Symbolizing Identity. Identity marks and their relation to writing in New Kingdom Egypt.


Pharaonic Egypt was one of the earliest societies in which writing developed out of pictograms. Writing did not, however, cause the disappearance of pictographic systems. Among these are non-textual marks indicating ownership, responsibility or production by groups of people or by individuals. This phenomenon is still attested worldwide, but in contrast to writing it remains little researched.

In literate societies, marking systems are heavily influenced by writing, even to the extent that series of marks may look like written records. Yet marks are not writing in the true (i.e. linguistic) sense. The research proposed here focuses on the relation between identity marks and writing. What is the precise nature of identity marks? What interaction is there between these marks and writing? Is there a functional division in the uses of the two phenomena? What do marks tell us about the degree of literacy and cultural knowledge of their users? Answers to these questions are sought by analyzing a particularly well-documented marks system used in a highly literate village community: that of the royal tomb constructors in Thebes during the Egyptian New Kingdom (ca. 1150-1070 B.C.E.).

In contrast to other ancient marking systems, the Theban workmen?s marks can be studied in a context of abundant archaeological and textual data. The proposed case study has two components: (1) theoretical and comparative research of the system and the individual marks; (2) historical research of the administrative and social background. A synthesis of the results attempts, for the first time, to create a model for interpreting marking systems and their role in society, transcending the specific cultural context of the data investigated. This model will serve as a point of reference for future interdisciplinary research and discussion on writing and related phenomena.


Boek of monografie

  • BJJ Haring, KVJ van der Moezel, DM Soliman(2018): Decoding Signs of Identity. Egyptian Workmen’s Marks in Archaeological, Historical, Comparative and Theoretical Perspective. pp. 218 , Leiden/Leuven
  • BJJ Haring(2018): From Single Sign to Pseudo Script. pp. 291 , Leiden & Boston


  • KVJ van der Moezel(2016): Of Marks and Meaning , Leiden  7 september 2016
  • DM Soliman(2016): Of Marks and Men , Leiden  15 september 2016

Hoofdstuk in boek

  • BJJ Haring, KVJ van der Moezel, OE Kaper, R van Walsem(2014): The Workman's Progress pp. 157 - 174 , Leuven & Leiden
  • BJJ Haring, BJJ Haring, DM Soliman, OE Kaper, R van Walsem(2014): The Workman's Progress pp. 73 - 93 , Leuven & Leiden
  • S Ferrara, AM Jasink, J Weingarten, BJJ Haring(2017): Non-scribal Communication Media in the Bronze Age Aegean and Surrounding Areas pp. 233 - 246 , Florence

Wetenschappelijk artikel

  • K.V.J. van der Moezel, D.M. Soliman(2011): Workmen's marks from the Theban Necropolis Göttinger Miszellen pp. 7 - 10 ISSN: 0344-385X.
  • DM Soliman(2012): A. Dorn, Arbeiterhutten im Tal der Konige. Ein Beitrag zur altagyptischen Sozialgeschichte aufgrund von neuem Quellenmaterial aus der Mitte der 20. Dynastie (ca. 1150 v. Chr.). Aegyptiaca Helvetica, Band 23 (Basel, 2011) Bibliotheca Orientalis pp. 483 - 488 ISSN: 0006-191-3.
  • KVJ van der Moezel(2013): P. Andrássy, J. Budka en F. Kammerzell (eds), Non-textual marking systems, writing and pseudo script from prehistory to modern times (Lingua Aegyptia, Studia monographica 8; Göttingen, 2009) Bibliotheca Orientalis pp. 370 - 377 ISSN: 0006-191-3.
  • KVJ van der Moezel(2013): Haring, B.J.J., O.E. Kaper (eds.), Pictograms or pseudo script? Non-textual identity marks in practical use in Ancient Egypt and elsewhere. Proceedings of a conference in Leiden 19-20 December 2006 (Egyptologische Uitgaven 25), Leiden, 2009. Bibliotheca Orientalis pp. 370 - 377 ISSN: 0006-191-3.
  • DM Soliman(2014): Russo, B. - Kha (TT 8) and his colleagues: the gifts in his funerary equipment and related artifacts from western Thebes (Golden House Publications, Egyptology 18), London, 2012. Bibliotheca Orientalis pp. 119 - 125 ISSN: 0006-191-3.
  • BJJ Haring(2015): Halaham on an Ostracon of the Early New Kingdom? Journal of Near Eastern Studies pp. 189 - 196 ISSN: 022?2968.


  • R.J. Demarée, K Donker van Heel, B.J.J. Haring, J. Toivari-Viitala(2012): The Deir el-Medina Database





Dr. B.J.J. Haring

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leids Instituut voor Regiostudies (LIAS)


Dr. B.J.J. Haring, S. Knauff, Drs. K.V.J. van der Moezel, Drs. R.D. Ponjee, Drs. D. Soliman


16/05/2011 tot 11/01/2016