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The Relationship of Egypt and its Vassals as Reflected in the Amarna Tablets

Zhihui_YuanBy: Yuan Zhihui, Tianjin Normal University, China, Noble Group Fellow

During my four-and-a-half month fellowship at the Albright, my research project focused on “The Relationship of Egypt and its Vassals as Reflected in the Amarna Tablets.” The aim of the project was to reveal the diplomatic system between Egypt and its vassal states in Canaan. My study draws upon the Amarna Letters, the most important document of the Late Bronze Age, as well as archaeological material from the Near East in order to explore the political and economic relationship between Egypt and these states in Canaan during this period. My research concentrated on  the political, economic and ideological relations between Egypt and its vassal states in Canaan; and two models were employed — the core-periphery approach and the prestige-power theory.

As part of my work, I retransliterated and retranslated 40 Amarna Tablets regarding gifts or tributes sent by local Canaanite rulers to Pharaoh. I was able to complete two parts of my three-part project. My future work will focus on the “Ideological Relationship of Egypt and its Vassals Reflected in the Amarna Tablets” and I will retransliterate and retranslate the rest of the Amarna Letters exchanged between the Egyptian court and the vassal states in Canaan.

A mini-version of my research, “Reconsidering the Late Bronze Age Decline of Southern Canaan: a Perspective from the Amarna Letters” was presented as a workshop at the Albright. In this presentation, I sought to understand the role of Canaan in the back-and-forth communication between the great powers in the Near East and to discuss the characteristics of the Canaanite role in the Late Bronze Age as compared with those in the Middle Bronze Age. To explore the role of Canaan in the Late Bronze Age, it was essential to consider the subject in a broader context, i.e., the diplomatic and international relations network which involved the great powers in the Near East.

I suggest that the decline and even devastation of Canaan in the Late Bronze Age can be attributed to the decline of Canaan’s intermediate role between Egypt and the great states of Western Asia rather than to Egypt’s exhausted exploitation of Canaan. This view is different to the traditional and prevailing opinion that claims that Egypt was responsible for the decline of Canaan in the LB Age.

This project constitutes a part of my future book that focuses on “The Diplomacy and International Relations Reflected in the Amarna Tablets.” My Ph. D. dissertation dealt with “The Diplomacy of the Great Powers Reflected in the Amarna Tablets” and constitutes an important part of my future book. At the Albright, I have also worked on the revision and integration of my dissertation in preparation of submitting it for publication as a book. The book will provide a detailed picture of diplomacy and international relations between the great powers as well as diplomacy between Egypt and its vassal states in Canaan. It will also discuss the continuity and discontinuity of Amarna diplomacy with previous diplomatic traditions such as Mari diplomacy, and the influence and significance of Egypt intruding into the traditional diplomatic system in Western Asia.

In addition, I am also in the process of preparing an article on “Gifts Exchange between the Great Powers in the Amarna Age.” I have transliterated and translated 20 Amarna Letters, and have collected monographs and articles on this topic. I have also examined Hittite diplomatic documents and am working on a paper which should be finished in the next three months. Thus, I feel I have been able to accomplish a great deal during my time at the Albright and I would like to thank the Noble Group of Hong Kong for this rare opportunity.

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The Relationship of Egypt and its Vassals as Reflected in the Amarna Tablets Reviewed by on . By: Yuan Zhihui, Tianjin Normal University, China, Noble Group Fellow During my four-and-a-half month fellowship at the Albright, my research project focused on By: Yuan Zhihui, Tianjin Normal University, China, Noble Group Fellow During my four-and-a-half month fellowship at the Albright, my research project focused on Rating:
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