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Sonia Zakrzewski: Identity, DisAbility and Eunuchism in Greco-Roman Egypt

December 5, 2023 @ 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM UTC+0

This is a hybrid event, which will be delivered on the University of Bradford campus (Richmond Building, Room J19) and online Via Teams.

With notable exceptions, bioarchaeology in Egypt has tended to focus upon one site or one aspect of health and disease, rather than the interrelationships between peoples, pathology and places. This paper tries to develop current ideas as to social identities within Egypt, and debates the theoretical aspects of archaeological identity and disability. Using a specific skeletal example from Egypt, potential eunuchism at the Greco-Roman site of Quesna in the Egyptian Delta, biological expressions of identity are considered in relation to disability.
If disAbility is employed as a framework for analysis, which focuses on the positive ability to undertake actions rather than physical or other limitations, a fluid boundary exists between disabled and able-bodied. Given that people experience physical impairments differently, a continuum of disAbility exists that depends on the actions and activities of those very individuals involved, with some being disabled by their impairments but others viewed as ‘normal.’
Using fictive narratives (so-called “faction”), we explore the lives of people with above average stature but completely unfused bony epiphyses from the Greco-Roman site of Quesna. One such individual was interred in a mudbrick tomb containing additional, non-affected decedents. Another was buried in a nearby simple sand-dug pit, but was buried with many funerary amulets. These tall and yet apparently still growing individuals would likely have appeared different in life from their peers, and so their ‘difference’ might have had implications on their identity and funerary treatments. This talk thus moves from this specific example to consider how disAbility interacts with other aspects of identity in ancient Egyptian contexts.


School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford
Bradford, BD7 1DP United Kingdom + Google Map