The Adoration Gesture in Ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom and Early First Intermediate Period

Gastforschungsprogramm für geflohene ukrainische Wissenschaftler:innen (Volkswagenstiftung) an der JGU MAINZ

Stipendium vom 01.06.2022 bis 31.05.2023 und 01.08.2023 bis 31.07.2024

Dr. (A. Yu. Krymsky Institute of Oriental Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) Olena Romanova


The project aims to explore the meaning of the earliest motif for the relation of men to gods found in the decorative programs of ancient Egyptian private tombs in the late Old Kingdom and early First Intermediate Period (ca. 2500–2000 BC): it is known as the adoration gesture (praising gesture, praying gesture) of the tomb-owner. Interpreting the visual evidence stemming from ancient decorum is often problematic. Modern researchers may easily make mistakes in uncovering the semantics of a visual image or misunderstand it. Interpretations of ancient visual evidence are often prone to ahistorical readings of the ancient texts and artefacts shaped by modern conceptions. Besides, the influence of common stereotypes in perception of the visual information shared within the native culture of the researcher plays a role. To avoid these misunderstandings, a comprehensive study of the historical context of the visual documents in question is required. The study of visual images must be supplemented by an analysis of the related textual evidence, which can clarify the meaning of visual images in the tomb decoration.

The research project includes two parts:

  • The study of historical context of the emergence of the adoration gesture in the Old Kingdom. It includes research on the earliest attestations of the adoration gesture as an image in visual program of royal complexes, and the study of the earliest evidence of the hieroglyphic sign “adoration” in Old Kingdom texts.
  • The study of the adoration gesture in the Late Old Kingdom and early First Intermediate Period private tombs as a new modus of self-presentation of a tomb-owner.  Analysis of the corpus of sources from the necropolises at the royal residence (Giza, Saqqara, Abusir) and the provincial necropolises of the period allows to trace the local traditions of necropolises and the spread of the new modus of visual self-presentation.