International Conference – ‘King and Officials in the Old Kingdom: Separation and Interaction’

University of Geneva, 11–13 September 2019

Program: to be announced.

As a figure embodying the articulation with the cosmic and divine, the Egyptian king in the Old Kingdom is essentially and ritually separate from other humans. This separation is expressed on multiple occasions, some directly observable (e.g., (monumental) material culture), others only indirectly so (e.g., ritual and courtly performance). Yet the king is also constantly interacting with the inner elite, on which he necessarily relies both to exercise power and as actors of the spectacle that the elite and the king stage together. In a highly competitive court society such as in the Old Kingdom, the inner elite is also striving to emulate and appropriate royal traits, transforming these in the process.

These dynamics of separation and interaction are expressed and played out on multiple levels: spatially, architecturally, in images, and in inscriptions. Straddling traditional divides, the conference seeks to explore these dynamics considering all types of sources available and from a variety of archeological, iconographic, textual, and anthropological perspectives. It will be articulated along five intersecting themes:

  1. Expressions of the king’s separation: in space, in architecture, in images, in text;
  2. Emulation and appropriation: citation, adaptation, transformation of royal traits in the non-royal sphere;
  3. The king as a (centripetal) point of reference in the inner elite’s competition;
  4. Proximity and distance: to the king’s (living and dead) body, in necropoles (Memphite, regional) and elsewhere;
  5. Royal control: of space, of symbolic resources, and of material ones; privileges deriving from participation in such restricted commodities; appropriation of such.