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ARCE-PA Presents


April 26,  2014

"It's Not All About Sex, or Is It?: The Place and Role of Mothers in Private Tomb Decoration"



Violaine Chauvet, PhD
Assistant Professor, School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology (SACE), Liverpool University


This talk will present some preliminary results of research meant to bring together a broad range of evidence, both iconographic and textual, about the place and role of mothers in private tombs from the Old to the New Kingdom.
The initial stage of the project is to re-assess the presence of the mother-figure in the decorative program of private tombs. Were mothers, as it has been argued, filling the role of the spouse when no such figure existed? If so, was the iconography / text adapted in presenting the female partner as ‘gestational carrier’, rather than sexual partner, both being equally the source of life.
Following this is a discussion of matrilineal filiations which becomes a conspicuous textual feature in Middle Kingdom stelae. Is this (re-)definition of the family nucleus in funerary context, which is also reflected in stelae iconography, reflective of social changes in the re-emergence of the Middle Kingdom, or is it more specifically to do with the shaping of a new elite identity centered on matrilineal kinship? This latter aspect will then lead us to consider some case-studies from the New Kingdom where the presence of mothers depicted in the tombs of their sons, either with their spouse or on their own can be seen as a testimony to the influence of the mother-lineage on the acquisition of administrative functions.
The project obviously builds upon an extensive body of scholarship about the role of women in the funerary context, and aims at refining or developing a discussion on sexuality and eroticism in the analysis of the mother-motif deriving from the symbolism associated with Hathor as “mother-goddess.” 







Dr. Violaine Chauvet graduated with her PhD in Egyptian Art and Archaeology from The Johns Hopkins University in 2004.  She has taught at The Johns Hopkins University, Framingham State University (2005-2007) and since 2007 has been an Assistant Professor (UK Lecturer) at the University of Liverpool’s School of Archaeology, Classics, and Egyptology (SACE).  Her research focuses largely on tomb inscriptions as a source of historical information. Biographies and commemorative inscriptions form the core data-set underpinning Violaine’s research on the socio-economic landscape of private tombs construction (Who did What for Whom). Dr. Chauvet has lectured throughout the UK and US, has published several articles on various aspects of Old Kingdom tomb construction and decoration, and is currently finishing her book entitled The Funerary Landscape of the Old Kingdom: Social and Economic Study of Tomb Construction



 Entrance fees are $10 for the general public, $7 for University Museum members and UPenn Staff & Faculty, $5 for Students with ID, and FREE for ARCE-PA members and children under 12

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