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The Position of Women in the Family and in Society in Ancient Egypt, with Special Reference to the Middle Kingdom.

Millard, A; (1976) The Position of Women in the Family and in Society in Ancient Egypt, with Special Reference to the Middle Kingdom. Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

Although women are acknowledged to have had an important role in affairs domestic, religious, and even political in ancient Egypt, very little work has been done to evaluate their actual rights, powers, am influence. The studies which have appeared tend to be either of a general nature, spanning events from the first Dynasty down to the Roman Period, or specialised commentaries upon a single document or group of similar documents, dealing with only one aspect of the subject. There are many aspects of the lives of women in ancient Egypt which would reward detailed examination, but the evidence is voluminous and widely scattered, and ranges over a time span of three thousand years. This thesis investigates the role played by women in their families and in the community as a whole during the Middle Kingdom, which for the purpose of this work is defined as Dynasties Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen. The world's great collection of Egyptian stelas haw been relatively well published, and these form the basis of the evidence utilised in the first two of the five sections. Section I examines the nature of the evidence to be obtained from stelas, discusses the multiplicity of meanings of Egyptian kin-terms and assembles all the examples of possible consanguineous marriages at various types. Section II is devoted to a detailed analysis of all individual stelas of interest, and to the reconstruction of the family trees thus revealed. The third section presents a comprehensive collection of the titles and professions of women of all classes, excluding the royal family, and their consequent standing in the community, as revealed by paintings, reliefs, artefacts, and the comments of th Egyptians themselves in the writings of the sages and in other literary texts. The fourth section reveals the legal position of women, and here the paucity at evidence necessitated the inclusion of material from other periods of pharaonic history. The individual documents haw been examined by many scholars, who were interested in Egyptian laws and legal practice, but I have attempted to re-analyse the documents to ascertain the extent of women's rights and duties, the degree to which they were dependent on their male relatives, and in what fields they could act on their own initiative. This review relies mainly on secondary sources and does not depend, as do the other sections, upon re-analysis or the original. evidence. The final section deals with the costumes worn by women during the Middle Kingdom and examines how far they can be shown to reflect their age, status, wealth and nationality, because it has long been my belief that many of our sources fail to convey a full and accurate picture of the variety of colour and styles worn during life. The results show that, though still relatively rare during the Middle Kingdom, most degrees of consanguineous marriage were entered into by non-royal personages, and that, while women owed obedience to their husbands, they could still exert and have consdierable authority in certain spheres. Rank and status among Egyptian Women were well-defined by a variety of distinction and usages, and this thesis shows the nature and the extent of their legal status, what offices they might hold, and what powers they could exercise. While none at the results obtained are entirely novel, the examination and analysis, in part statistical, of this large body of evidence, have given them greater emphasis and definition. This treatment combined for the first time with the various aspects of the social role of women, gives better historical perspective to the character of the Middle. Kingdom.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The Position of Women in the Family and in Society in Ancient Egypt, with Special Reference to the Middle Kingdom.
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS. Some images and the original pages 227 to 239 in volume 3 have been excluded due to third party copyright.
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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