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Ancient Egyptian Rock Inscriptions as Tools of Site Formation and Modern Functional Parallels

image of Journal of Egyptian History

This new analysis of the interaction between graffiti and their physical context examines the functionality of rock inscriptions for the ancient Egyptians and finds that the annexation and redefinition of the landscape was a key factor motivating the production of rock art and rock inscriptions spanning the Egyptian Predynastic and Dynastic Periods. Casting off the modern, negative, connotations of “graffiti,” new research comparing ancient and modern graffiti traditions—including a proper understanding of the territorial and artistic implications of modern “gang” graffiti—illuminates certain functional parallels and assists in the formulation of a new framework based on Alfred Gell’s theory on the material agency of art and subsequent critiques. In this framework graffiti simultaneously mark territorial boundaries and work actively to create and maintain territory on an ongoing basis. The application of the framework to an ancient Egyptian case study illuminates the dynamic relationship between rock inscriptions and site formation.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University


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