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The development of productive subsistence economies in the Nile Valley: Zooarchaeological analysis at El-Mahâsna and South Abydos, Upper EgyptStine Rossel
The analysis of two archaeofaunal assemblages is used to address a series of questions pertaining to the development of specialized pastoral systems in ancient Egypt. The assemblages come from excavations at el-Mahâsna, a Predynastic settlement site, and South Abydos, a mortuary temple and settlement of the Middle Kingdom. Both sites are located on the desert margin in Upper Egypt. Relative taxonomic representation of bone fragments, body part distributions, and kill-off patterns are used to evaluate models of the Pharaonic economy and to explore how subsistence production in the Dynastic periods compared with that in the Predynastic. A final objective is to assess how significant changes in the environment during these periods affected animal husbandry and the use of wild animal resources. The results of the analysis are not in agreement with the traditional substantivist economic model of ancient Egypt, which states that the primary mode of resource circulation was by redistribution. Instead the results support a household-based (oikos) model in which resources are distributed only partially through redistribution from large households, such as temple estates, to smaller affiliated households. A second result of the analysis suggests that many of the strategies employed in the use of animal resources were similar during the Predynastic and the Dynastic periods. Hence the establishment of the first ruling dynasties ca. 3000 BC, did not lead to a break in former subsistence practices. Instead previously established traditions continued but went through restructuring to meet the demands of a society characterized by a more integrated economy. A final result suggests that the Predynastic subsistence economy appears to have been closely adapted to the environmental conditions of the fourth millennium. During the Pharaonic periods, although some adaptations to increasingly arid conditions are reflected in the animal economy, basic features of the Predynastic economy continued despite environmentally deteriorating conditions. I argue that the core features of the Pharaonic subsistence economy were established under different environmental conditions and do not represent the ideal adaptation to prevailing conditions during the Dynastic period. This, I propose, is connected to production strategies of Pharaonic society that were deeply rooted in Predynastic lifeways.
Social sciences; Egypt; El-Mahasna; Faunal analysis; Nile Valley; Pastoralism; South Abydos; Subsistence economies; Zooarchaeology; Archaeology; Ancient history; 0579:Ancient history; 0324:Archaeology
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