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d’archéologie orientale du Caire


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Stone canvas

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Stone canvas Conference (10-12 novembre 2019)

The IFAO and the PCMA are organising a joint conference on ‘graffiti’ and ‘rock art’ in Egypt and Sudan. One of the aims of the symposium is a broader contextualisation of this pictorial heritage to be achieved by bringing together various data and approaches. A discussion will entail both rock art and graffiti (including inscriptions) from many periods, from its onset in prehistory until Medieval and even later times. Such a broad spectrum of pictorial sources should give participants a basis for debating more general questions of terminology and theory. In turn, various case studies will allow researchers to discuss and compare specific issues related to pictorial motifs and their interpretations.
The conference is thus an attempt at bridging separate subfields of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology, namely rock art research and graffiti studies. Although many “common denominators” are known to characterize both types of study, they are usually studied separately. Finding common topics and ground for research is then both the purpose and, hopefully, one of the future outcomes of the meeting. The conference is open for attendance to all scholars and academics interested in the subject within the limit of available places. It will revolve around the following themes:
● Terminology and definitions. Terminology used in rock art/graffiti studies might sometimes be confusing and some definitions remain vague and intuitive. This concerns not only notions such as “graffiti”, but also, for example terms describing techniques of execution. This section involves presentations proposing, for instance, standardisation of or defining selected terms.
● Across boundaries. This topic concerns studies of motifs and related phenomena, which occur in various media at the same time or diachronically. One can indicate many types of motifs (e.g. sandals, feet, horned altars, anthropomorphs, boats, etc.) being found on rocks, in temples, or in archaeological material. Here, we will present studies which, in addition to dealing with motif chronology, aim to expand our understanding of such motifs.
● Do canvas matter? Focusing too excessively on iconography may, at times, lead to the marginalisation of the surfaces on which it has been created. This is particularly visible in the case of older publications presenting facsimiles of rock drawings, graffiti, or inscriptions, as if they had been created on a tabula rasa. However, similarly to the images’ location, the canvas itself could have been of utmost importance. Moreover, since certain motifs were executed both on rocks and on buildings, one should perhaps reconsider some ontological questions regarding “stone”, “surface”, or “nature”, among many others.
● Texts and pictures. One of the most important aspects of Ancient Egyptian culture is that pictures and texts complement and enhance each other, and are fairly inseparable. This is recognised widely in the case of official iconography, but sometimes seems to be forgotten when non-official documents are studied. These interrelationships between inscriptions and pictorial elements will form a subject of several papers.
● Pictures and archaeology. There is a need to establish a more thorough contextualisation of rock art and graffiti. Papers focusing on the relationship between imagery and other material culture, as well as those analysing pictures within the landscape, will be presented. Iconography is meaningful are the places where it was created.