Comfort, experience and society in ancient Egypt


The provision of shelter and comfort are key goals of successful domestic architecture. The way in which these goals are realised depends on the climatic conditions of the region within which the structure is situated, the materials available for building and aspects of the culture of the constructing group. As a result we commonly see patterning in the domestic architecture of any particular region and there is a wealth of literature on the relationship between vernacular architecture and climate.

My project aims to examine closely the provision and experience of comfort in the past and the way in which this intersects with the construction of social identity, relationships and behavioural norms in relation to the domestic architecture of ancient Egypt. The hot arid climate of Egypt led to a domestic architecture showing many similarities with the vernacular architecture of other regions and periods with comparable climatic conditions but the precise layout and features of the Egyptian houses are culturally distinctive.


The project is interdisciplinary, drawing on the rich archaeological, artistic and textual record of ancient Egypt with which I am familiar, but also drawing on the very extensive body of architectural literature on comfort. I also intend to draw on comparative archaeological evidence, anthropology, phenomenology and theories of embodiment to move towards an emic interpretation of the understanding and manipulation of comfort in an ancient culture.


Kate Spence is an Early Career Fellow at CRASSH, Michaelmas 2011.

She is currently a lecturer in the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt at the University of Cambridge. She was awarded her PhD in Cambridge at Christ's College in 1997. Her current research Interests include the historical archaeology of Early Dynastic and New Kingdom Egypt, architecture and built environment — the conceptualization of space, religious architecture and installations — the materialization of the ‘other’, domestic structures and the materialization of social relationships, links between landscapes and urbanism, colonialism in New Kingdom Nubia, and material culture and art.


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