In Society and Death in Ancient Egypt, Janet Richards considers social stratification in Middle Kingdom Egypt, taking as the point of departure the assumption that a 'middle class' arose during this period. By focusing on the entire range of mortuary behavior, rather than on elite remains, she shows how social and political processes can be reconstructed. Richards demonstrates that the roots of the middle class can be traced to the later Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. Combining information from excavations, ancient Egyptian texts, and decorative reliefs and statuary, the book weaves together a wide variety of sources that aid us in understanding how Middle Kingdom Egyptians thought about society and death and how their practices and landscapes relating to death reveal information about the living society.
'Egyptology is often criticised for an insufficient amount of theory being applied to the evidence; Janet Richard's book, Society and Death in Ancient Egypt: Mortuary Landscapes of the Middle Kingdom, puts paid to that criticism. It combines anthropological/archaeological theory with hard data to come up with a thorough, balanced analysis of burials and what they tell us about social organisation in ancient Egypt in the Middle Kingdom (and indeed in other periods). ... Richard's book is an exemplary piece of work on the application of theory to evidence ... The methodology is sound, her points are cogently argued, and the examples well chosen. The writing is fluid and elegant, making it a joy to read. This book will serve as a template for other works of this nature, and is a book that should grace every scholar and student's bookshelf.' PalArch, Netherlands Scientific Journal