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Archaeological Institute of America Lecture: Anthony J. Barbieri-Low

"The Tombs of Scribes in Early Imperial China and Ancient Egypt"

The officially-trained scribe played an pivotal role in the administration of early empires in both China and Egypt. Through his functions of resource and labor extraction, communication, and detailed accounting, the scribe ensured the day-to- day functioning of the state. Through his copying and embellishment of school texts and ancient literature, he also helped perpetuate and create the literate culture of the civilization. This talk focuses on the mortuary expression of the scribal class in China and Egypt as seen through the tombs and tomb chapels of scribes. The scribe and his descendants place items in the tomb to mark the 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. The eclectic nature of these scribal libraries demonstrates a wide range of expertise for the trained scribe in both civilizations, identifying him as an important locus of cultural production.

Anthony Barbieri-Low is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds his Ph.D. in Chinese Art and Archaeology from Princeton University. His areas of specialization are the social, legal, economic, and material-culture history of early imperial China and Chinese archaeology and epigraphy.  His publications include the forthcoming Perspectives on the First Emperor of China (University of Washington Press).

Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Performing Arts Building, Music Rehearsal Room 320
3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, Oregon 97202-8199

Event Type



Students, Open to the Public




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