Violence and Power in Ancient Egypt : Image and Ideology before the New Kingdom book cover
1st Edition

Violence and Power in Ancient Egypt
Image and Ideology before the New Kingdom

ISBN 9780367878542
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
314 Pages

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Book Description

Violence and Power in Ancient Egypt examines the use of Egyptian pictures of violence prior to the New Kingdom. Starting with the assertion that making and displaying such images served as a tactic of power, related to but separate from the actual practice of violence, the book explores the development and deployment of this imagery across different contexts. By comparatively utilizing violent images from a variety of other times and cultures, the book asks that we consider not only how Egyptian imagery was related to Egyptian violence, but also why people create pictures of violence and place them where they do, and how such images communicate what to whom. By cataloging and querying Egyptian imagery of violence from different periods and different contexts—royal tombs, divine temples, the landscape, portable objects, and private tombs—Violence and Power highlights the nuances of the relationship between aspects of royal ideology, art, and its audiences in the first half of pharaonic Egyptian history.


Table of Contents

List of figures


Chronological chart

Chapter 1

Picturing violence

The Structure of this Book


Chapter 2

The Origins of Violent Imagery

The Earliest Images of Violence in Egypt

The Evidence from Early Egypt: Naqada I

The Evidence from Early Egypt: Naqada II

Order and Chaos

Chapter 3

The Violence Inherent in the System: Imagery and Royal Ideology in the Period of State Formation

Violence in Egyptian Art in the Period of State Formation

Violence in Early Dynastic Imagery

Continuity and Discontinuity

Chapter 4

To Live Forever: The Decoration of Royal Mortuary Complexes

The Old Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom

Interpreting Imagery of Violence from Royal Tombs

Chapter 5

Uniter of the Two Lands: Images of Violence in Divine Temples

Egyptian Temples as a Context for Imagery

Chapter 6

The Preservation of Order: Images in the Landscape

The Early Dynastic Period

The Old Kingdom

Reading Rock Carvings of Smiting

Chapter 7

Out and About: Images of Violence on Portable Objects

Images of Triumph on Portable Objects

Images of Captivity on Portable Objects

Movement and Meaning

Chapter 8

Who is Who? Private Monumental Images of War

The Old Kingdom

The First Intermediate Period

The Middle Kingdom

Inscriptions and Images in Private Tombs

Interpreting Private Images of War

Chapter 9

Violence, Power, Ideology



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Laurel Bestock is an Associate Professor of Archaeology and Egyptology at Brown University (USA). She received her PhD in Egyptian Archaeology and Art from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (USA). She directs excavations in Egypt at the site of Abydos, where she investigates early kingship. In the Sudan, she co-directs excavations at the Egyptian fortress of Uronarti, seeking to understand lifestyles and cultural interactions in a colonial outpost from nearly 4000 years ago. For her next project, she hopes to work on a book focused on food and culture at Uronarti, both anciently and in the context of a modern excavation team camping in tents along the Nile.


This book is a significant contribution to the study of Egyptology and ancient art history, delivering the results of cutting-edge research in an area of central importance. Its essential focus is violence in Ancient Egypt which is a topic of increasing interest in current historical and cultural studies, and discusses a large corpus of images of great value, recognising the need for a more theoretical approach to the study of Egyptian artistic expression, and emphasising the critical importance of context in evaluating the function of representations. Throughout, the analysis shows a healthy awareness of the problem of evidence — or lack thereof. The book has a valuable cross-cultural dimension which makes it relevant not only to the Egyptological community, but also to art historians, ancient historians in general, and anthropologists. The result is a study which breaks much new ground and forces the reconsideration of entrenched views.

- Dr Alan Lloyd, Swansea University, UK

“Violence and Power in Ancient Egypt. Image and Ideology before the New Kingdom” by Laurel Bestock is a new and exciting work on the representations of violence in ancient Egypt from the Early Dynastic Period until the end of the Middle Kingdom (c. 4000-1650 BC).

-Dr Uroš Matic, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster