Arranged Plant Material as Material Culture: A Study of Archaeobotanical Remains including Bouquets and Garlands from Ancient Egypt
Arranged Plant Material as Material Culture: A Study of Archaeobotanical Remains including Bouquets and Garlands from Ancient Egypt.
Organic remains in the form of deliberately placed plant material, prearranged to form bouquets, wreaths, garlands, pillows and collars, have been excavated from archaeological sites; providing evidence of a long-standing multi-cultural human behavioural trait which continues to the present day. The author has studied extant remains from ancient Egyptian contexts (circa 3500BP-2000BP). Non-Egyptian material is rare, but includes material from the Scottish Bronze Age and contested pollen data from a Neanderthal site. This project proposes a typology and seeks to provide a framework and guidelines for future excavation, conservation and interpretation.
Floral offerings elicit an empathetic and emotive response, and in burial contexts, scholars have remarked that they add 'a human touch'. These artefacts provide a means of non-verbal communication, acting as an interface for symbolic interaction between humans and between humans and their beliefs and deities. A bouquet might say 'congratulations' or 'I worship you', and humans have the cognitive capability to read the context and understand the difference. Archaeological evidence for the notion of ‘the human touch’ and the question of what it means to be human is often ambiguous or elusive, and the author suggests that analysis of the inherent symbolism in floral offerings will contribute to our understanding of cognition and its development. The author uses experimental archaeology and the analytical concept of the chaîne opératoire to explore ways of knowing and the notions of savoir faire and connaissance.
Although largely ignored by archaeologists, deliberately arranged plant material artefacts are material cultural objects, and therefore can be analysed to aid interpretation in fields such as technology and environmental reconstruction. The seasonality and co-seasonality of the constituent plants allow for fine chronological resolution, and the artefacts are good sources for radiocarbon dating. The author aims to interpret the data from this novel category of material culture within the framework of the extensive Egyptian corpus, so that the findings can be applied by analogy to plant remains and representations of plants in archaeological contexts.
- BSc (Hons), Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 2001
McAleely, S., 2013, Garlands from the Deir el-Bahri Cache. In Radiocarbon and the Chronologies of Ancient Egypt (eds A. J. Shortland and C. Bronk Ramsey), 153 -166. Oxbow Books, Oxford.
McAleely, S., 2005, Flower Arranging In Ancient Egypt? A new approach to archaeobotanical remains. In Current Research in Egyptology 2003: Proceedings of the fourth annual symposium which took place at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 18-19 January 2003 (eds K. Piquette and S. Love), 105-120. Oxbow Books, Oxford.
Television: BBC 2, A New Year At Kew, series 3, episode 6. Broadcast 9th February 2007. Recreation of the funerary garland of Ramesses II. Available on DVD.
- Conference papers
Experimental re-creation of an Egyptian Garland, Interpretation Derived from Two Types of Knowledge. Presentation and poster. EAC 9, The Ninth Experimental Archaeology Conference 16-18 January 2015, University College Dublin.
Experimental Recreation of a Funerary Garland. Experiment and Experience: Ancient Egypt in the Present, Swansea, May 2010. Invited speaker. Available as a podcast: mms://mrcstr1.swan.ac.uk/cema_conf/sally_mcaleely.wmv
Garlands from the Deir el-Bahri Cache. Oxford Radiocarbon Dating And Egyptian Chronology Project Symposium, Oxford, March 2010. Invited speaker.
Plant Remains as Material Culture: using the analytical concept of the châine opératoire to study wreaths and garlands from ancient Egypt. Institute of Archaeology, 2nd Graduate Student Conference, April 2007.
Plant Remains as Material Culture: using the analytical concept of the chaîne opératoire to study wreaths and garlands from Egypt. IWAA 5 The Fifth International Workshop for African Archaeobotany, July 2006.
Looking Outside the Box: using Egyptian data to demonstrate how the analytical concept of the chaîne opératoire can be applied to artefacts made from plant material. CRE VII Current Research in Egyptology: seventh annual symposium, Oxford, April 2006.
More about Flower Arranging in Ancient Egypt: some New Kingdom and Roman Period archaeobotanical remains examined from a material culture perspective. CRE VI Current Research in Egyptology: sixth annual symposium, Cambridge, January 2005.
Flower arranging in Ancient Egypt? CRE IV Current Research in Egyptology: fourth annual symposium, University College London, January 2003.