In Society and Death in Ancient Egypt, Janet Richards considers social stratification in Middle Kingdom Egypt, taking as the point of departure the assumption that a 'middle class' arose during this period. By focusing on the entire range of mortuary behavior, rather than on elite remains, she shows how social and political processes can be reconstructed. Richards demonstrates that the roots of the middle class can be traced to the later Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. Combining information from excavations, ancient Egyptian texts, and decorative reliefs and statuary, the book weaves together a wide variety of sources that aid us in understanding how Middle Kingdom Egyptians thought about society and death and how their practices and landscapes relating to death reveal information about the living society.
Janet Richards is assistant professor of Egyptology and Assistant Curator for Dynastic Egypt in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan. She is Project Director for the University of Michigan's excavations in the Abydos Middle Cemetery, and co-editor of Order, Legitimacy and Wealth in Ancient States.
Part I. The Study of Ancient Social Systems: 1. Social differentiation and the notion of 'class'; 2. Egyptian society through text and image; 3. Society, settlement, and votive behavior; Part II. Society and Death in Egypt: 4. People, death and the 'tomb problem' in Egypt; 5. Mortuary landscapes in the Middle Kingdom; 6. Burial at the center: Haraga and Riqqa; 7. Cemeteries past, present, and provincial: Abydos; Conclusion: The Egyptian Nile Valley in the Middle Kingdom: History, politics, and society.