Week 5 Blog Post

For this week’s post, I would like to examine how the “democratization” of the afterlife and increased access to divine symbolism by what can be considered ‘lower echelons’ is not unlike the changes apparent in our own society as a result of new information technologies. The key concept of my post is how access to information and knowledge removes the authority of previously powerful figures. While reading about the changes in material culture that occurred during the Middle Kingdom, I was reminded of the discussion from my Medical Anthropology class this week, in which access to information through technologies such as the WebMD app creates a new “educated patient” and the authority of the doctor, a culturally respected figure, is undermined.

The first Intermediate Period of the Middle Kingdom experienced much socio-economic and political change. Included in this was the diffusion of cultural and religious symbolism from something strictly reserved for royal purposes to lower-status social groups. Political changes, namely decentralization, are attributed to this change. With decreased royal control, provincial elites and new social groups now had access to material that was previously restricted. This is evident in funerary custom. A prominent example is that Pyramid Texts, formerly for royal usage only, had been used by non-royal elites. The “trickle-down” effect continued as social organization continued to change.

Though not entirely paralleled, it is possible to see the connection between the rise of the Egyptian ‘lower echelon’ and the increased control of members of our own society as a result of communication technology. Where the ancient Egyptians were expanding and displaying their social and religious ritual to an increased population of varying status, many people in modern times have seen an increase in various opportunities because knowledge is not restricted to those with access to higher education. In both cases, the previous power of authority figures, be they royal or occupational, is decreased.

Reference:
Wegner, Josef (2010). Tradition and Innovation: The Middle Kingdom. In Willeke Wendrich (Ed.), Egyptian Archaeology (pp. 119-142) Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

1 thought on “Week 5 Blog Post

  1. I think you make a very interesting point and I agree with your parallel between the rise of the elite classes in Egypt and the increased occurrence of self diagnosis in our modern civilizations. Both situations have arisen due to an easier accessibility of knowledge.

    In ancient Egypt, with the decentralizing government and frequency of global trade I think it was easier for non royalty to gain knowledge. By trading with people from other empires or cultures, the ancient civilization was beginning to naturally accumulate more diverse views which would also naturally lead to more critical thinking. The ‘elite’ classes were coming into power due to the decentralizing government because the royal class was now too busy with self preservation tactics. This gave the elite class the time to pursue education and power without the regulatory surveillance of the ruling class.

    In our modern times we have had a much easier way to access knowledge known as the internet. It was already easier for us when airplanes were invented because travel was safer and took less time, but with the invention of the internet that eight hour flight for information now takes seconds to send via email.

    This is also a cause for concern with our governments nowadays because of the lack of control they have over our cyber actions. Due to being able to anonymously and instantly share our thoughts and views, more people are becoming easier to influence and harder for our governments to control.

    Sorry I got a little off topic and even if this all sounds super fancy and official, these are still only my personal thoughts.

Leave a Reply