Representations of the family in the Old Kingdom: women and marriage

Kim Elizabeth McCorquodale
The aim of this study is to identify and investigate family members of the elite class in the Old Kingdom to reveal the role of women in the family and the institution of marriage. The method of investigation is an analysis of the iconography and inscriptions of female relatives and children of these officials in order to identify the place of wives and other females in the tomb owner's family and to arrive at an understanding of the nature of marriage in the Old Kingdom. The latter aim
more » ... the issues of polygamy and the status of the tomb owner. The data of this study are the reliefs, paintings, inscriptions and statuary in the tombs of Memphite and provincial cemeteries dating from the early Fourth Dynasty to the Eighth Dynasty, or objects with a secure provenance in these locations and times. The iconography and inscriptions of women designated as wives, mothers and sisters was investigated to determine the way in which they were portrayed, which allowed for the analysis of women shown in the tombs who had no designated connection to the tomb owner. The absence of the depiction of a wife was explored across time and location. Instances where more than one wife was portrayed were examined to determine whether the marriages were consecutive or concurrent. Instances where more than one child was designated as smsw - 'eldest' - were analysed to determine whether they were twins, one had died prematurely or whether they were children of different wives - either consecutive or concurrent. The rare occurrences of children designated as 'her son/her daughter' were examined to try to determine the paternity of the child. The possibility of consanguineous marriages was also explored. As a result of this study, it has been possible to identify many of the undesignated women in tombs and while the basic family unit of male, wife and children continued to be practised throughout the period, it was possible to identify changes in the nature of marriage over time, particularly in relation to divorce and polygamy.
doi:10.25949/19438343 fatcat:gwmp2q4pezb23gtayyayyf3aja