Thais Rocha

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



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. 



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


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

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Recent Talks

Selection (in English)

Do Ancient Egyptians dream of Electric Sheep? The Reception of Ancient Egypt in Science Fiction.

Ancient Egypt and Colonial Science Fiction: The Myth of Origins.

The representation of ancient Egypt in science-fiction movies emphasise its exotic aspects, magic and lost knowledge. The 1970s TV show Battlestar Gallactica showed ancient Egypt as one of the starting points of civilization, including the pyramids and the temple of Karnak as scenarios for the lost planet Kobol, the home planet of human beings that colonized the galaxy. Many other sci-fi movies used similar references to emphasise Egypt’s place in history as the primeval civilization and the realm of a lost legacy. This approach is also repeated in documentaries and schoolbooks and it is a manifestation of a Western colonial type of History. In this paper I explore the historical elements presented in Battlestar Gallactica as a construct of a historical narrative, one that keeps ancient Egypt as eternal, immutable and mysterious. I challenge this line of thought that puts ancient Egypt as a starting point of a civilizational discourse highlighting the decolonial debates in History and Egyptology.

4th Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East - Helsinkin 2021

Gender re­la­tions and do­mestic space in the Am­arna Work­men’s Vil­lage

The investigation about domestic space in Egyptology usually focused on house unities, highlighting object assemblage and architectural features. This approach was not questioned by scholars interested in gender. The house was then established as the privileged space for women and their activities. By examining the evidence of the Amarna Workmen’s Village, I challenge the concepts of domestic space, expanding the scope of analysis to the village itself to understand how ancient Egyptians conceptualised and experienced the domestic environment. With a new understanding about what was an Egyptian house, I hope to shed light to a new dynamic of social relations in which gender emerges.

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Meeting the Other (IFAO) 2021

Consellations of objects: invesigating the concept of Egyptian dwelling (with Linda Hulin)

This paper develops the concept that domestic experience both refects and is a product of the Egyptian concept of social reality. In her 2020 “Putting People in their Place. Domestic Space and Privacy in the Amarna Workmen’s Village”, Rocha da Silva showed how Egyptian domestic practice was not confned to the four walls of the house or even its compound, but was distributed across the surrounding environment. Expanding on this, we are interested in the relationship between the social practices and practical habits that result in an Egyptian lifeway and the extent to which this is modifed and adapted to new environments and different social landscapes. To what extent, and in which areas of life (architecture, foodway, dress, religion) was the Egyptian habitus modifed in the Levant and Nubia? Equally, to what extent was this habitus variable between the extremes of the Nile valley and its Delta? In this paper we propose a method of investigating these questions which is the starting point of a joint investigation about similarities and difference of domestic in the New Kingdom.

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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.

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Courses and Tutorials


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


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


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

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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.



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'.

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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.

Selected Publications

Research and Articles

Brazilian Egyptology: reassessing colonialism and exploring limits


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


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


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.


On the media


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


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



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.


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.


Get in Touch

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

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