Master's thesis. Representations of Dance in Ancient Egypt (free e-book)

Updated: Jun 5



"Social and ideological functions of iconographical representations of dance of Pharaonic Egypt."


Master's thesis from the University of Montreal


"The objective of the author of this work is to identify the functions of the iconographic representations of dance in Pharaonic Egypt. First, she analyzes the socio-cultural context of Egypt, the contexts in which the dances appear, the movements of the dancers and the social status of the dancers themselves. In a second time, it exposes the problematic of work. The third section studies the concept of representation itself, examining its nature and functions and situating them in the context of Egyptian representations. The fourth section studies the symbolic and plastic aspects of the Egyptian canon of representation. In the last section of the dissertation, the author analyzes a corpus of around a hundred iconographic representations of dance in order to extract from them elements allowing the validation of the identification of five main functions, belonging to the social and ideology of Egyptian society. The primary function of dance performances would have been to express and maintain the socio-economic and political status of members of the elite, who could afford to hire dancers and performers to represent them in their tombs. A second function would have made it possible to use dance performances as updates to mythical stories and thus to stabilize society and the universe. A third function would have been to produce depictions of dwarf dancers or dancing deities like Bes, who possessed apotropaic power against various threats. A penultimate function, associated with the representation of sensual dancers in the tombs, would have made it possible to magically stimulate the vital force of the deceased, thus allowing him a post-mortem rebirth. Finally, the last function of the dance would have consisted of a form of offering for the gods or the deceased.


The author concludes his analysis with a study of the elements that could make the case for future studies on the subject."


(2005) Abigaëlle Richard, Fonctions sociales et idéologiques des représentations iconographiques de danse de l’Égypte pharaonique, master's thesis, University of Montreal, Montreal.


Full text in French PDF:

M.Sc. mémoire PDF final
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