Scribal Identity in Burials of Early China and Ancient Egypt
The officially-trained scribe played a pivotal role in the administration of early empires in both China and Egypt. Through his functions of resource extraction and labor management, communication, and detailed accounting of all types, the scribe ensured the day-to-day functioning of the state and its financial stability. Through his copying and embellishment of school texts and ancient literature, he also helped perpetuate and create the literate culture of the civilization. This lecture focuses on the mortuary expression of the scribal class in China and Egypt, as seen through the tombs of scribes. The scribe and his descendants placed items in the tomb to mark the identity, profession, and status of the scribe, including writing kits consisting of brushes, palettes, ink, and grinding stones. Several scribal tombs were also outfitted with entire libraries of texts, demonstrating the learned status of the scribe and possibly providing him with reading material for the afterlife.