One of the most visible discourses from ancient Egypt deals with the conquest of Egypt‘s enemies. This concern can be seen not only in monumental scale on the walls of the Egyptian temples and in frequently performed protective rituals for the gods and the King, but it also manifests in quite day-to-day texts and contexts, for example in depictions of bound captives on wall tiles as well as on pieces of furniture and pedestals for thrones.
The so-called execration rituals form an essential part of this discourse. Their aim is to harm one or more enemies considered to possess a certain damage potential vis-à-vis the ritualist or the entity represented by him (e.g. a god, his creations, pharaoh or the Egyptian state) and to avert their evil plans. In order to do so, figurines of bound captives were usually made out of wax or clay and in some cases, names of the target subjects were added on the upper part of the body. In the following step, i.e. during the ritual itself, these figurines were damaged (e.g. pierced, deformed, bound etc.) and burnt or simply buried. During the course of the ritual, these actions were accompanied by the recitation of texts. Such execration rituals were performed in Egypt throughout the centuries, from no later than the late fifth dynasty to the Ptolemaic period, with traces being left in the Roman and Coptic periods. In that time span, comprising more than 3000 years, both material and textual evidence was left all over Egypt and both groups will be studied in this project.
A corpus of the material sources, i.e. the figurines, will serve as a basis for studying the changes in the ritual(s). Another key aspect is the different components of the rituals as well as their role within the network generated by the ritual: What is the exact function of the execration figurines, the execration text, and the ritual text respectively? What is the role of the client, the target subject thought to suffer the damage, the invoked divinities and how do they interact? Presumably, the type of manipulation and the manner in which the execration figurines were deposited will play an important part in identifying the different types of the ritual.
Furthermore one wonders in what way the ritual affects entities outside the ritual strictly speaking, or in other words, in what way the execration ritual might be considered as being a part of larger social structures. More precisely, the repercussions of the execration ritual on the ritualist and other members of the Egyptian culture will be investigated and this project will try to find out in what way the ritual contributes to the constitution and coherence of social groups within Egypt. These and related questions regarding the Egyptian execration ritual will be at the centre of the research conducted by this project. The analysis of the execration ritual will be approached from different angles in order to add to the understanding of this widespread Egyptian phenomenon.