The Netherlands Institute for the Near East

Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten  -  Institut néerlandais du Proche-Orient

07 Oct 17:00

Graffiti and writing users in Old Kingdom Saqqara

Julia Hamilton

online (Kaltura)

The study of graffiti is integral to new research on literacy and self-expression in the ancient and modern world, relevant to disciplines spanning archaeology, history, and the social sciences. Hieroglyphic graffiti are of growing interest to Egyptologists as they occur in all periods of Pharaonic Egyptian history, allowing the diachronic study of diverse writing practices among ancient people who were fully or functionally literate (cf. Keegan 2014). Most contemporary Egyptological scholarship on graffiti examines corpora from the 2nd Millennium BCE and later (e.g., Ragazzoli 2017, Navrátilová 2015; cf. Old Kingdom: Pieke 2018, Vymazalová 2018).

My research focusses on hieroglyphic graffiti in the Old Kingdom (c. 2575–2150 BCE), utilising methods drawn from linguistic and social anthropological approaches to writing and epigraphy, and I argue for broadening our current understanding of ‘writing users’ from this period. Old Kingdom domestic sites are rarely attested archaeologically and the primary surviving context for graffiti are cemeteries: inside tombs and upon near-by architectural structures. Graffiti offer glimpses of the diverse community who worked in Old Kingdom Saqqara, including tomb builders, funerary cult personnel, and pious visitors and provide evidence that people in this community were functionally literate.

Developed from my doctoral work, my research project at NINO (2020-2022) will analyse graffiti from late Old Kingdom tombs from several cemeteries at Saqqara. This talk will introduce this project and present case-studies from both the Unas and Teti cemeteries.

Dr J.C.F. Hamilton is Postdoctoral Fellow at NINO.

Registration and attendance

This lecture will be held online via Kaltura (Newrow Smart room). If you wish to attend, please send an email to You will receive a confirmation with a link and instructions.