8. History and Historiography in the Material World: Ancient Egyptian Perspectives
John Baines [+]
University of Oxford
Curation of the past, which underlies written historiography, relies on the interplay of social institutions, material culture, and physical setting. ‘Historiography’ in complex societies is contained not only in oral narratives and written texts but also in a range of other domains, material, spoken, and written, loosely structured or ritualized. This background is the most basic presupposition for historiography. This chapter explores relevant practices in ancient Egypt, asking three principal questions and paying particular attention to evidence from material culture. First, how far are institutions organized in the present in such a way as to create materials that will serve a mobilization of the past at some time in the future? Second, is it meaningful to draw distinctions between a ‘documentary’ or factual and discursive approach to the past and a ‘mythical’ one, and would such distinctions have made sense to the ancient actors? Third, in a culture such as that of early Egypt, where narrative forms do not seem to have had a privileged status at least in written form, how should the imposed concepts of historiography and historical consciousness be applied? Should other modes of presentation be given comparable or greater weight?