Constructing Royal Identity in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts

Leah R Humphrey, University of Pennsylvania


The concept of identity is central to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts from the Old Kingdom. In this funerary corpus, the king’s identity evolves and transforms constantly within and among the spells. Many different grammatical constructions were employed to assert identity. Some of these constructions produce statements of equivalence, while others produce statements of comparison. The present study analyzes four of these identity constructions including: clauses with nominal predicates, clauses with the preposition m, clauses with the preposition mr, and clauses with repetition. These four represent the primary predicative constructions that produce equations between the king and other beings or objects. Scholars do not often distinguish among these four constructions. Rather, scholarly translations and analyses suggest that these constructions can produce the same meanings, can be translated in a similar manner, and are sometimes interchangeable. Thus, scholars do not clearly delineate which constructions produce statements of equivalence and which produce statements of comparison. The present study disentangles these four identity constructions by collecting, categorizing, and analyzing the hundreds of examples that relate to the king. This detailed investigation also provides information about how frequently the king is equated or compared with specific and generic beings or objects. Ultimately, this study argues that these four identity constructions are not interchangeable; rather, syntactic, semantic, or stylistic reasons dictate their use. In addition, this study analyzes the purpose of these constructions in the Pyramid Texts and concludes that these constructions allow the king’s identity to resemble the multifaceted identities of the gods. These constructions also help the king establish a sense of permanence in his life after death.

Subject Area

Near Eastern Studies|Ancient history|Ancient languages

Recommended Citation

Humphrey, Leah R, "Constructing Royal Identity in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts" (2019). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27546290.