“Voices, images, and artefacts of ancient craftsmen/women: encountering the material producers of Middle Bronze Age Egypt (2000-1500 BC)” 

23-24 June 

Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) – Auditorium – 

2, rue Vivienne – 75002 Paris 

During the past decades, the “imaginative” figure of the material producers in ancient Egypt has moved from “workers” to “artisans” and, most recently, to “artists”, in a search for a fuller understanding of the pragmatics of material production in past societies, not least to free research from modern preconceptions. Previous research had tended to start out unquestioningly from a terminology that effectively accepts and reproduces untested hypotheses: the existence of workshops; assumed division of labour; the equations centres/palace=places of production, and periphery/rural village=absence of production. In the absence of documented evidence, such terms and relations need to be rethought, to avoid perpetuating a distorted perception of historical realities. The main aim is to analyse the material production mechanisms during the middle Bronze Age in Egypt (2000-1550 BC), as well as the mode of transmission of skills and the circulation of knowledge.

The conference has two main ambitions: 

– [section I] to define the profile of ancient Egyptian craftsmen though words (section I.A), images (section I.B) and artefacts (section I.C). The aim is not to identify WHO were the artists (searching specifically for the names of craftsmen) but WHAT made someone a craftsman in Middle Kingdom Egypt; skills, technical choice, social profile, including the dimensions of age and gender. Self-cognition though written and visual analysis needs to be integrated and calibrated through the visible signs left on the materiality of artefacts (section I.C).

– [section II] to trace possible modes of circulation of ideas among craftsmen in production (apprentissage, transfer of knowledge, development of combined skills, role of children in material production and social constraints). The aim is to explore, though the archaeological evidence, the social and technological relations generated inside production places, exchange of ideas, materials, and skills between craftsmen. 

Section I

Agents of Material Production

Theory and methods

1.The agency of modern/ancient Egyptian craftsmen


Maximilian Georg 

The Role of Egyptian Workforces in Egyptian Archaeology in the Early 20th Century and Beyond

Amr El Hawary

Title TBC

2.An insider perspective: words and images of the ancient Egyptian producers


Pascal Vernus 

Quand un artisan égyptien parle de son métier: la stèle d’Irtysen

Dimitri Meeks

Title TBC

Dimitri Laboury

Title TBC



Claus Jurman

To show and to designate: attitudes towards representing craftsmanship and material culture in Middle Kingdom elite tombs 

3.Discovering the material producers in the artefacts:

Theory and methods

Elise Morero 

The technological transfers in the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age: the stone vessels industry during the 2nd millennium BC


Patricia Rigault and Caroline Thomas  

Title TBC

Gianluca Miniaci

Title TBC

Section II

Circulation of ideas among makers in production

Theory and methods

Haris Procopiou 

Craftsmen, workshops and mobility during the Middle Bronze Age at the Eastern Mediterranean

Toby C. Wilkinson 

Title TBC

The transfer of knowledge

Simon Connor

Sculpture workshops: who, where, and for whom?

Alexander Ilin-Tomich

Influences and directions of expertise sharing in Late Middle Kingdom Egypt: Diffusion of novel traits across the centres of stela production

Alisée Devillers 

Karine Seigneau

Juan Carlos Moreno García (CNRS) 

Sandal-makers and leather sandals production in pharaonic Egypt

Stephen Quirke (UCL) 

Title TBC

Organising Committee:

Gianluca Miniaci, Juan Carlos Moreno García, Stephen Quirke, Andreas Stauder

Executive Board:

Cristina Alù, Anna Giulia De Marco, Julianna Paksi, Elena Tiribilli