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Exchange, Extraction, and the Politics of Ideological Money Laundering in Egypt's New Kingdom Empire

Morris, Ellen F.

Egypt's New Kingdom imperial government routinely utilized Syro-Palestinian temples to mask a variety of key economic and political transactions. Pharaohs embellished temples in the territory of valued vassals and gave gifts of divine statues fashioned out of precious materials. The statues themselves could serve as bribes, designed to purchase the allegiance of key vassals. Further, if a local deity could be credibly syncretized with an Egyptian counterpart, as was the Lady of Byblos, the pharaoh might continue to provide "offerings" in perpetuity that conveniently disguised payment for local resources and/or ongoing subsidies as royal largesse bestowed upon an Egyptian god. Statues in Egypt and Nubia were typically bestowed upon temples together with parcels of land to support them. If, as is likely, the same held true in Syria-Palestine, an Egyptian-sponsored statue would receive income that might, depending on circumstances, be shared between local powerbrokers, Egyptian military establishments, and representatives of affiliated temples in Egypt. Evidence suggests that divine estates--whether purchased by Egyptians, granted by friendly kings, or usurped by rights of conquest--frequently supported the costs of military occupation. In areas of the empire where divine estates funneled taxes to Egyptian bases, the custom of having locals deliver a portion of their produce to the temple of a god that they viewed as potentially effective on their behalf was likely held to be ideologically more palatable than would be a simple, unmasked extraction.

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Also Published In

Policies of Exchange: Political Systems and Modes of Interaction in the Aegean and the Near East in the 2nd Millennium B.C.E.
Austrian Academy of Sciences Press

More About This Work

Academic Units
Classics and Ancient Studies (Barnard College)
Austrian Academy of Sciences Press
Published Here
June 18, 2018