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Thais Rocha

Visiting Research Fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research  (University of Cambridge, 2023); Departmental Lecturer (University of São Paulo); Postdoc (University of São Paulo/FAPESP); 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. My current postdoctoral project explores social practices and sensory aspects of the houses. I am currently part of the Amarna Project in Egypt and co-direct Being Egyptian together with Linda Hulin, and the Egypt Exploration Society

English: Welcome

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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English: About Me

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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English: News & Resources

Recent Talks

Selection (in English)

Make yourself at home. Senses and Social Practice in New Kingdom Egyptian houses.

Egyptian World Seminar Series, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. 

University of Cambridge.

Not available

Amarna Workmen's Village: Food Cooperation or Individualisation? (guest speaker)

BrIAS Workshop Interdisciplinary Approaches to Food History in Egypt: Past and Present. Brussels Institute for Advanced Studies (BrIAS), Université Libre de Bruxelles.  

The Amarna Workmen’s Village is a special purpose settlement that housed the workforce engaged in the royal construction projects. The settlement was occupied for approximately 20 years and its inhabitants likely had to finish their homes after the Egyptian administration laid out the building area. Archaeological evidence from the village shows that people engaged in many modifications within their houses, adding or removing walls and building installations for food production. This evidence has been investigated mainly from an economic perspective. Delwen Samuel’s work about bread making in the village emphasized a process of individualisation in which the inhabitants were operating independently of one another. She argued that the presence of the state and the dependence on state provisions led the local population to be less cooperative. In this paper, I explore a different venue, arguing instead that the village privileged cooperation for food production. Domestic maintenance activities should not be regarded simply to an economic, utilitarian perspective. Rather, daily life in the Workmen’s Village was subject to specific type of domestic experience that were not solely based on individual houses, but the village itself.

Not available

The domestic experience at the Amarna workmen's village: senses and practice.

Living in the House. Researching the domestic life in ancient Egypt and Sudan. IFAO, 37-30th November, 2022.

This paper examines the constitution of domestic space at the Amarna Workmen’s Village based on a sensorial perspective. The Amarna domestic space privileged social interaction, and domestic activities cannot be understood solely by an economic framework. The presence of the Egyptian administration at the settlement and its interaction with the local inhabitants can be noted by the village enclosure wall and external buildings that coexisted with locally developed communal areas, like pigpens
and chapels. I explore the ways in which house plans have a social rather than a practical rationale, which may explain the variety of domestic ambience in the village. I will demonstrate how production activities are necessarily social and need to be examined archaeologically taking into consideration the interplay of landscape and architecture, and how individuals responded to the presence of the state. For this, new theoretical and methodological frameworks from Sensorial Archaeology and History of Senses provide new insights to understand how a large – and communal – domestic space, such as the Workmen’s Village of Amarna, affected the lives of its inhabitants, constituting a particular type of living experience.

Domestic Space and Senses in New Kingdom Egyptian houses (guest speaker)

Egyptology in Dialogue: Historical bodies in relations of comparisons and negotiations. Emory University, 3-4th November, 2022. 

Houses are the material form through which people experience social life and the world around them. Their materiality conveys social values that are incorporated into daily tasks, social interaction with family members, neighbours, and institutions. Houses also
embody sensorial experiences through smells, sounds, tastes and evoke memories that trigger a sense of familiarity. This paper explores how the investigation of senses within domestic
space can help access the experience of ancient Egyptians who lived in foreign lands. I examine this phenomenon through two main theoretical frameworks: Sorensen’s ideas about negotiation (Sorensen 2007) and Robb and Harris’ body worlds to understand how social
practices and domestic space are intrinsically related. Taking social reality as a bodily process (Robb and Harris 2013, 11), I hope to demonstrate how bodily routines are affected.
and affect the material world to create and adapt spaces to live. In this sense, notions of
comfort, familiarity and discomfort/otherness are experienced through the body. That is why
the sensorial experience is crucial to understanding houses as a body world.

English: List
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Teaching

Courses and Tutorials

English: Courses

Selected Publications

Research and Articles

Reassessing domestic space in the Amarna Workmen’s Village.

January 2023

The Akhetaten Sun 28, 2, 1-11.

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

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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.

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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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Guest Lecturer for the Module 03-AEG-2107/3112 Anatomie der Ägyptischen Kultur(en) anhand ausgewählter Beispiele I.

Wintersemester 2022/23, Universität Leipzig, Ägyptologisches Institut. 

Course title: “Sex and Erotic in Ancient Egypt”. Teaching with Dr. Ann-Katrin Gill.

Get in Touch

Domestic Space and material culture: trends and debates (FLH5640, Graduate course), History Department, University of São Paulo.

September-October (2022)

To present the main debates regarding the definitions of domestic space and its methodological issues, within Material Culture Studies and other fields, like archeology, history of the senses, gender studies, and theory of practice. The chronological and geographical outline of this discipline is broad in order to highlight the theoretical-methodological debate in the field. Through different case studies, that vary both chronologically and geographically, the discipline offers students the possibility to explore different types of evidence together with a critical reading of the academic scholarship on the topic.

Archaeology (FLH0630). History Department, University of São Paulo

2021-2022

The aim of the course is to present Archeology and Material Culture Studies from a historical perspective, discussing the main theoretical and methodological debates and their interdisciplinary developments, especially in History, Archeology and Anthropology.

Advanced Middle Egyptian (with Ronaldo Gurgel Pereira)

April - August (2021)

Verbal Forms and Reading Practice.

Gender issues: feminine and masculine in ancient Egypt

March 15, 22, 29, April 5, 2021

This course aims to reflect on the notions of feminine and masculine in ancient Egypt, debating the use of gender as a  concept for the study of ancient societies. We examine the representations of men and women in Egyptian art, as well as in the funerary context, texts and monuments in different periods of Egyptian history, also highlighting how this information was interpreted by Egyptology.

Ancient Egypt. Archaeology and Art History

2020

I explore how ancient Egyptian artefacts were appropriated by the West and how ancient Egypt was adapted throughout the 20th century by History and Art History according to specific ideas of civilisation and art. The course is hosted by Instituto Mundo Antigo

Registration closed

Amarna

2019

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

2019

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

2020

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'.

Registration closed

Introduction to Middle Egyptian

September - November, 2020

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.

English: Publications
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On the media

English: News & Resources

Amarna with Dr Thais Rocha da Silva (Ithaca Bound Podcast)

September 6th, 2021

Brazilian researcher looks into Ancient Egypt households

July 29, 2020

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Bringing gender back onto the agenda in Egyptology

2018

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

2018

Etc

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.

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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.

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The geek side

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

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First woman to receive a DPhil at St Benet's Hall

I was the first woman to receive a doctoral degree at a Benetian institution at the University of Oxford since its foundation in the 13th century.

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English: Services
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Get in Touch

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

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English: Contact
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