A case study in function and form

A case study in function and form: Excavations of a Third Intermediate Period mud-brick building in Thebes
by Sullivan, Elaine A., Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2008, 586 pages; AAT 3288540


This dissertation analyzes how the form of ceramic and architectural remains excavated from within an urban area of ancient Thebes, near modern Luxor, Egypt, can offer insight into the function of the structures and section of the city investigated. The project focuses primarily on identifying the purpose of a mud-brick building, dating to the late Third Intermediate Period (mid-eighth to seventh centuries BCE), uncovered during three seasons of excavations.

Theory developed by anthropologically oriented archaeologists has been utilized to hypothesize how different types of Egyptian vessels were used in the urban setting, suggesting a new way to examine the function of Egyptian pottery. By using methodology adopted from household and activity area archaeology, the ceramic information is then used to make conclusions on the patterns of activities taking place within the Third Intermediate Period building. This is followed by a thorough investigation of the form and appearance of mud-brick structures from Egyptian cities, which show a number of correlates between architectural style and purpose. The results of the two analyses are then integrated to argue that the excavated building operated primarily as a locus of short-term dry and liquid goods storage, built for administration by the neighboring temple entities.

Additionally, textual evidence that documents the role of the Theban temples in the larger city economy of the time period is assessed. I suggest that the mud-brick building, located directly outside the enclosure wall of the Mut Temple, played a role in this temple-dominated system of administration: collecting, temporarily storing, and then reintroducing the wealth of the Mut Temple back into the greater economy

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