Macquarie University
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Who are the early dynastic elite?: Evaluating Egyptian elite cemeteries dated to the First, Second and Third Dynasties

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posted on 2022-03-28, 19:23 authored by Olivier P. Rochecouste
The aim of this thesis is to review the archaeological evidence we have for elites during the Early Dynastic period of ancient Egypt, especially mortuary contexts. The archaeological evidence itself mostly comes from mortuary contexts which is the main point of reference for discussions surrounding social developments for ancient Egyptian studies. Numerous analogies have been used from Sociology, Anthropology and Archaeology to emphasise markers of social differentiation from mortuary contexts to distinguish the presence of social groups, including elites. The term "elites" became a fixture of Early Dynastic literature when a category was needed to label the tombs and associated archaeological material from North Saqqara, against the evidence for the royal tombs located in the Early Dynastic necropolis at Abydos. However, the theme of elite tombs has been rarely questioned for the Early Dynastic period, especially since there are other contemporary tombs across Egypt which are comparable to the tombs at North Saqqara. Considering the literature which points out these elite tombs, this thesis questions the theme of identifying elites from the mortuary record and attempts to ask who this elite group was. This will be done by reviewing the archaeological data from a variety of Early Dynastic cemetery sites located from the Nile Delta to Upper Egypt. This data will then be evaluated using an inductive approach to test the authenticity of the mortuary evidence used to accentuate the presence and influence of elites upon Early Dynastic society. The expected outcome is to provide an evaluation on whether the analogy of elites is suitable for Early Dynastic studies, especially since the presence of elites are a crucial component for the origins of the first Egyptian state.


Table of Contents

Part one: The predicament of Early Dynastic elite tombs. Chapter 1. Introduction -- 2. Literature review -- Part two: Archaeological descriptions of royal and elite Early Dynastic tombs. 3. The royal tombs of the Early Dynastic period -- 4. The Nile delta region -- 5. The Memphis region -- 6. The region of Middle Egypt -- 7. The Abydos region -- 8. The Nubt and Nekhen regions -- Part three: Thematic discussions -- 9. Mortuary provisions of the Early Dynastic elite -- 10. Tomb distinctions of the Early Dynastic elite -- 11. Embodied signs of the Early Dynastic elite -- 12. Vicarious displays of the Early Dynastic elite -- 13. Conclusion -- Appendix.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages330-380

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


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

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Yann Tristant


Copyright Olivier Pierre Rochecouste 2019 Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (xi, 381 pages)

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