Telling Times: Time and Ritual in the Realization of the Early Egyptian State


The increasing use of Bayesian-modeled absolute chronologies has met with calls for more sophisticated accounts of not just our perception of archaeological time, but also of past temporal experience. Using a case study of fourth-millennium BC Egypt this article seeks to address this. It is a period that has long been perceived through a detailed relative framework, a legacy of Flinders Petrie’s development of seriation. Yet this legacy imparted more than a framework, for its origins within nineteenth-century cultural evolutionism veiled an explanatory apparatus that encourages linear and gradualist narratives of Predynastic development. By setting a new series of absolute dates within a historically-informed critique of relative dating it is possible to question previous assumptions concerning tempos of change. This does not obviate relative typologies, however. Rather it encourages us to ask new questions as to what they might represent. It is argued that in evaluating new absolute measurements of time with reference to ritual activity that distinctive temporalities in the transformation of society can be discerned, ones in which world’s first territorial state became a social reality for past communities

    Similar works