Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Project title: Concepts of the eye in ancient Egypt.
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Tanja Pommerening, Prof. Dr. Doris Prechel
As one of the most important human senses, the eye played a prominent role not only in ancient Egyptian medical texts. Furthermore, it was significant in religious and mythological beliefs. While the ophthalmological evidence was often prepared in egyptological and medical historical studies, a research of the eye comparing all other contexts is still missing. Therefore, the doctoral project will work on the eye and its parts based on philological sources of all textual documents.
The aim is to carve out the conceptions of the eyes' function and composition as well as to ascertain ideas of seeing. Furthermore, the study wants to give insight into the eyes' integration in e.g. religious-mythological concepts, metaphors as well as in practical aspects. In contrast to descriptions of the healthy eye it must also be examined, how it was stated if the eyes' function is missing or was blinded with intent.
Methodological the study analyzes the lexical and semantic field of the ancient Egyptian expressions for "eye" and its particular parts. This implies to identify and to categorize, which parts of the eye were known and/or were separately named and which other expressions for the eye existed. Synchronic and diachronic analyses in the lexical field "eye" in consideration of context, medium and the intended group of addressees can furthermore gain insight to usage, conceptions and methaphors as well as to changes in meaning and using of the entire lexes. Additionally, the philological material will be verified with pictorial and archaeological sources to proof the agreement of the statements found in the textual documents with material culture and iconographic and three-dimensional representations.
The research is interdisciplinary composed. After evaluation of the Egyptian material the results will be compared with Akkadian sources from Mesopotamia. By linking the Egyptian conceptions with an immediate neighbouring culture, with which continuous exchange existed, it is possible to make statements to intercultural processes as well as to local and borrowed traditions.
The dissertation project was completed in August 2016.
The work was published as: N. Gräßler, Konzepte des Auges im alten Ägypten (Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur; Beihefte; 20), Hamburg 2017.