Paradoxes of the Idea of Progress and Cultural Memory in Ancient Egypt

Ivan Ladynin

Vostok/Oriens '2018, №6

DOI: 10.31857/S086919080002863-6

The article discusses a postulate of the leading Russian Sumerologist Vladimir Emelianov (Voprosy filosofii 2011, No. 8). He states that only the modern scholarship since the eighteenth century has developed the method of “archaeological penetration” into the ancient history that allowed seeing in its epochs the reflections of here-and-now. Its background was the feeling of historical process. The division of history into big epochs was totally absent, according to Emelianov, in early antiquity and in Ancient Egypt. Here he strongly opposes the idea of Jan Assmann that each new epoch of Egyptian history addressed the “cultural memory” of the past to position itself as a return to it. However, the analysis shows that the Egyptian sources, i.e. the Royal Canon of Turin and the work by Manetho, and the reception of Egyptian historiography by Classical authors reveal conceptualized division of the past into big periods. Addressing ancient archives, researching and restoring ancient monuments was an important practice for Ancient Egyptians. This idea is expressed in the Papyrus Westcar, the first cycle of Setne Khamwas, the Famine Stela, the activities of the historical Prince Khaemweset etc). The ideological concept of return to the great past is exemplified best of all in the Renaissance of the Saite time (the seventh and the sixth centuries BCE). However, earlier epochs of Egyptian history also give similar examples, for example, the aspiration of kings in the late First Intermediate Period and the early Middle Kingdom to return capital to Memphis, i.e. in a sense, to return to the Old Kingdom). Thus, Emelianov’s postulate reveals an impressive ignorance of real evidence.

Keywords: antiquity, Orient, Egypt, historical memory, Vladimir Emelianov

Pages: С. 6–21

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