1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Proposal Defense

This project proposes to look at the organization and development of specialized production in early 4th-millennium BC Egypt, where newly available data can be brought to bear on competing models of specialization. Problems with the existing prestige goods models for the development of specialization are that they take a top-down view, and that there is evidence for specialized production that is not accounted for. I hypothesize that a ritual production model, as described by Spielman (2002) may fit the data well. In this model, specialized production came about to make symbolically significant items for many people, not just a subset of the population. On a part-time basis specialist producers made goods that were used for rituals and social transactions. These items do not fit well into luxury or utilitarian categories but somewhere in between, used in daily life and in ritual interactions. The ritual production model has implications for the portrayal of craftspeople, the agency of non-aggrandizers in large-scale social change, the significance of ritual activities for such changes, and how the development of inequalities may have occurred in Egypt. I will test whether this model applies to the early part of the Naqada period (4000-3000BC) in Egypt by examining lithic artifacts from recently excavated settlement contexts. Through artifact analysis and literature review I will look at patterns of distribution, context, production location, raw material use, modification, and change over time for specialized lithic artifacts. My research should make significant contributions to the exploration of ancient lifeways, to documenting variability in the development of specialization and inequality by situating Egypt in comparative context with other emergent hierarchical societies, and to studies of materiality by theorizing how, and why materials with symbolic significance played a role in social changes in Egypt.

Location: Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room 

Event Date: 
Thursday, 13 December 2012 - 11:00am to 1:00pm
Beth Hart
Speaker Title: 
The Development of Specialization in Early Naqada Period Egypt: Testing a ritual production model with lithic evidence from settlement sites
Event Type: