Self-presentation in Ramessid Egypt
Elite self-presentation through the biographical genre is a defining element of ancient Egyptian high culture from the Old Kingdom until the Roman period. My thesis centres on the biographical texts produced during the Ramessid period (c. 1280-1070 BCE), a time of significant change in elite domains of representation. Since biography has not been seen as a significant genre of this period, these texts, which are inscribed on statues, stelae, temple walls, and in tombs, have not been gathered together or studied as a corpus. Yet they are a key to exploring the diverse and highly individual ways in which a self could be fashioned and presented. I take a holistic approach to the interpretation of these texts, in order to examine the ways in which they were incorporated into their spatial and visual settings and could extend beyond them. My introduction sets out my aims and the broader anthropological framework which I apply to the Egyptian sources. The following four chapters are case-studies. Chapters two to four are organised according to site (Thebes and el-Mashayikh, Karnak, and Abydos), comparing strategies of self-presentation in tomb and temple contexts. The fourth is thematically oriented, and looks at the image and role of the king in non-royal biographies. In the final chapter, I draw together the results of my individual case-studies, discussing their common textual themes, the interplays of traditional and innovative motifs within them, as well as the implications of their diverse monumental contexts. I hope to demonstrate that the holistic approach I apply is relevant for the study of monumental discourse in other periods in Egyptian history and has the potential to locate the Egyptian material within broader frameworks for the study of premodern societies.