Late Bronze Age Production, Use, and Exchange of Luxury Vases: A New Approach

Abstract

Egypt shows evidence for major social and cultural changes during the New Kingdom that are clearly visible in funerary contexts, and especially by the typological evolution of Egyptian luxury vessels. In particular, new forms appear in both royal and commoner tombs that imitate foreign vessels. The paradox is that these vessels, when discovered outside of Egypt, are often regarded as "Egyptian" or "Egyptianizing," which is just one indication that Late Bronze Age luxury vessels are and were often linked to questions of cultural identity and international trade. So far, such evidence has often been used to discuss Egyptian cultural imperialism in the Near East, and even throughout the Aegean. However, to understand properly the origins of these new forms and their role in cultural exchange between Egypt and its neighbors, it is important to investigate all sites where such forms have been discovered, from Egypt to North Syria to Iran to Greece. Technological and stylistic comparisons across these regions better help to define cultural trends. The present article also proposes a social and economic approach that favors a different balance between those principal trade mechanisms that are usually highlighted by different commentators: centralized versus private production or emulation versus reciprocity. As a result, Egypt appears only as one among several cultural actors, and not necessarily at the center of this trade network. These phenomena can therefore be analyzed through the prism of "transculturation."

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Bouillon, H., (2019) “Late Bronze Age Production, Use, and Exchange of Luxury Vases: A New Approach”, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 21(1), p.5-19.

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Hélène Bouillon (University of Paris, Sorbonne & Collège de France)

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