Tell el-Dab'a XV

Book Details

Author  Graham Philip
Publisher  Austrian Academy of Sciences Press
Publication Date   December 1, 2006
ISBN  3700136641
Pages  252

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Tell el-Daba in the eastern Nile Delta has produced what is probably the richest, well-documented collection of metal artefacts dating to the first half of the 2nd millennium BC yet published from the east Mediterranean. As such, the material has the potential to provide new insights into various dimensions of past societies in this region. A brief introduction to the site is followed by a fully illustrated catalogue of the material - an extensive range of copper-alloy artefacts, and smaller quantities of objects in silver and gold. Subsequently, the various artefact classes are discussed in terms of their wider typological parallels, chronology and distribution, thus permitting the material from the Delta to be viewed in terms of its wider Egyptian and Levantine comparanda. It is clear from this that the bulk of the material is of west Asian inspiration, much of which ultimately derives from styles first documented in north-west Syria in the last few centuries of the 3rd millennium BC. The extensive range of metalworking debris from the site, which includes limestone and steatite moulds, crucibles, copper ingots and tuyeres, is treated in detail, and the contrast between the range of artefacts for which there is evidence for on-site production, and that recovered through archaeology is discussed. The volume also reports on the chemical analysis of a wide range of copper and silver artefacts from the site, and considers the relationship between composition and typology - certain aspects of which appear counterintuitive. Contextual analysis clarifies associations between artefact types and certain age and sex categories, the existence of specific artefacts sets, and patterns in the positioning of artefacts within graves; all of this can also be seen to undergo change through time. Through this it is possible to investigate the similarities and contrasts between burial practices at Tell el-Dab'a, and contemporary practices documented in the Levant and the Nile Valley. It is then argued that mortuary practices indicate that despite its hybrid material culture, Delta society, or at least that of the elite, drew heavily upon aspects of west Asiatic ideology. This leads on to a discussion of connection between symbolic role of metalwork and the expression of status, and a consideration of the possible social and political implications of changing stylistic zones within the east Mediterranean basin during the earlier 2nd millennium BC. Discussion also reviews the manner in which specific elements of material culture were implicated in the development and reproduction of a distinctive Nile Delta elite identity.

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