ARCE Pennsylvania: Rethinking Old Kingdom Kingship

Presented by: Dr. Jessica Tomkins, Assistant Professor of History, Wofford College

  • 3:30 PM ETPennsylvania
  • Penn Museum Classroom L23260 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
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Following Champollion’s decipherment of hieroglyphs, our understanding of Egyptian society advanced at lightning speed with every new text published. However, this rapid pace of scholarship also caused certain early ideas to become engrained in the field as facts rather than interpretations or opinions. In recent decades, scholars have begun to question and break down some of these perceived “truths” such as that of a highly centralized government and the redistributive economy model for early Egyptian society. In doing so, it became clear that these earlier interpretations were based on Eurocentric understandings of the monarchy model of government. This lecture traces how and why the nascent Egyptian state was understood through this Eurocentric lens and the subsequent impact such modes of thinking have had in understanding the Egyptian political state, from the period of state formation through the Old Kingdom. This paper will contribute to the dialog on replacing our Eurocentric understanding of early ancient Egyptian kingship, statehood, and government with one based on African models, with an aim to place our interpretation of ancient Egypt back into its original African context.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Jessica Tomkins is Assistant Professor of History at Wofford College. She was previously the Terrace Research Associate in Egyptian Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and was the inaugural W. Benson Harer Egyptology Scholar in Residence at California State University, San Bernardino. Jessica was awarded a PhD in Egyptology from Brown in 2019 with a dissertation that examined the display and negotiation of power between the central and provincial governments as seen through Old Kingdom provincial mastabas at Dendera and El Kab. Her current research questions the model of government and modes of power in Old Kingdom Egypt.