Social complexity in ancient Egypt: functional differentiation as reflected in the distribution of apparently standardized ceramics

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Social complexity in ancient Egypt: functional differentiation as reflected in the distribution of apparently standardized ceramics

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Title: Social complexity in ancient Egypt: functional differentiation as reflected in the distribution of apparently standardized ceramics
Author: Sterling, Sarah L
Abstract: "Mass-production" of vessels and by extension the emergence of pottery specialists is a function of the economics of monumental constructions in Old Kingdom Egypt (ca 2700--2200 BC, historically). Evidence for pottery specialization comes in two forms; widespread similarity in vessel forms known throughout Egypt, and artistic representations. To date, however, it has been difficult to quantify the differences between pottery assemblages. One historically recognized form, often referred to as the "Meidum" bowl (due to its initial discovery at the pyramid site of Meidum) is examined to determine how the rim construction of such vessels varies across space and through time.Variation in vessel rim form results from the fact that ideas for making pottery are moving through communities of potters and pottery workshops. Therefore, the instructions for making the "Meidum" bowl can be properly considered a "meme." The fidelity with which memes are reproduced results from simple geographic distance between groups charged with making pots, all things being equal. If similarities between assemblages of objects are not consistent with geographic proximity, this opens the possibility of regional scale (as opposed to local scale) factors sorting variation. While radiocarbon studies challenge traditionally established absolute dates, the large error terms assigned the radiocarbon dates cannot be used to test assumptions about regnal sequences and durations estimated from robust historical reference to astronomical phenomena. As a result, regnal sequences and durations reported in historical documents are used as a highly resolved relative chronological tool.Objects from sites representing short-term occupations at Kom el-Hisn, Giza, Meidum, Memphis and the Badari region are compared to materials from Elephantine, a stratified long-term occupation. Assemblages are compared using analysis of variance and discriminant function analysis to determine whether differences between locations is a function of simple distance between locations or larger scale factors. It is determined that the distribution of Meidum bowl variants reveals the existence of both regional and local scale factors sorting variation. This indicates that while some communities examined in this study are linked by long distance interaction, others are not.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2004
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/6442

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