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Fleshpots of Egypt: rethinking temple economy in the ancient Near East

Wengrow, D; (2013) Fleshpots of Egypt: rethinking temple economy in the ancient Near East. In: Frood, E and McDonald, A, (eds.) Decorum and experience: essays in ancient culture for John Baines. (291 - 298). Griffith Institute, University of Oxford: Oxford, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

In this paper I offer some observations on the dual significance of meat – as substance and symbol, commodity and sacred offering – in early complex societies, focussing upon Egypt, but also with reference to neighbouring societies in South West Asia (for more detailed discussions of meat economy, with a mainly Egyptian focus, see Ikram 1995; Arnold 2005; and for meat sacrifice and symbolism, Eyre 2002). Much of what follows is admittedly speculative (an ‘essay’ in the true sense), and requires further substantiation. It is intended, first and foremost, as an attempt to revitalise the notion of ‘temple economy’ by modelling the relationship between organised ritual sacrifice and large-scale commerce. I propose to develop the point that ceremonial redistribution and profit-oriented trade, rather than constituting self-contained or alternative systems of value (as with Polanyi et al. 1957; Bleiberg 1996; 2007; see also Lipiński 1979; Warburton 1997), were integrated features of early temple economies (cf. Silver 1985; Sherratt and Sherratt 1991; Bevan 2010). Central to both, I suggest, was the charismatic value generated through sacrificial offerings to deities, as exemplified here by the treatment of edible leftovers from religious feasts: a sensitive point of ‘decorum’ in many societies. I offer these thoughts in appreciation of an inspirational scholar whose generosity towards me extends back to my undergraduate days, although he has never taught me in any formal capacity. So, this is my first essay for John Baines.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Fleshpots of Egypt: rethinking temple economy in the ancient Near East
ISBN-13: 9780900416927
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/decorum-and-experi...
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © jointly individual authors and the Griffith Institute, Oxford, 2013.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1425755
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