Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
One of the main objectives in this course is to develop a set of questions and methods for the study of Egypt and its later cultures through its archaeological and historical record. At issue then are the deep temporal questions of continuity and change across various institutional and cultural fields. In other words, in what ways does the concept of Egypt make, sense or become redefined, given the new social, political and material realities that emerge with the arrival of Christianity, Islam, Arab migrations, or even the changing course of the Nile. How have different stakeholders past and present employed or denied a narrative of an enduring Egypt for various agendas? What do such narratives look like and how might archaeology become engaged in their construction or debunking.
One thing to keep in mind in the analysis of the later Egypt stories is that with the fall of the New Kingdom, Egypt began a long history of incorporation into various imperial states or larger religio-political territorial realities. Thus any examination of Egypt in these later periods requires attention to events and social movements outside of the land of the Nile. The dialectics of Egypt’s relationship to the Mediterranean and the Near (later Middle) East is part of a larger reading of geopolitics that may serve as a useful foil for contemporary notions of what it means to be cosmopolitan and global.
At its most fundamental level this course asks students to develop and master a diverse body of knowledge about the archaeology and history of Egypt in its broadest sense. Additionally students will be exposed to many of the basics in the development of the various religious traditions that found a home in Nile soils in terms of its historical trajectory, arguments over its doctrine and practice, as well as the key concepts in its interdisciplinary study.
This course will help to develop students’ abilities to synthesize large amounts of diverse information about an important region of the Middle East. Throughout the course you should learn to recognize how different forms of evidence contradict and support arguments about the formation of political structures, cultural practices, social relations, and religious traditions.
A crucial aspect of this course will focus on developing articulate, well reasoned academic prose. In our discussions and analyses of the readings we will examine the various ways in which archaeological, anthropological and historical data are used as forms of evidence. The various writing assignments will ask students to employ these techniques of argumentation in their own prose. This will force us to probe the methodological question: How do we go from pot sherds, architectural fragments, and partial building plans to discussions of political authority, religion, and social relations? It is in answering this question that we embark on the real work of developing an historical archaeology of Egypt.
A second and no less important set of skills which students will develop in this course relates to the analysis of artifacts, architecture and images. A major task of the archaeologist is classification. This forms the basis from which patterns can be recognized in the archaeological record and by which different sites can be compared and contrasted. As we work with actual objects in the course students will consider both the processes by which such classifications are made and whether they reflect something inherent about the objects or are simply heuristics for dealing with so many broken bits.