A Portion of Life Solidified: Understanding Ancient Egypt Through the Integration of Archaeology and History

In: Journal of Egyptian History
Stuart Tyson Smith University of California, Santa Barbara

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Archaeological evidence is often perceived as either illustrating the historical record or where independent, dealing mainly with small things of little larger importance, like the domestic economy. The search for individual action in the archaeological record seems futile compared to the richness of the historical record at places like Deir el Medina. The founder of modern Egyptian archaeology, W.M. Flinders Petrie, realized the potential for archaeology to reveal not just cultural generalities, but insights into the lives of individuals, most of whom left no written record behind. Both archaeological and historical evidence have unique limitations and challenges in interpretation, but at the same time truly integrating text and archaeology has the potential to yield greater insights into the nature and dynamics of Egyptian society than each source alone could produce.

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