Barbara Hufft

Staging the kingship of the 25th dynasty: on visual representation strategies of the rulers from Kush in Egypt and Nubia (working title).

Initial Situation:

Egypt and Nubia were closely connected for centuries, mainly through economic but also through political and cultural relations. For the most part, Egypt exercised a dominant position over its southern neighbors, mainly because of its (natural) resources. Under the kings of the 25th dynasty, this balance of power changed. The Kushites established their supremacy in Nubia from Napata on the 4th Nile cataract and finally seized power in Egypt.
Despite the comparatively short reign of the Cushites in the Nile Valley, which lasted only about 90 years, a considerable number of sacred monuments of the rulers of the 25th Dynasty in Egypt as well as in their Cushite homeland have been preserved. These follow Egyptian modes of representation, which were, however, at least in part clearly adapted to the special political-cultural situation that the heartland of the ruler's domain was not located between the 1st Nile cataract and the Mediterranean ('Egypt'), but in a different socio-cultural environment in the area of the 4th cataract. An analysis and contextualization of the parallels and deviations of the representations therefore promises to shed light on possible backgrounds for the targeted staging of kingship or the corresponding ruler.



The dissertation pursues the goal of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the royal representations of the 25th Dynasty as presented primarily on the monumental wall reliefs as well as various objects of small art. A detailed comparison of the scenes will not only show how Egyptian themes and canonical laws were applied but also how they were adapted within a given setting by the hurry of a society with a culturally and geographically different past.
A targeted contrastive analysis of the corpus of significant material will also allow -at least to some extent- an approach to the question to what extent the perception of the Cushite kings as indigenous or foreign rulers was reflected and implemented in both core areas (Egypt and Nubia). The extent and significance of the different representations as a political issue will be examined with regard to royal ideology and awareness of tradition (keyword archaism), self-perception and perception by others (here also in the confrontation with propaganda), as well as ultimately the cultural identity of the kings of the 25th dynasty in distinction to ethnic descent or Egyptianization (keyword acculturation).
In addition to the superficial highlighting of similarities and differences, the thesis deals with the fluid adaptations of Cushite (and, in a prospective way, later Napatanic and Meroitic) iconography in comparison to conventional Egyptian modes of representation as well as in demarcation between the respective rulers.


In contrast to predominantly ethnographically based approaches in the field of Nubian studies, the focus is not on the ethnic identity (in the narrow sense of ancestry, skin color, etc.) of the Cushite kings, but on the question of their (self-determined) cultural, political, and/or individual identity, as well as its manifestations or implications. The iconographic source situation raises a very fundamental question: whether and to what extent an assignment of the Cushite kings to a dynasty of foreign, resp. foreign character in contrast to an indigenous, Egyptian one can actually be reality of this specific ancient society or is perhaps exclusively a modern construct.
A more detailed analysis of such representations, embedded in a more elastic research approach such as that of transculturality studies, allows us to fan out in more multifaceted dimensions how the perception of the Cushites as indigenous or foreign rulers in the two core areas and what their implications are for the Egypto-Cushite conceptualization of identity in terms of multicultural societies in the Nile Valley in the 1st millennium BCE.

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