A Prosopographical Database

Prosopographia Memphitica

The database includes all identified persons attested for the royal residence and national centre Memphis during the New Kingdom (1539–1077 BC) as well as their documented official titles and the inscribed objects and monuments on which they are attested.

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About the project

The searchable web-database is a result of the author’s dissertational project: Prosopographia Memphitica. Individuelle Identitäten und Kollektive Biographien einer königlichen Residenzstadt des Neuen Reiches at the Freie Universität Berlin, supervised by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jochem Kahl (Freie Universität) and Prof. Dr. Dietrich Raue (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut/ Universität Leipzig) and funded by a Doctoral Fellowship at Excellence cluster TOPOI 264 (Research Group C-1: Deixies and Frames of References: Strategies of Perspectivation in Language, Text, and Image. The primary aim of the Prosopographia Memphitica Project is to attain a regional prosopography for the Memphite region of the second millennium BC, which shall shed new light not only on the identity of individuals, but on the reconstruction of personal connections within a historical network of people.

The Sources

The archaeological remains of the city of Memphis and its related necropoleis are located 18 km south of modern Cairo on today's west bank of the Nile. Although the scientific discussion about the site and its monuments forms an independent research focus, the archaeological legacy of the New Kingdom burial sites (1539–1077 BC) remained uninvestigated for a very long time. It was not until 1975 that the systematic documentation of tombs of the Memphite elite necropolis at Saqqara has been initiated by the Egypt Exploration Society in cooperation with the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden. Since then several other fieldwork missions were able to unearth further New Kingdom burial sites. As a result, the region known as Memphite necropolis covers an area of about 40 sqm and reaches from Giza in the North to Dahschur in the South.

Map of the Memphite region with notification of New Kingdom burial sites.
fig. 1: Map of the Memphite region with notification of New Kingdom burial sites. © Anne Herzberg-Beiersdorf. Click to enlarge

Altogether 84 monumental tomb structures, whose physical existence is known or has been recorded in the past, have been identified so far. They eventually revealed numerous prosopographic data. Relevant texts and inscriptions are to be found not only on the walls of the tombs, but also on different types of objects that were part of the tomb’s original decoration or equipment.

First Steps

As a first step towards the aim the compilation of prosopographical data has begun at the outset of the project by incorporating all data entries of a so far unpublished card box collection that has been compiled by Dietrich Raue since the 1990s; it comprised 1,121 individuals: 878 male and 243 female persons. In the course of this first phase the data has been supplemented within formation from preliminary reports and final publications as well as additional relevant studies and collection catalogues. Currently there is a full version of the database for the computer, the mobile version includes a reduced variant. It now covers non-royal persons from the New Kingdom (Dyn 18–20):

1. who were identified by relevant title specifications that show a geographical reference to Memphis. The material can originate from the Memphite region or from find contexts elsewhere in Egypt.

2. who bear no specific titles related to the Memphite region but whose relation to Memphis is indicated by inscribed monuments (e.g. statues, stelae etc.) of Memphite provenance.

3. who can be directly related to persons of the first or second category even if they do not have any titles related to the region or can be assigned to an object of Memphite origin.

The database aims to become a reference work covering the domains of New Kingdom personnel from the Memphite region, their names, titles and prosopography. The collection currently comprises 2398 persons (1009 names) that are documented on 1695 objects and monuments that derive from more than 120 museums and collections all over the world and have been provided with illustrations if available. Last but not least the database version comprises 988 functional titles. This data set forms an amount of prosopographical data that has not yet been processed in an accessible format for New Kingdom Egypt.

Verteilung der Objekte
fig. 3: The inscribed monuments of Memphite officials are distributed among more than 100 museum collections around the world. © Anne Herzberg-Beiersdorf.
fig. 2: The unpublished card box collection that has been compiled by Dietrich Raue since the 1990s © Anne Herzberg-Beiersdorf.
fig. 4: Documentation and collation of inscribed monuments of Memphite officials in museum's collections. © Anne Herzberg-Beiersdorf.

The Database

Due to the increasing amount of relational data a complex relational database model has been created using PostgreSQL. The relational model of the database management is m:n and 1:n. A n:m relation is used to denote a many-to-many relationship, where m-objects on the one side are related to n-objects on the other side. In addition, 1:n relations refer to a one-to-many relationship, that means 1-object on the one side can be related to n-objects on the other side. The high standardisation of the data form and structure enables an easy access as well as the application of external analysis software and visualisation tools, such as the network analysis software Gephi or Jupyter notebook, which is an OpenSource interactive computational environment (IPython) for creating analyses and visualisations from existing data libraries.

The data collection currently comprises 2,350 persons, 1,662 objects, and 980 titles, which are connected by 25,324 relations. This data set forms an amount of prosopographical data that has not yet been processed for New Kingdom Egypt. To ensure the scientific transparency of the research argumentation, but also continuity of data editing respectively recording of new data, data storage and long-term provision of research results in a structured file format (JSON), the database has been published as a citable web publication.
All data records are subject to revision due to ongoing research. If you have additional information regarding individual data entries, or have noticed an error, please contact me.