As an anthropology major with a focus in archaeology and religion, I have always been interested in how different groups of people bury their dead. One question that I have wondered about again and again came up for me while doing this week’s reading. How do archaeologists know that a burial is intentional without grave goods? I would assume that they might determine this from body placement. Perhaps the bodies have an intentional placement to them, such as arms across the chest, or perfectly straight down at their sides. The other thing that may have indicated intentional burial, when grave goods were not present, could be the location of the grave inside of a cemetery or mortuary area.
The other thing that I found interesting was the directional placement of the burials in pre-dynastic Egypt and the way that they varied between upper and lower Egypt. I wonder what this said about the early cosmology of the area. Did this indicate something about the position of “heaven” as it did/does in other cultures. Or was there some other significance? Why was this direction changed between upper and lower Egypt? When I look at the map I notice that in both cases the bodies were faced looking away from the Nile. In the case of the lower Egyptian settlement of Wadi Digla, which is east of the Nile, the bodies were placed with their head to the south facing to the east. In the case of the upper Egyptian settlement of Naqada, located west of Nile, bodies were positioned facing to the west. Was this to protect the life giving force of the Nile?
Another topic that sparked my interest was the proof of people altering their appearances. The reading discusses one woman who had dyed her hair to cover gray and used extensions to make her hair long and curly. This, to me, indicates that the early Egyptians and a very clear notion of what beauty meant to them. I find it interesting that we still do these things today! I wonder how much our idea of beauty has changed since then.
~Cristina M. Cao