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Thais Rocha

Postdoc, University of São Paulo; Research Fellow, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford. PhD in Egyptology, Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Benet's Hall, University of Oxford.

My research aims to understand how ancient Egyptians conceived and experienced domestic space during the New Kingdom (1550–1069 BCE). Building on my DPhil devoted to investigating domestic space at the Workmen's Village of Amarna through an anthropological-oriented framework, I now expand the scope both chronologically and geographically. This investigation is anchored in recent theoretical developments from Household Archaeology, Material Culture and ethnographic research. I explore new models to understand houses through material culture, especially related to the social construction of the domestic sphere. I am currently part of the Amarna Project in Egypt.

 

Bio

Before joining Oxford, I did my MPhil in the Arab Studies Department at the University of São Paulo. My dissertation investigated gender relations in Ptolemaic Egypt (330 BC - 30 BC) based on the study of letters. As MPhil student, I was a visiting scholar at the Oriental Institute in Chicago (2009) and later in the United Kingdom (2011, 2013), when I started engaging with British Egyptology in the British Museum, University College London, the University of Oxford and the Egyptian Exploration Society. I studied History for my BA also at the University of São Paulo, Brazil (2001) focusing on Ancient History and Archaeology.

I have extensive experience as a teacher and museum educator. For over 12 years I worked as History teacher in Brazil covering topics in Brazilian and general history. I have also contributed to develop teaching materials for various publishers in Brazil. At Oxford I taught topics related to Egyptian art and history and the archaeology of Amarna. 

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Fieldwork

Bead Workshop M50 14-16. Amarna Project

Autumn 2017, 2018.

Excavation and recording of the domestic complex M50 14-16 under the supervision of Dr Anna Hodgkinson. Post-excavation duties included the registration of finds and the digitisation of records (documentation, cataloguing, and photography of the faience and glass beads, digitalisation of some plans using GIS).

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North Tombs Cemetery. Amarna Project

Spring, 2017.

Excavation and recording of non-elite burials under the supervision of Dr. Anna Stevens.

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East Devon Pebblebeds Project

2011

Excavations and recordings of prehistoric cairns under the supervision of Prof. Christopher Tilley.

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Recent Talks

Selection

British Museum Annual Colloquim 2019. Amarna the lived City

Reassessing domestic space in the Amarna Workmen's Village

Houses from the Workmen’s Village in Amarna have been investigated through their architectural features and the distribution of objects within and around them. These have served as paradigm to conceptualise domestic space and to create the model of an ‘ideal house’ in the village. However, data from the village is complex and viewing the house as a single unit does not fully explain the way people lived in the community. The value of individual houses as a useful setting for understanding domestic experience has been challenged, but the focus still remains on the idea of the house as a unit of production, hence privileging economic aspects. I suggest that it is possible to frame the village as a large household, with overlapping living and working spaces. By looking at the entire village as a single domestic complex, it is clear that the features of large houses in the main city of Amarna were present both inside and outside the walls of the village. Installations such as storage areas, cooking facilities, animal pens were present in the Workmen’s Village, but distributed across the communal space.

Second Egyptological Conference. Athens 2019.

Revisiting the Workmen’s Village of Amarna: Gender and Domestic Space

Investigations about women and domestic space traditionally have used the site of Deir el-Medina as a main reference, with hypothesis for domestic culture based on a house model idealised by Bruyère. Whilst the Theban village provided important written evidence for Egyptologists, its archaeological material is rather problematic for it did not have systematic retrieval and record techniques. The Workmen’s Village of Amarna was re-excavated by Barry Kemp in the 1980’s and despite the intense looting in the twentieth century, the archaeological evidence was more systematically recorded. Similarities between the two settlements have led some scholars to project the Deir el-Medina model to Amarna. Regarding gender relations and women, the house was then established as the privileged space for women and their activities. By examining the evidence of Amarna, I challenge the concepts of domestic space projected to the workmen’s villages. Instead of taking individual houses, I expand the scope of analysis to the village itself to understand the Egyptian concept of domestic space, hoping to shed light to a new dynamic of social relations in which gender emerges.

European Society for the History of Science. Biennial London 2018.

Brazilian Egyptology: reassessing colonialism and exploring limits

Studies about ancient Egypt have significantly developed in Brazil since the last decade. This does not mean, however, that Egyptology is an established field in the reality of the Brazilian academy. This recent development has been accompanied by the expansion of Ancient History departments around the country and investments in archaeological research within Egyptian collections in Brazil. The absence of good libraries, ‘proper training’ as Egyptologists, the long distances to primary research centres in a continental country, and funding are among the difficulties faced by Brazilian students interested in ancient Egypt. Thus, whereas internationally, Egyptology has started reflecting on its own conceptualization and professional formation, Brazilian scholars are challenged to accommodate the traditional ways of doing Egyptology to the Brazilian academic reality. This leads to other challenges: how does a former colony take part in a colonial discipline while challenging colonial frameworks? Questions related to geographical distance, cultural differences, and varied backgrounds seem to justify the absence of an understandable reason why Brazilians could (or should) be interested in ancient Egypt. In this paper, I discuss Brazilian insertion into a global Egyptology, while examining the limits of this idea in Brazil. Moreover, I will discuss how interest in ancient Egypt and its relationship with the ancient world have been (re)shaped in recent Brazilian history

 

Teaching

Courses and Tutorials

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Amarna

I've been teaching about the history and the archaeology of Amarna using an interdisciplinary approach. My focus is on material culture and archaeology of settlements. I taught about Amarna at Oxford in tutorials, lectures and museum classes for undergraduate and graduate students.

Art and architecture

I gave tutorials about ancient Egyptian art covering topics such as daily life, religion and history. I encouraged students to engage critically with the scholarship and material culture through a systematic observation and description of the artefacts.

Workshops

I conducted two workshops in September, hosted by the Universidade Federal do Paraná: 'Gender Studies and Material Culture' and 'An introduction to the history of urbanism in Ancient Egypt'.

Introduction to Middle Egyptian

I share this short introduction to Middle Egyptian with Dr Ronaldo Gurgel Pereira. The course is hosted by the University Federal of Santa Catarina. This is the first course about Egyptian language in Brazil made online, reaching a wide audience of students and lectures from Brazil and Argentina.

 

Selected Publications

Research and Articles

Brazilian Egyptology: reassessing colonialism and exploring limits

2019

in Hana Navratilova; Thomas L. Gertzen; Aidan Dodson; Andrew Bednarski. (eds).
Towards a History of Egyptology. Proceedings of the Egyptological Section of the 8th ESHS Conference in London, 2018. Münster: Zaphon, 2019, 127–146

Reassessing models in gender and domestic space in New Kingdom Workmen's Villages

2018

In Stephanie Lynn Budin, Megan Cifarelli, Agnès Garcia-Ventura & Adelina Millet Albà (eds). Gender and Methodology in the Ancient Near East. Proceedings of the Second Workshop held at the Universitat de Barcelona, February 1-3, 2017. Barcelona: Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, p. 299–312.

Tropical Egypt: The Development of Egyptology in Brazil and its Future Challenges

2017

In Christian Langer (ed). Global Egyptology: Negotiations in the
Production of Knowledges on Ancient Egypt in Global Contexts. London:
Golden House Publications, p. 161-172.

 
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Brazilian researcher looks into Ancient Egypt households

July 29, 2020

Bringing gender back onto the agenda in Egyptology

2018

Thais Rocha da Silva discusses the fire at the Brazilian National Museum

2018

Etc

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Tae Kwon Do

I practice Tae Kwon do since 2008. During my time in Oxford, this martial art was crucial to keep me sharp and healthy. I joined the university team against Cambridge in Varsity for 3 years and I was awarded two Oxford Blues for winning the fights together with the Oxford crew.

St Benet's Hall

I was part of the first group of women studying in the college. I participated in the creation of the Graduate Society at St Benet’s Hall and acted as its president for two years. We established the Graduate Study Room at Norham Gardens. The building was the house of Prof. Griffith, who created the department of Egyptology at Oxford, which certainly added a special meaning for me. I enjoyed helping the college to establish a productive and supportive working space for grads and to organised the first series of Graduate Seminars.

The geek side

Big sci-fi fan. Reading and watching about other universes are always insightful to understand human experience.

 
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Get in Touch

Harris Manchester College. Mansfield Rd, Oxford OX1 3TD, United Kingdom

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