Magic in Egyptian society

Development of high culture elite frameworks

Egyptian religion is a complex set of concepts and practices and has been studied extensively. A large proportion of research is centred on textual material, including temple and tomb inscriptions, funerary and religious papyri, and reflections of religious beliefs and practices in letters and administrative documents. Texts were also used as a key to understand the huge number of objects and sites related to magical practices. However, the interpretations go only as far as texts would allow and have a strong bias towards theological reasoning. The material record is degraded to an illustrating role and the intrinsic potential of archaeology remains unexplored.

Archaeology encompasses a much wider range of different fields within a society as compared to the narrow text tradition and is particularly informative for the setting of magic as a heavily object related practice. The aim of this project is to define the role of magic as a central field of society governing cultural output. Rather than placing it at the margins of the society magic will be demonstrated to provide a matrix of values and behaviour that is reflected in monuments and texts usually classified as “high culture”. The development of local temples in Egypt, including their votive material, shows how magic was embedded in provincial communities and how small-scale religious institutions were worked into high culture elite frameworks over the millennia.

The long-term perspective paves the way out of a pharaonic-centred horizon towards a re-evaluation of ethnographic and ethnohistoric evidence of magic in modern Egypt and in wider regional horizons and theoretical debates.

Related outputs

  • Bußmann, R., in press, Cult and kingship in provincial Egypt. The Temple of Satet on Elephantine Island. In: I. Mylonopoulos, ed. Ritual and Archaeology.
  • Bußmann, R., in press., Fertility Figurines of the New Kingdom from Tell Edfu 2006. In: N. Moeller, ed. Tell Edfu Reports I.
  • Bußmann, R., in prep. Great and Little Tradition. A social anthropological paradigm in Egyptian Archaeology.
  • Bußmann, R., 2011. Local traditions in early Egyptian temples In: R. Friedman, ed. Egypt at its Origins. The Third International Colloquium on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt. Leuven: Peeters Publishers.
  • Bußmann, R., 2011. The Social Setting of the Temple of Satet on Elephantine. In: S. Seidlmayer, D. Raue, and P. Speiser, eds. The First Cataract – One Region, Various Perspectives. Mainz: von Zabern.
  • Bußmann, R., 2011. Changing cultural paradigms. King and Temple in the 11th Dynasty. In: P. Kousoulis, ed. 10th International Congress of Egyptologists. Leuven: Peeters Publishers.
  • Bußmann, R., 2010. Die Provinztempel Ägyptens von der 0. bis zur 11. Dynastie. Archäologie und Geschichte einer gesellschaftlichen Institution zwischen Residenz und Provinz. 2 volumes. Boston – Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.

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