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UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology

UEE: open version

Egyptology has as its object of study the history, practices, and conceptual categories of a culture that was remarkably prolific in terms of written texts, art, architecture, and other forms of material culture. The knowledge of Egyptologists, archaeologists, linguists, geologists, and all other professionals who are involved in research related to Ancient Egypt reflect the interdisciplinary approach that is needed to make sense of such a wealth of information. The peer-reviewed articles of the UEE are written by the world's leading scholars.

In the coming decade we will continue to build the content of the UEE, while a separate web site, the UEE Full Version, will be available starting in 2010. The full version will have enhanced searches, such as a map-search functionality, alphabetical and subject browsing, in-text links, explanations of terminology for non-professionals, an image archive, and Virtual Reality reconstructions. In addition, a Data-Access Level is under development, which links articles with the results of original research. Information on the development of the UEE Full Version can be found at http://www.uee.ucla.edu.

Cover page of Egyptian Writing: Extended Practices

Egyptian Writing: Extended Practices

(2023)

Among the idiosyncratic aspects of ancient Egyptian life and culture, Egyptian writing has long received particular attentionnot only in recent academic discourse, but already in Antiquity. Compared to other writing systems, hieroglyphs and, to a lesser extent, their cursive derivatives, hieratic and Demotic, demonstrate extraordinary potential to express different aspects of both meaning and sound when employed beyond their conventional use. In its particular iconicity Egyptian writing, especially hieroglyphic writing, works even outside the framework of language and shares common features with Egyptian art. In the textual record non-standard creative writings highlight the potency and multidimensionality of Egyptian writing through the interplay of meaning, sound, and icon. The contours of the phenomenon are here outlined and the main characteristics of non-standard creative writings defined according to their varying forms and functions. In conclusion, a system of classification, as provided here, can further our understanding of the multitude of forms and functions involved, and thereby enhance appreciation of the potency of Egyptian writing.

Cover page of UEE news for 2023

UEE news for 2023

(2023)

Editors and Staff of the UEE wish you a happy, healthy and productive 2023. Here is the latest on ongoing developments.

Cover page of British Egyptology (1822-1882)

British Egyptology (1822-1882)

(2022)

The growth of British Egyptology between 1822 and 1882 was a direct extension of informal colonial control. In the direct aftermath of the Anglo-French Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), British fieldwork in Egypt focused on diplomatic collecting for the British Museum and topographical surveys by Orientalist expatriates seeking to differentiate between ancient and modern Egyptian cultures. A second phase of fieldwork developed from mid-century whereby experts in Britain relied on colonial networks of collectors and informants in Egypt to communicate field observations over long distances. British Egyptology was not yet a distinct field, and like other nascent scientific specialisations, developed with porous disciplinary boundaries. It thus encapsulated a wide variety of approaches which included chronology, philology, exegesis, ethnology, anthropology, museology, astronomy, and geology. British Egyptomania and academic Egyptology also grew in tandem as popularizers brought their work to the Victorian public and British tourists flooded into Egypt producing travel accounts. Egyptology was marketed for its ability to shed light on biblical historicity while public exhibitions highlighted the spectacle of the British imperial victories in the East.

Cover page of Russian Egyptology (1914-1945)

Russian Egyptology (1914-1945)

(2022)

The period from 1914 to 1945 in the history of Russia is marked with a number of major shocks: World War I, the revolution of 1917 and the following civil war, the establishment of a totalitarian ideological rule accompanied with terror, and the participation of the USSR in World War II (the Great Patriotic War). They all deeply affected the Russian (Soviet) scholarship including Egyptology. The tradition of the earlier, imperial period continued until the early 1920s in the research of Vladimir Golenischeff outside Russia and, briefly, in the work of Boris Turaev and his students. It so happened that this generation of Russian Egyptologists became actually extinct, and the Egyptological school had to be shaped anew in the time of post-revolutionary reconstruction. This process was influenced in the 1920s with what might be defined as “modernist” trends; but a new standing tradition emerged only in the 1930s, largely due to the efforts of Vassiliy Struve. This scholar of a pre-revolutionary breed luckily combined his good training with a grasp of topical ideology, i.e. the Soviet Marxist historical scheme. This meant a greater shift in research towards socio-economic issues, though other themes were not ignored. At the same time, the 1930s saw the beginning of research by Yuri Perepyolkin, whose specific method was developed further in the works of the Leningrad/St. Petersburg Egyptological school in the second half of the 20th century.

Cover page of Dialects in Pre-Coptic Egyptian

Dialects in Pre-Coptic Egyptian

(2022)

In scholarship there is no consensus on how to define a dialect, especially since the concept of “dialect” is a modern one, carrying with it political implications. Indeed it can be demonstrated that, historically, local idioms have sometimes gained national status for reasons relating to politics and culture. The existence of different dialects in pre-Coptic Egypt was discerned early in Egyptology, in the late nineteenth century, and is today accepted with only occasional skepticism. The identification and analysis of dialects is problematic for the Egyptologist for several reasons, among them the constraints of the hieroglyphic script, which was phonologically unspecific; the geographically unbalanced nature of the surviving corpus of texts; and the often elusive determination of textual provenance. Dialects have left written traces, however, in all areas of Egyptian—phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon—such that the standard view of a linear succession of five well-ordered language states (Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic, and Coptic) can no longer be maintained.

Cover page of Meroitic Writing

Meroitic Writing

(2022)

Meroitic, the primary language of ancient Sudan, remained unwritten for at least two millennia. There were only rare transcriptions of proper names in Egyptian texts. With the rise of the 25th “Kushite” Dynasty, Egyptian script and language became the official means of written communication in Kush. A local form of Demotic was probably used in addition to the hieroglyphs, although archaeological evidence thereof is lacking. This local Demotic was very likely the ancestor of the Meroitic cursive script, which appeared in the third century BCE. A century later, a second script, called “hieroglyphic,” was created in order to replace Egyptian in monumental inscriptions. The signs were selected from the Egyptian hieroglyphs, but this new script was merely the prestigious counterpart of the Meroitic cursive characters, with a one-to-one correspondence between signs. The Meroitic writing system is an alphasyllabary. It includes 16 basic signs for syllables, with a default vowel /a/and three vocalic modifiers used to write syllables with /e/, /ə/, /i/, and /u/. Four additional signs are used for the frequent syllables ne, se, te, and to. A word-divider made of two or three dots is inserted between the different groups of sentences. The Meroitic script disappeared in the fifth century CE, but three signs were integrated in the Old Nubian alphabet, which remained in use until the Islamic Period.

Cover page of Language Contact

Language Contact

(2022)

Although language contact and multilingualism are universal phenomena, the topic has not been given due consideration in Egyptology. Language contact in ancient Egypt comprises a spectrum, in ascending order, of small-scale phenomena (loanwords, loan translations), through non-Egyptian texts in Egyptian script and the evidence for bilingualism and multilingualism, to the large-scale phenomena of new language forms resulting from language contact and phenomena of language convergence through a sprachbund situation.

Cover page of Tower Houses

Tower Houses

(2021)

Egyptian tower houses are a type of dwelling developed in the Third Intermediate Period in Egypt. They were extensively used in the time from the Late Period (26th Dynasty) until Roman times and were still in use through Late Antiquity, Medieval times until modern times. Many of these houses used the so called casemate foundations, a foundation type that was also used for other types of buildings. This article discusses typical elements, functions and chronological development of casemate structures and tower houses as well as known sources and possible reasons for their development.

Cover page of Gender-Based Violence

Gender-Based Violence

(2021)

Gender and violence intersected in ancient Egypt in many ways. In general, the ancient Egyptian gender system privileged men and the masculine. Exceptions to this were status dependent. Gendered patterns of violence are evident in cases of mistreatment of women through beating and rape. War-related royal texts used gendered language to frame enemies as feminine and place them lower on the hierarchy vis-à-vis the pharaoh. Enemies were also feminized in visual representations such as temple reliefs. The symbolic violence of gendered language also served to establish indigenous gender hierarchies. Although there is evidence that some Egyptian queens and female rulers organized military operations, there is no evidence for the participation of women in war. In contrast, some goddesses had a strong affiliation with war and violence and were frequently associated with the pharaoh in this regard.

Cover page of British Egyptology (1882-1914)

British Egyptology (1882-1914)

(2021)

The period from 1882 – 1914 has been called the “Golden Age” of Egyptology, but that term is problematic in light of the fact that it was a Golden Age only for Europeans and Americans. In Britain, the founding in 1882 of the Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF, now Egypt Exploration Society [EES]) and the beginning of the Great War in 1914 bookend this tumultuous period of Egyptology. During this period, political, religious, economic, and institutional structures impacted the intellectual development of British Egyptology as practiced both in Britain and in Egypt. The establishment of Egyptology as a university-taught subject was crucial to the field. By 1904, the signing of the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain meant that France recognized diplomatically that Britain occupied Egypt. In turn, the French had control over the direction of the Antiquities Service; however, that service was ultimately under the control of the British.