Dissertation Defense: Danielle Phelps


Nov 14 2019 - 9:00am

Thursday, November 14, 2019
9:00 a.m.
Haury, Room 215

Title: “Yes, Wonderful Things!” A Multi-Scalar Theoretical Approach to Royal Mortuary Practices of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt

Abstract: Howard Carter discovered the tomb and the semi-intact burial of king Tutankhamun (c. 1336-1327 BCE) in November of 1922. Countless publications propose a myriad of explanations about Tutankhamun's family history, his life, and the cause of death. They do not attempt to examine the burial of Tutankhamun through an anthropological lens, which can provide more meaningful information about the royal mortuary practices of the Eighteenth Dynasty. This dissertation will examine the royal mortuary patterns of the late Eighteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt with theoretical concepts and statistical analyses. It will utilize a multi-scale theoretical approach to better comprehend the purposes behind the mortuary practices of ancient Egyptian royalty.

The three scales approach employs a variety of theoretical concepts to better explain the results, such as materiality, agency, secrecy, embodiment, and legitimacy. The first scale is at the community or cemetery level. It examines the spatial distribution of the Eighteenth Dynasty tombs in the Valley of the Kings using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) analyses to determine if the distribution of the tombs reflects the standard Egyptian mortuary practices of creating a "family cemetery" or if they represent a new form of mortuary practices. The second scale is at the level of the tomb. An empirical approach is employed to examine the associations between the artifacts found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, KV 62. Statistical analyses of the artifacts are used to explore the associations between different categorical variables. The results indicate that the artifacts are located in specific parts of the tomb that represent different ritual practices. This comprehensive analysis of all of the artifacts found in the tomb provides information as to how Tutankhamun's burial assemblage fits within the larger mortuary practices of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The analysis of the artifacts also highlights the similarities and differences of royal burial assemblages of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The third scale examines the postmortem manipulation of Tutankhamun's mummified remains were used to legitimize his successor's claim to the throne. All of these analyses are straightforward and, yet, have not been attempted on the tomb of Tutankhamun. This dissertation will show how anthropological theory and quantitative analyses can still bring new understanding to an almost one-hundred-year-old discovery.

Committee Members: James Watson, Mary Ownby, Lars Fogelin, and Gary Christopherson

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