Patterns of change and disclosures of difference. Family and gender in New Kingdom Egypt: titles of non-royal women (completed)

The overall aim of this thesis is to explore the monumental remains and the non-literary ostraca and papyri as different layers of situated material-discursive practices. I approach the records seeking both patterns of change and disclosures of difference, while trying to make sense of what often comes down to us as contradictory information about family and gender in New Kingdom Egypt.

Women become more visible in the records, in particular from the 18th to the 19th Dynasty, and I interpret this as a sign of increased recognition of women within the Egyptian society. I argue that the change in reference to ‘his wife’ from Hmt.f to snt.f in the monumental remains imply that the wife became increasingly recognised as ‘his sister’, alter ego and co-occupant of his tomb. Also, the increasing popularity of titles such as ‘woman of the city’ (anxt nt niwt) and ‘musician of Amen’ (Smayt nt imn) imply a change in focus from the domestic sphere to city and temple.

I also argue that any general claim about the relative position of men and women within society will fail to describe what was reality. Definitions of gender must be understood as disclosures, which are dependent on a number of factors, such as the genre, context and purpose of the specific record. In general, the monumental remains give a hyper-gendered account, while the non-literary ostraca and papyri are more ephemeral and less gender focused. Class and status stand out as equal, if not more important than, gender.

This thesis demonstrates that family was not only about biology, or being next of kin, but was more importantly about who actually acted as family. I claim that reciprocity and mutual dependency, through the correlation of support, burial and inheritance, was the very glue that tied families together. I call this family contracts, and through these contracts individuals negotiated their position in society through their relations/encounters with others, both living and dead.


The project is based at the Centre for Gender Research (STK) and the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages (IKOS) at the University of Oslo, but also include a research stay at the Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Chicago.


University of Oslo, 2014-2018.

Published Apr. 8, 2014 2:58 PM - Last modified May 30, 2018 2:01 PM