Women’s work in the Early Dynastic Period
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The twentieth century scholarship regarding women’s involvement in the Early Dynastic Period offers subjective and incomplete accounts of women’s roles in early Egyptian history. Scholarly commentary regarding the women from this period has so far not been able to provide a satisfactory account of their lives, or of their possible roles within that society. My Master’s study of women’s biographic details on funerary stelae/slabs from the First and Second Dynasty (ca. 3085–2544 BC) provides new insights on old data. This research employs a multi-disciplinary approach including statistical and textual analyses while applying gender as an analytical category. The early hieroglyphic script that records the women’s name and/or titles is re-analysed through a palaeographic and philological examination that evaluates previous interpretations. A dominant discourse that characterises this enquiry is the notion that the majority of women’s stelae, of which most have no titles, represent concubines and harem women. Examination of previous scholarly commentary identifies an androcentric bias that has shaped and dominated the interpretation and evaluation of women in the Early Dynastic Period since the 1960s (Kaplony 1963: 371–372; Kemp 1967: 26). The feasibility of the existence of the harem institution in the Early Dynastic Period itself has been reviewed and remains unsubstantiated. My study provides a highly needed new perspective. This paper aims to present the findings of the study along with a new framework that demonstrates the influential role of Early Dynastic women in the context of the socio-economic environment of the new state. This innovative framework identifies new social configurations, interdependency in working relationships between roles and genders, which suggests flexibility and lateral differentiation within the stratified society of Early Dynastic Egypt.
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