- Fellowship Dates 2017-2018
- Research Topic Marks of Meaning: Reconstructing Early Egyptian Carved Stone Palette Manufacturing Techniques
- Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- Affiliation Post-doctoral candidate University College London
This research addresses one of the most significant changes within the social sciences, namely the “material turn”—the recognition of the active role material culture plays in constructing, reproducing and renegotiating social relations and cultural values. It investigates the technologies used in the manufacture of the carved greywacke palettes of the late 4th millennium BCE. Elaborated with a wealth of iconography, these objects are studied primarily for their subject matter. Indeed, much has been gleaned concerning what these objects tell us about early Egyptian art, culture, society, worldview and developing symbolic systems. Yet, how these objects came into being as items of material culture is less well-understood. Other classes of artifact are often analyzed to reconstruct their production processes, but the manufacture methods of these decorated slabs of greywacke remain unexplored. This research addresses this gap through the detailed and systematic investigation of surface marks on the palettes through the innovative use of non-destructive high-resolution scientific imaging including Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and photogrammetry. RTI provides robust documentation of color, shape and texture together with computer enhancement of subtle surface details and makes visible what is otherwise invisible in conventional photographs yet necessary for detecting tool traces, transformation sequences and related patterning to aid reverse-engineering past production processes. Photogrammetry provides true 3-D geometry and will enable the quantitative description of surface features, such as the depth and angle of marks that may be diagnostic of certain artistic tools, hands and technical styles. This research asks: What can be discerned from the marks preserved on palette surfaces concerning tools, techniques and embodied practices employed in their shaping and embellishment? How was manufacture organized in time and space, and what can be understood of the social mechanisms for transmission of artistic knowledge? How do these aspects of material practice influence iconographic meaning and function?