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Linear Statecraft along the Nile: Landscapes and the Political Phenomenology of Ancient Egypt

In: Journal of Egyptian History
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  • 1 University of CaliforniaLos Angeles
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Abstract

States in archaeological and historical parlance generally are large and dynamic entities with continually fluctuating borders and boundaries across large land masses. States also are characterized by multiple nodes of settlement and multiple regions of resource availability within those large land masses, including agricultural fields, animal pastures, raw materials, and labor power. The northeastern African continent however provides a rather different spatial configuration for states’ prerequisites of agricultural intensification and social integration: the ancient Egyptian state—and all subsequent political entities called “Egypt”—have been framed by the valley of the Nile as a long and narrow corridor of human viability. Using “flow” as a phenomenological concept in which experiences are heightened by restraint conditions, this article examines the characteristics of political and social cohesion given geographic limitations on communication, migration and territorial expansion. The constraints of a viable landmass surrounded by uninhabitable desert parallel the conditions experienced by island states, enabling the productive application of island and archipelagic models to the analysis of the ancient Egyptian state.

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