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Charles Draper M.Phil.

Doctoral Fellow: April 2015 - Dezember 2016
Focus Area: Organisation of Coexistence


Egyptian Diasporic Communities in the Ancient Near East

During the first millennium bc, the empires of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia oversaw some of the largest forced resettlements in ancient history. Their sources record how entire communities were uprooted and transported to distant worlds, there to be integrated, assimilated or annihilated. Among these men, women and children were hundreds bearing Egyptian names. Such were the reverberations of this colossal ‘organisation of co-existence’ that even generations later, classical historians would recount how the king of Persia had taken the king of Egypt together with thousands of his workmen to the Persian capital at Susa, while the Hebrew prophet Nahum could wish no worse a fate for Assyria than that which had befallen Egypt.
In reality, however, the fate of most deportees remains obscure. Despite a wealth of documentary evidence attesting to individuals of Egyptian descent in Mesopotamia and Persia, no comprehensive account has been given of their circumstances, and the diaspora has yet to find its place in broader interpretative studies of Near Eastern history. Such crucial aspects as identity construction, negotiations of coexistence and associated manifestations of ghettoization, religious syncretism and intermarriage are largely passed over in silence. As a consequence, interactions between Egyptian and Mesopotamian identities at this crucial juncture in Near Eastern history are not well understood.
My research is mounting a corrective by assessing evidence for members of the Egyptian diaspora in Mesopotamia and Persia from the twelfth millennium bc until the extinction of the cuneiform script. This builds on the work of my Master’s thesis (Oxford, 2014), which examined the circumstances of approximately two hundred individuals with Egyptian names attested in Assyrian cuneiform documents. The cumulative results of this analysis allow us to contrast the role and influence of minority groups within three highly cosmopolitan ancient empires. Beyond this, they offer insights into Egyptian and Mesopotamian onomastics, the patronage of Egyptian scholarship into the Near East, and the vocalisation of the Ancient Egyptian language, for which Mesopotamian records remain a vital and underexploited source.
My methodology involves the use of archaeological evidence in tandem with written sources. These include royal annals, chronicles, letters, and private documents from Mesopotamia, hieroglyphic and demotic records from Egypt, and accounts of deportation preserved in the writings of the classical historians. These documents are supplemented by depictions of Egyptians in Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian artwork, as well as archaeological evidence for Egyptian cultural practices beyond the Nile Valley.

Before coming to Munich, I obtained an M.Phil. in Egyptology at The Queen’s College, Oxford, where I was an Ertegun Scholar, and a B.A. in Archaeology and Anthropology (Egyptology and Assyriology) at St John’s College, Cambridge. I maintain strong interests in the internal politics of first millennium Egypt, the movement of peoples and ideas in the aftermath of violent conflict, and the edition of demotic literary and administrative texts from Egypt.