptology is generally confined to lexicographic collection and problems of localisation. More than filling in the blanks on a map, studies in toponymy can address many questions regarding the relationship between people and their environment.This thesis is an area-study of toponyms in the Eastern Desert, South Sinai, and Red Sea as found in Egyptian texts from the Early Dynastic until the end of the New Kingdom (c. 3100BC-1050 BCE). For the urban civilisation of pharaonic Egypt, these regions were arid hinterlands, exploited for their mineral wealth, but never directly colonised or controlled. Many placenames of this region, most notably Punt, have not been satisfactorily located - their finite geographical positions having long been a desideratum of Egyptology. An integrated approach that studies all the placenames of these regions may however yield greater insights into the regions geography, while matching specific archaeological remains with toponyms known from texts. As this region is proximal to Egypt, yet outside political control, it is notable for exhibiting placenames in both Egyptian and foreign languages. This might be compared to the situation in New World toponymy, where an introduced European stratum of placenames commonly replaces, but not eradicates, an older indigenous toponymy. The area thus reveals a multitude of toponymic phenomena and un-located placenames, yet is geographically homogenous and differentiated from the urban toponymy of the Nile Valley. This work comprises of two parts.The first is a descriptive section, reconstructing the historical geography of Egypt’s peripheral regions by marrying a database of toponyms with textual and archaeological sources. The second is an analytical investigation of the culture and language of placenames as apparent in these marginal regions. The database involves translating all texts where the relevant toponyms occur, analysing the etymology of these names (in Egyptian or foreign-languages) and locating them with respect to archaeological sites. The analytical section evaluates semantic and linguistic features in the placenames, and attempts to explain the social processes behind placenaming in Egypt’s marginal environment.