The Importance of Ethnicity

The most important topic that we covered in my opinion, was the concept of identity in Egypt. We briefly touched on the fact that Egyptians had isolated themselves for several centuries and had limited contact with those outside of their world. We begin to see the formation of an ethnic identity when foreigners began to interact with the Egyptians during the Middle Kingdom, as ethnicity is partially self ascription and partially an awareness of the how outsiders view oneself. The depictions of these foreign people are found on the walls of Egyptian tombs and temples. As immigrants migrated into Egypt and took on roles in the community scholars note the adoption of Egyptian cultural practices by those immigrants. This adoption of cultural practices creates an interesting discussion on what it means to be Egyptian and how we as anthropologists should determine ethnicity for an individual and a population.

This topic of the concept of ethnicity was the catalyst to my research paper where I was able to look deeper at the archaeological evidence of the interactions between the people at the border area between Nubia and Egypt.  This territorial area was not unique as there were likely similar cultural interactions between the eastern and western borders of Egypt as well as across the Mediterranean Sea. The extensive Hellenization of Egypt also illustrates how identity of individuals, communities and the entire region continuously evolves.

The ties to higher theoretical questions about Egyptian life in this time period are incredible important to consider. While studying the history of Egyptian anthropology scholars are now beginning to study the history of what it meant to be Egyptian. Both of these histories are incredibly dynamic and complex, but shed so much light on what life was like and how these people saw themselves and their foreign neighbors.