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Research Papers on Daughters of Isis by Tyldesley

Joyce Tyldesley’s Daughters of Isis examines the role of women in ancient Egypt. Tyldesley employs a wide range of historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence to explore various aspects of a woman’s daily life during this era. This exploration includes discussions of the following issues:

  • Marriage
  • Mistresses
  • Work and play
  • Grooming
  • Royal harems
  • Female kings
  • Religious like and earth
  • Images of women in ancient Egyptian art

This review of Tyldesley’s Daughters of Isis will include a critical assessment of the book, as well as remarks from other sources. This analysis will demonstrate that Daughters of Isis offers valuable insights into not only women’s lives in ancient Egypt, but the development of traditional female roles in society, as well.

Daughters of Isis

Tyldesley introduction begins with a quote from the Greek historian Herodotus. In it, he describes the role of women as traders in the marketplace “while men sit at home and weave at a loom…the women likewise carry burdens upon their shoulders while men carry them upon their heads” . Although Herodotus was probably the first Greek to write his account of the women of Egypt, he was not the most credible source. In a review of Romm’s 1999 book, Herodotus, an author writes, “Careers have been built debunking the palpably false or unprovable yarns in his (Herodotus) Histories. Romm, while recognizing such problems with the work, asks a new reader to suspend doubts about its veracity” . The same Veracity suspending advice is true of Tyldesley’s book, although the general point of her thesis is most-likely true. That is, women were treated in a much more egalitarian manner in ancient Egypt than in other areas of the Mediterranean, where women were relatively constrained to a secondary, subservient status. Although women enjoyed an unusual degree of freedom in an Egyptian “pyramid model” society that remained inflexible for centuries, Tyldesley notes that evidence suggests that men and women lived according to pre-determined roles, in which “the vast majority of women, therefore, remained uneducated and untrained in anything but domestic skills”. Women were not involved or were not to be concerned with ancient Egyptian government.

Tyldesley points out that because Egyptian women were believed to be free of the male domination, which more patriarchal societies imposed on females, Greeks and Hellenic Roman lifestyles centered on them being sexually exciting . However, an examination of women as depicted in Egyptian art shows that they are typically pictured carrying goods, engaged in household work, or as a goddess. There are two critical problems with images of women in Ancient Egyptian art. First, because images often depended on the subject’s social status or wealth, most of the images were of men.

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