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Tradition And Innovation In The Burial Practices In Roman Egypt

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Chapter Summary

Keeping in mind the difficulty of discussing 'continuity' with confidence, this paper explores practices in Roman Egypt that may be characterized as traditional and relatively unchanged, as well as some practices that represent innovations. The challenge when studying an ancient culture is to grasp what represents the cultural present at a particular period of time, as opposed to what represents the cultural past. If 'tradition' is the intentionally old-fashioned, then 'innovation' is the intentionally new. The two strands are always interwoven, but the paper first teases them apart to examine individual threads more closely. It explores the problem of identifying the contemporary and the innovative in the record of the ancient past. It is possible that some aspects of burial practices in Roman Egypt were conservative precisely because of the sweeping social changes the country had experienced, which created a need for local elites to identify and assert their status.

Keywords: burial practices; mummification; Roman Egypt



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