Did you sleep well on your headrest? – Anthropological perspectives on an ancient Egyptian implement

Zinn, Katharina (2018) Did you sleep well on your headrest? – Anthropological perspectives on an ancient Egyptian implement. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, 17. ISSN 1944-2815

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Abstract

This paper explores how recent anthropological methodologies (materialities approach) as well as concepts at the interface between archaeology and anthropology (experiential and sensual archaeology) inevitably widens the boundaries of Egyptology. Egyptology however does not only have to be the recipient of new ideas. The material culture of ancient Egypt can equally enrich the discussion of new intellectual frameworks like New Materialism or New Materialities within anthropology. Testing advantages, practicalities and limitations of such theories with the help of the materiality of objects can lead either to their verification and subsequent implementation or in contrast to a – partial – falsification and rework. The crossing point between anthropology and Egyptology is especially interesting and beneficial for the discussion of unprovenanced museum objects whose information regarding the context of origin and any indication of what happened with the artefacts between the moment of discovery and today is completely or partially lost. Taking inspiration from Latour’s actants, Barad’s agential realism and Bennett’s thing power – relating the potential of agency to materials and objects in human lives – the presented case study contributes to a discussion of the physical relationship of material objects and the human body focusing on states when materiality seeps deliberately and dangerously into immateriality. This is explored at the example of unpublished headrests from the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum, Merthyr Tydfil (Wales, UK) by looking on the intersection of bodies with the material that also could be interpreted as inter-material communication. Impressions of fabric on their wooden surface are presumably the imprint of bedding intended to ensure comfortable sleep telling us about the sensual experience using these artefacts. The contact between skin and rough wood needed to be alleviated. This theoretical discussion is then set against an experimental and experiential archaeological approach focusing on sensual experiences with these headrests.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Egyptology, Archaeology, Anthropology
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities
Depositing User: Dr Katharina Zinn
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2018 15:50
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2020 10:49
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/844

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