Identity and Personhood

As cheesy as it sounds, the more I learn about ancient Egypt the more this culture blows my mind.  Between the language and writing they used and the structures they engineered everything about this ancient culture is amazing.  Especially since this was so long ago.  But sometimes, in the readings or lectures, I see similarities in our culture in the present and the Egyptian one so long ago.  In the reading it talked about personhood and identity in ancient Egyptians.  The reading said a person can define their identity by how they act with others, family, race, gender, religion, location, profession and social status.  This is not very different with how we see ourselves today.  Most of us in this class are Anthropology majors. This is one way we can identify ourselves.  If we wanted to go into a broader description, we could say we are students or Spartans.  This is part of an identity that others can perceive us through.  We can tell ancient Egyptians identity by archeological evidence found.  Just like in our culture today, the identity of a person was different when they were living compared to the afterlife.  People always have the nicest things to say at their funeral when someone has died.  It is a chance for the people who knew them best to pay their respect with nice words.  These are the people within their “identity”.  As we saw in ancient history with rulers and slaves, identity is often pushed on us or we are born into it or it is passed on to us.  We cannot help if we are the Presidents children or choose if we were born into poverty.  Although technology has certainly come a long way, there are some things that are not very from these 2 cultures even though they are thousands of years apart.


1 thought on “Identity and Personhood

  1. I think you bring up a great point here. The archaeology of identity and personhood is a relatively new development, falling under the broader category of archaeology of the individual. This is different from the earlier goals of archaeology which focused on the elite or sociopolitical or economic systems. By investigating the culturally structured ways in which individuals saw themselves and others, we can draw cross-cultural parallels. This is one of the ways that socio-cultural anthropological theory is used in an archaeological context. Another good point is the different way in which individuals self-represent in life versus how the survivors might represent them in death. It’s absolutely a biased view after death! I asked in class a few weeks ago whether biographical inscriptions in elite tombs were actually autobiographical or written by someone else after the tomb owner’s death, because this would make a big difference in how to interpret the bias of this written document.

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