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On the Ownership of the Saqqara Mastabas and the Allotment of Political and Ideological Power at the Dawn of the State

Morris, Ellen F.

The issue of just who was buried in the largest, wealthiest, and most visually prominent tombs of the First Dynasty is crucial to resolve, or at least to explore thoroughly, if we are to have any sense of the political dynamics operative at the dawn of the Egyptian state. I am therefore on this occasion honored to add my voice to that of my professor, mentor, and scholarly hero of sorts in suggesting that the Saqqara mastabas do not belong to the officials to whom Egyptologists have long handed over their deeds. To mount my own argument, I will utilize mastaba 3504 as a case study. Ownership of this tomb, the nearest neighbor to the north of mastaba 3505, which Dr. O'Connor took as the focus for his own investigation, is usually attributed to an official named Sekhemka. In this essay I will introduce the reader to this opulent mastaba, highlight the reasons I believe its assignment to Sekhemka to be misguided, widen the frame to demonstrate the relevance of the case study, and finally introduce a tentative alternative hypothesis as to what category of people owned the Saqqara mastabas and why their identities may have been to some extent intentionally subsumed in that of the reigning king.

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Also Published In

The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt: Essays in Honor of David B. O’Connor, vol. II
Supreme Council of Antiquities Press

More About This Work

Academic Units
Classics and Ancient Studies (Barnard College)
Supreme Council of Antiquities Press
Published Here
June 14, 2018