The Archaeology of Egyptian Non-Royal Burial Customs in New Kingdom Egypt and Its Empire

Review by Anna Garnett

Traditional Egyptological narratives often placed Egypt at the centre, to the detriment of neighbouring cultures, with the result that our understanding of the complexities of those cultures can be partial and biased. It is always refreshing to see a new volume that seeks to remedy this and place ancient Egypt in its wider geopolitical and historical context. This short volume, part of the new Elements series from Cambridge University Press, provides an important new evaluation of burial practices focusing on the graves of the general population during the New Kingdom (c.1550-1069 BC).

The book is split into four short, accessible chapters, with a general introduction and concluding remarks. The first themed chapter presents ancient Egyptian burial traditions along a wide socio-economic spectrum: this is certainly not a ‘top-down’ approach prioritising elite burials, but rather one that is more holistic and inclusive, encompassing the burial places of poorer people as well as those of wealthier individuals. A second chapter focuses on the material evidence for burial types: architecture, cemetery layouts, and grave planning, including evidence for multiple burials; this helps to build a picture of the physicality of burial traditions during this period. A third thematic chapter presents object evidence from New Kingdom burials in museums, shedding light on the kind of items chosen as grave goods. Drawing on archaeological data and archival documentation, as well as museum objects from collections around the world, the author questions the extent to which evidence from non-royal graves in Egypt, and those beyond its borders, may represent aspects of cultural entanglement.

A detailed summary chapter, glossary, and an extensive bibliography will be particularly useful for students and those wishing to further explore this fascinating subject. There is also a useful appendix containing selected case-study examples of burials and cemeteries, listed from north to south, a detailed map of Egypt and its neighbours, and a chronological table that sets ancient Egyptian periods against those of Nubia and the Southern Levant. Well-illustrated with a selection of relevant greyscale and line drawings, this volume is ideal for all those seeking a general introduction to current debates or wishing to refresh their knowledge.

The Archaeology of Egyptian Non-Royal Burial Customs in New Kingdom Egypt and Its Empire (Cambridge Elements: Ancient Egypt in Context)
by Wolfram Grajetzki
Cambridge University Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-0090-7350-92
Paperback £15; also available as an e-book