Nicky van de Beek, M.A.


Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
Graduiertenkolleg 1876
Hegelstr. 59
55122 Mainz


Project title: A tomb with a view: Representations of landscape in ancient Egyptian tombs from the Old to the New Kingdom (ca. 2700-1050 BCE)

Supervisors: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Tanja Pommerening, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Alexander Pruß


This study examines representations of landscape in ancient Egyptian private tombs from the Old to the New Kingdom (ca. 2700-1050 BCE). Landscape can be understood as the visual environment, both natural and man-made. This has been the subject of geoarchaeology (reconstructing past landscapes), landscape archaeology (studying the way in which past people perceived, constructed and used their environment), and art history (studying the way in which landscapes are depicted since the genre was introduced by Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century).
The ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and reliefs (often characterized as ‘scenes of daily life’) show a variety of scene types that incorporate elements of landscape, such as water, mountains, vegetation and animal life, as well as human interaction with this landscape (fishing, fowling, hunting, herding, etc.). These types of landscape (etically categorized as marshland, desert, pastures, etc.) can be approached as ‘prototypes’ or members of a conceptual category. The elements contained in these scenes (e.g. papyrus reeds, birds, water, the act of spearing fish) can be regarded as more or less central members of their respective conceptual categories.
By mapping the ‘prototypes’ of scenes in which landscape plays a role, their various elements and the terms given to these elements in the form of hieroglyphic captions, a semantic ‘landscape’ emerges that potentially gives an emic view of the way in which the ancient Egyptians categorized and conceptualized their natural environment. This type of research can provide more insight into the cognitive and linguistic categories employed by the ancient Egyptians.
The broad scope of this study is intended to form a long durée view of the material, taking into account historical and regional variety and developments in expression and meaning. In this way, the ‘prototypes’ can be mapped over a large period of time, examining the ways in which concepts of landscape were universal, specific or interchanged throughout ancient Egyptian cultural history.