Abstracts

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 Narratology and Egyptian Tales

Alys Cox  (UCL)

One of the most important features of a text is the delivery of information by a narrator. The voice of this speaker is a purposeful construction. The narrator is responsible for presenting sufficient and specific detail to achieve a coherent trajectory towards a final point.

What can be said of the manner in which narrators encode and organise information in Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom tales; how do they present the concepts of personality and character, the interaction of actants, and the reasoned and motivated progression of plot?

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The Geographic Distribution of Bigraphism in Coptic Texts during the Early Islamic Period

Jenny Cromwell  (Macquarie University, Sydney)

Bigraphism refers to the use of two scripts, by the same scribe, within a single text. Two scripts can be used to write the same language, as is most clearly seen in Coptic literary texts, in which the title and colophon are written in a markedly different style. They can also be used to write different languages, namely, in this instance, Coptic and Greek. After the Islamic conquest (641 CE), Coptic increasingly was used to write administrative and legal texts, which often draw heavily upon Greek formulary. For the most part, this formulary was integrated into Coptic as loan phrases, e.g. (διὰ χειρὸς εἰς χεῖρά), ‘from hand to hand’, which are written in the same script as the rest of the Coptic text. At the same time, other formulary were perceived not as loan phrases but as entirely Greek passages, such as the invocation of the holy Trinity, e.g. (ἐν ὀνόματι τῆς ἁγίας …). While some scribes wrote this in the same script in which they wrote the Coptic body of the documents, others did not, using a distinctive hand for such Greek sections.

This paper aims to produce a survey of the published material in post-conquest Coptic administrative and documentary texts that exhibit this practice. The questions that I am especially interested in are: what is the geographic range of this practice, when does it first appear, and what does this tell us about scribal practise during this period. I will also address the methodological problems inherent in such a study.

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 Prospecting for Inscriptions at Hatnub

Roland Enmarch  (Liverpool)

The texts commemorating pharaonic expeditions at the travertine (a.k.a. Egyptian alabaster) quarries at Hatnub are of great importance for reconstructing Egyptian history, particularly in the period of the late First Intermediate Period to early Middle Kingdom. Since 1927 little epigraphic work has been undertaken at the site, which is under ongoing threat from modern travertine extraction. This paper reports on the initial stages of a project to produce a full epigraphic and photographic record of the surviving inscriptions (many of which are only available in hand copy format in previous publications). The possibilities for discovering ‘new’ inscriptions at the site will also be discussed.

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 Some Aspects of Written Agency in Letters to the Dead

Angela McDonald  (Liverpool)

The small corpus of Letters to the Dead has been studied from various angles over the years, although particular attention has been paid to unlocking the complex grammar involved and achieving accurate translation.

My interests lie in the materiality of the Letters. I aim specifically to reconcile the physical shape of their media with the implications of the ways in which their texts have been inscribed, with a view to exploring what might be termed their orthographic agency.

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 Ancient Egyptian Religious Terminology between Lexicography and Ontology

Rune Nyord  (Christ’s College, Cambridge)

Ancient Egyptian mortuary texts are heavily concerned with ontological matters such as transformation and the various stages of fluctuation between existence and non-existence. It has long been recognized that such texts deal with ontological categories that differ to a large extent from those of modern translators and interpreters, as reflected inter alia in the core vocabulary of the texts. In recent years, the so-called ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology has put focus on the way in which cultures may differ, not only in terms of their ontological categories, but also more fundamentally regarding what the very notions of being and becoming entail. This presentation argues that insights from this broad movement in anthropology can elucidate our understanding of the sometimes difficult core vocabulary of Egyptian mortuary texts.

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Material Matters: Publishing Papyri in Berlin and London

Richard Parkinson  (British Museum)

The paper will present reflections  on the practical and intellectual issues involved in several recent publication projects of two groups of Middle Kingdom papyri, in different media and with different emphases: the Ramesseum papyri Online Research catalogue (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_research_catalogues.aspx), the new photographic record of P. Berlin P 3022-5 (Akademie Verlag Berlin), and a  reader’s commentary on The Eloquent Peasant (Ling Aeg Stud Mon 10).

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A Palaeographic Analysis of an Early Dynastic Stone Vessel Inscription: Material, Aesthetic and Linguistic Implications

Kathryn Piquette  (Freie Universität Berlin)

A significant proportion of surviving Early Dynastic inscriptions occur on ceramic or stone vessels. These inscriptions may be the result of single or multiple episodes of scribal activity, usually limited to a small number of sign clusters. Linguistic, ‘textual’ and depictive functions are often ambiguous. Several key studies grapple with these functional aspects, shedding light on script development and its role as a technology for communication and administration of the early Egyptian state, and symbolic use in the construction of elite identity. Emphasis is often placed on early writing as a thing—the object of completed action. Few studies marry this up with the question of early writing as a process, and how creative acts of the scribe informed the subsequent functioning of the thing produced. In this paper I attempt to interweave these areas through a material and paleographic study on a stone vessel inscription from the Egyptian and Near Eastern collections, National Museums Liverpool. With the aid of the advanced digital imaging technology, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), I explore the technological process of inscription and its implications for meaning, in the light of the intriguing yet not uncommon co-occurrence of apparent aesthetic harmony on the one hand, and aesthetic dissonance on the other.

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For a Better Understanding of Roman Demotic in Literary Manuscripts: Some Grammatical and Lexical Observations

Luigi Prada  (The Queen’s College, Oxford)

Knowledge of Roman Demotic palaeography has dramatically increased in the past few decades: after K.-Th. Zauzich’s pioneering works on “Spätdemotisch” in the 1970’s, so many disparate texts, both documentary and literary, have been published, republished, and thoroughly discussed.

One of the points that still remains most obscure about Roman Demotic, principally in literary texts, is its use of diacritic signs, purely conventional markers bearing no phonetic value whatsoever, but functioning as graphic devices to distinguish otherwise homographic forms.

In this paper, I intend to offer a discussion about a selection of a few such devices. In particular, I will concentrate on a very distinct Roman hand in which many literary and semi-literary papyri have been written, probably at some point in the II century AD, in an unspecified site in the Fayum. These texts include narrative, scientific, and divinatory works, and show the same use of peculiar diacritic signs, employed, e.g., to differentiate adjectival verbs from their corresponding adjectives, causative subjunctives from regular sḏm⸗f  forms, etc.

The issue that I will address at the conclusion of this paper is whether the widespread use of such diacritics should be looked to as nothing but the product of very accurate scribal schools, or whether their use may be a sign of a steady decrease of familiarity with the Demotic script, requiring the use of additional graphic devices as a help to both the scribe and the reader.

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 Language and Texts: Retrospect and Prospect

John Ray  (Selwyn College, Cambridge)

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Whatever Next? Oral and Written Structures and Performance

John Tait  (UCL)

In the spirit of ‘work in progress’, this paper considers a particular aspect of how ideas and ‘texts’ were transmitted over significant time-spans in ancient Egypt — a long-standing research-interest (and one shared, of course, with many other colleagues). The focus is upon a number of details of the presentation and organisation of compositions. Fictional narrative provides a starting point, but other categories are taken into account. Current work on oral traditions and discourse analysis can suggest useful approaches, but ultimately the questions worth posing about Egyptian material will be rather specific, and in fact long acknowledged.

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