Tatjana Beuthe

Interactions between Egypt and the Near East in the 4th-early 3rd millenium BCE

To date, much has been written about Near Eastern designs that can be found in certain elements of Egyptian material culture from Naqada II to the Early Dynastic period. Many of the more influential studies on Egyptian artefacts containing Near Eastern motifs were written by experts on the Near East rather than Egypt. This approach is problematic, since such studies tend to to focus on the motifs that were explicitly traceable to the Near East. Also, these scholars often seem to forget they are analyzing artefacts existing outside of the cultural sphere they normally study.

More recent studies by scholars of Egypt have attempted to delve deeper into the possible ideological meanings of borrowed Near Eastern motifs found on certain ancient Egyptian artefacts like the Gebel el-Araq knife. Unfortunately, analyses tend to treat these motifs in isolation. The technology used to manufacture ancient Egyptian artefacts is rarely studied. As a result, there is a critical lack of research into the exchange of technology and motifs associated with artefacts between ancient Egypt and the Near East in the 4th–early 3rd Millennium BCE.

One of the best material records of these relations can be found in early cylinder seals from Egypt, made in imitation of Mesopotamian seals. There is evidence to suggest that seals were adopted as a means of regulating economic activity in Egypt. To date, no attempt has been made to investigate whether these seals were manufactured using the same technologies as Mesopotamian seals. Such an investigation will help to establish the degree of contact between these regions, since seal fabrication was a skilled craft that may have been taught to Egyptians by Mesopotamians.

By examining the technologies and representational elements that were transmitted between both regions, a solid basis for scholarly archaeological discussion regarding relations and trade between the two regions will emerge. This will open many possible future avenues of study for archaeological researchers engaged in fieldwork in the Near East and Egypt, as well as those engaged in archival research on these regions.


 Educational background

  • BA, Anthropology & East Asian Studies McGill University, 2010
  • MA Egyptian Archaeology, UCL, 2011

Beuthe, Tatjana, 2011. The Social Significance of Zoomorphic and Boat-Shaped Palettes in Egyptian Predynastic Burials. Masters Thesis, UCL.

Beuthe, Tatjana, 2010. Trends in the location and contents of bronze-containing Bronze Age burials in Scotland, Cultural Digest 6, 56-78.

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