A social and historical interpretation of Ramesside period votive stelae
The following thesis analyses a dataset of 436 Egyptian votive stelae dating to the Ramesside period (1295-1069 ВСЕ), from six sites: Deir el Medina at Thebes (264 stelae), non-Deir el Medina stelae (55) from the Theban area, Abu Simbel (21 stelae) and Wadi es-Sebua (15 stelae) in Lower Nubia, Qantir/Pi-Ramesses in the eastern Delta (74 stelae) and Zawiyet Umm el-Rakham (7 stelae) in the Libyan desert. The stelae were drawn from published catalogues of museum collections, excavation reports, individual publications, and photographs supplied by institutions and researchers where no published image existed. The thesis presents the votive stelae as the end result of defined social practices, exploring the role of votive stelae as social artifacts which, through image, text and materiality, are active agents in transmitting information on individual and group social status and identity, normative social structure, and alternate social organisation. The stelae are analysed according to the iconographie content, status- or function-related information (title and/or clothing of the dedicator), and original location, or context, of the stela. These elements are understood to provide information on the social context for the utilisation of stelae in Ramesside Egypt. Central to the thesis is a reading of the representations as coded references to actual events, or practices. The examination requires an analysis of the social and representational conventions within which the stelae and their representations were created. The methodology is initially tested against the core dataset of Deir el Medina stelae, followed by a comparative analysis of the non-Deir el Medina stelae from Thebes, and the remaining four geographically distant sites. The thesis reveals the form, use and production of votive stelae are related to royal activity and sanctions, and promulgate the shifting central ideology and structure. The votive stelae can also, when the iconography is decoded, be linked to specific events, illuminating the local social milieu of the communities studied, and their internal social organisation.