The University of Arizona
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Did You Sleep Well on Your Headrest?—Anthropological Perspectives on an Ancient Egyptian Implement

Katharina Zinn


This paper explores how recent anthropological methodologies (materialities approach) as well as concepts at the interface between archaeology and anthropology (experiential and sensual archaeology) inevitably widen the boundaries of Egyptology. The presented case study contributes to a discussion of the physical relationship of material objects and the human body, focusing on states when materiality seeps deliberately and dangerously into immateriality. This is explored at the example of unpublished headrests from the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum, Merthyr Tydfil (Wales, UK) by looking on the intersection of bodies with the material that also could be interpreted as inter-material communication. Impressions of fabric on their wooden surface are presumably the imprint of bedding intended to ensure comfortable sleep telling us about the sensual experience using these artefacts. The contact between skin and rough wood needed to be alleviated. This theoretical discussion is then set against an experimental and experiential archaeological approach focusing on sensual experiences with these headrests.

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