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The official gift in ancient Egypt

Author: Edward Bleiberg
Publisher: Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, ©1996.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
An important custom in ancient Egypt was the official exchanging of gifts, called inw, between individuals of unequal status. In this provocative study, Edward Bleiberg challenges traditional notions of inw-exchange that view the custom in strictly economic terms. Arguing that this perception is misguidedly based on a modern industrial model, Bleiberg instead defines inw-exchange as a primarily social phenomenon.
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Genre/Form: History
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Edward Bleiberg
ISBN: 0806128712 9780806128719
OCLC Number: 34691282
Description: xv, 173 pages ; 23 cm
Contents: Ch. 1. The Setting for Exchanges of Inw --
Ch. 2. The Emergence and Development of Inw Exchanges during the Archaic Period and the Old Kingdom --
Ch. 3. Inw during the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom: A Broadening Concept --
Ch. 4. Inw in the New Kingdom: The View from Monumental Inscriptions --
Ch. 5. Conclusions: Evidence, Bias, Models --
Appendix. Translations of Inw.
Responsibility: by Edward Bleiberg.

Abstract:

An important custom in ancient Egypt was the official exchanging of gifts, called inw, between individuals of unequal status. In this provocative study, Edward Bleiberg challenges traditional notions of inw-exchange that view the custom in strictly economic terms. Arguing that this perception is misguidedly based on a modern industrial model, Bleiberg instead defines inw-exchange as a primarily social phenomenon. The practice of exchanging inw lasted nearly three thousand years, from the Archaic Period to the end of the New Kingdom. Because the nature of the practice changed from period to period, it is difficult to describe inw as a single concept. In addition, the preservation of sources is so uneven that scholars are forced to generalize from incomplete or biased data. To overcome this difficulty, Bleiberg proposes a model that borrows its theory from economic anthropology. This model identifies reciprocity and redistribution, rather than profit-making, as the primary goals of a preindustrial economy.

Having established a model that allows him to arrange the data and fill in gaps in the evidence, Bleiberg analyzes the use of the word inw in the available sources, including jar seals and labels, royal inscriptions and documents, and literary texts. His survey of the sources leads to useful conclusions about the nature and development of inw-exchange. He shows how the custom, in keeping with the preindustrial model, resulted from a social obligation to transfer goods to a political or religious institution. The institution, in turn, was obligated to redistribute the goods on the basis of kinship, friendship, status, or hierarchy. In periods of central control, the king was always a party to inw-exchange; the effect was a stronger bond between ruler and subject, or conqueror and conquered.

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