By: Krystal V.L. Pierce, University of California, Los Angeles
2012-2013 Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
The research I was able to conduct while in residence at the Albright resulted in the completion of my Ph.D. dissertation at UCLA entitled, Living and Dying Abroad: Aspects of Egyptian Cultural Identity in Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Canaan.
I am grateful to the director and the staff for their hospitality and efforts towards providing both a home and a place for research. My study employed a new methodological approach to examining Egyptian and Egyptianized material in the Levant, entailing a thorough analysis of a range of broad and narrow Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age mortuary and residential contexts, entirely from an Egyptian perspective and based on the cultural norms and praxis of New Kingdom Egypt. The analyses of these contexts at Beth-Shean, Deir el-Balah, and Jaffa were accomplished through a theoretical framework of cultural identity, which examined three overlapping categories of evidence regarding the materiality, spatiality, and temporality of how cultural identity is generated, maintained, and exhibited, both in the homeland of Egypt and abroad in Canaan.
The three case studies in my project focused on funerary, residential, and material contexts, which covered an array of facets related to cultural identity, beginning with the expansive analysis of every Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age burial in the two cemeteries at Beth-Shean and Deir el-Balah, subsequently shifting to the slightly more confined analysis of Buildings 1500, 1700, and NB at Beth-Shean and Buildings 350 and 1131 at Deir el-Balah, and then narrowing down even further to focus on one aspect of material culture, Egyptian and Egyptianized ceramic vessels at Jaffa. The third case study on Jaffa was based entirely on the unpublished pottery assemblage from the site, and the directors of the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project graciously granted access to the corpus of Egyptian and Egyptianized material from Jaffa for analysis and publication, an opportunity for which I am immensely grateful.
Previous studies on Egyptian and Egyptianized architecture and objects in the Levant have focused on utilizing this material to investigate the question of Egyptian presence-or-absence in Canaan, which is in turn typically used as evidence for or against theoretical paradigms examining Egyptian rule over the area, for example, through models of elite emulation or direct rule. In my study, it was demonstrated that the application of an entirely new theoretical outlook, founded on cultural identity, could provide fresh insights and original data on Egyptian and Egyptian-style material culture in the Levant. Cultural identity theory provided a framework for analyzing how individuals and groups initially create cultural identity, how they maintain or alter cultural identity across time or space, and how they outwardly exhibit and express cultural identity. The conclusions resulting from the three case studies in my project were not employed to substantiate the presence-or-absence of Egyptians at Beth-Shean, Deir el-Balah, and Jaffa, or the exclusive Egyptian use of the mortuary, residential, and ceramic material at these sites in the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages, but rather to investigate and illustrate how an Egyptian would have interacted with the architecture, objects, and features of life and death in Canaan, based on the cultural norms and praxis of the Egyptian homeland in the New Kingdom, and what information these interactions could reveal about the intricacies of an Egyptian cultural identity abroad.
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