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Ancient Egypt

Toby Wilkinson

in African Studies

ISBN: 9780199846733
Published online February 2016 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0031
Ancient Egypt

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Ancient Egypt produced the longest-lived civilization of the ancient world and one of the most stable systems of government in human history. The surviving artifacts and monuments from the Nile Valley continue to exert a powerful fascination. Early accounts of ancient Egypt were dominated by descriptions of its material culture. The decipherment of hieroglyphics in the early 19th century brought ancient texts to the fore, opening up a window into the ancient Egyptian mind. For half a century, philology and history dominated the subject, and Egyptology was regarded as a subdiscipline of Classics or a branch of Oriental studies. The advent of systematic, scientific excavation in the Nile Valley in the late 19th century brought archaeology to the fore. In the second half of the 20th century, the integration of data from texts and artifacts became key to the development of Egyptology as a discipline. Today, the study of ancient Egypt draws on expertise from a wide range of specialist fields, and this multidisciplinarity is increasingly reflected in the literature. At the same time, an earlier focus on the elite experience, as reflected in the tombs of kings and high officials, has been replaced by a greater interest in the lives of ordinary Egyptians, as revealed by archaeology. However, despite these developments within the discipline, Egyptology has remained rather isolated from the other social sciences in terms of its methodologies and stubbornly immune to external perspectives and theoretical approaches. Topics such as gender and identity, ecology and demography, and even economy and politics have been neglected in favor of the more obvious elements of ancient Egyptian culture, such as language and literature and especially art, architecture, and religion. This is only now beginning to change, as a new generation of scholars embraces insights from archaeological, anthropological, and political theory, sociology, linguistics, and the study of literature. The study of ancient Egypt is slowly moving into the academic mainstream.

Article.  10708 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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