Event: Wednesday Talk: Problematizing Egyptian “Model Tools”: A Characterization of Egyptian Cupreous Tools in Museum Collections

Date & Time

May 31, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Save to your calendar

Contact Information

Sumiji Takahashi
Phone 310-825-4169


Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)

Event Type

Pizza Talk

Event Details

Abstract: In Egyptological scholarship, the term “model tools” has been used to characterize miniature representations of implements that have been stripped of their practical function, emphasizing their relatively “cheap” method of production. Their categorization as “model tools” was established primarily on size by Flinders Petrie in his 1917 monograph Tools and Weapons. Due to this characterization, “model tools” are either implied or exclusively said to be produced and used as a ritual object and, therefore, have no functional ability outside the ideological realm.  While continued discourse on their role and function in the mortuary context has continued to reinforce their ritual purpose, metallurgical analysis allows us to problematize their confinement to the ritual sphere and further reveals the object’s life history.

My paper will present a compositional analysis of Bronze Age metal tools from the collections of the Brooklyn Museum and Museo Egizio in order to re-examine the utilitarian function of “model tools” and further nuance their designation as “models”. As the majority of my corpus has an unknown provenance, my discussion will be limited to the objects’ alloy composition and how this might reflect their efficacy as utilitarian tools in the hands of craftspeople. Comparative analysis, both temporarily and contextually, allows us to explore whether an object’s function influenced alloy choice. The idea is to not only build a corpus for comparanda, but to also challenge our etic classification of objects and provide a space for debate and reconfiguration of modern categorizations.