Detecting Conceptual Resilience: the Ancient Egyptian Notion of sDm ('hearing') over 1500 years
This paper offers a case study of how textual research can detect resilience of a key social construct in an ancient society, thereby complementing the archaeological record. Through longue durée philological analysis, it tracks the survival and evolution of a formative concept in Ancient Egyptian justice: ‘hearing’ (sd̠m). Various documents reveal that sd̠m retained prominence from the Egyptian Old Kingdom through to the New Kingdom (c.2600-1100BCE). During this time, Egypt experienced two periods of social upheaval and fragmentation, interspersed with phases of political stability. This paper considers how sd̠m was used in each period and adapted to changing socio-political realities. It thus illustrates how the focus on a single word can generate insights into conceptual resilience over many centuries. This has important implications for resilience studies in other literate societies and this paper hopes to encourage further work in this direction.