Women in Ancient Egypt : the religious experiences of the non-royal woman
Koen, Elizabeth Theresia
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This thesis explores the importance of the function of religion in the life of the average, non-royal woman in Ancient Egyptian society. As Ancient Egyptian society and the historical documentation thereof were dominated by the male perspective, the extent of religious participation by women was, until recently, underestimated. Recent research has shown that women had taken part in, and in some cases even dominated, certain spheres of Ancient Egyptian religion. This included religious participation in public, as well as the practice of certain religious rituals in the home. The religious lives of ordinary women of non-royal families were studied by looking at their involvement in the public aspects of Egyptian religion, such as temples, tombs and festivals, as well as at the influence of religion on their identities as women and mothers. The research method followed was that of an iconographical analysis of original sources, which were classified and examined in order to establish their religious links to women of the middle and lower classes. A catalogue of sources is given, including sources depicting women participating in public rituals and objects used in a more domestic sphere. The first included tomb paintings and reliefs from tombs and temples, as well as objects given as public offerings to various deities. The second group included objects and visual depictions relating to fertility, birth and death. This thesis attempts better to understand and illuminate to what an extent the ordinary women of Ancient Egypt were involved in religious participation in their daily lives, as well as to illustrate the dimensions of this participation.