Laura Dewsbury

Laura Dewsbury

Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Doctoral Researcher

Contact details

Title of thesis:What role did individual religiosity play in ancient Egypt and to what extent can it be considered to be ‘invisible religion’?


Supervisor: Dr Martin Bommas

Doctoral research

PhD title
What role did individual religiosity play in ancient Egypt and to what extent can it be considered to be ‘invisible religion’?
Dr Martin Bommas
Archaeology PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)


My research examines the role that religion played in the daily life of the ordinary Egyptian, or anyone outside of the small elite (Baines 1991), and the extent to which aspects of individual religiosity in ancient Egypt can be considered to be “invisible religion” (Luckmann 1967). It attempts to discover the degree to which the thoughts, actions, communication and relationships of the ordinary individual were influenced by religion.

Throughout my research, the religion of the ordinary Egyptian is referred to as individual religiosity, rather than personal religion which is termed by current scholars as ‘practical religion’ (Baines 1987), ‘folk religion’ (Pinch 2006), ‘private religion’ (Stevens 2006) etc., in order to introduce a new field of research. Existing research into personal religion is divided into two major schools of thought. The first focusses on religious emotion, while the second focusses on the social and functional settings of the evidence for personal religion. My research predominantly takes the approach of the first school of thought, but focuses on individual religiosity, as well as considering the sociology of religion, especially the theories discussed by Luckmann in The Invisible Religion: The Transformation of Symbols in Industrial Society (Luckmann 1967). The use of Luckmann’s theories will determine whether individual religiosity was intentional and conscious, therefore suggesting a genuine belief in and understanding of religion, or whether it was made up of habitual and subconscious actions derived from a historically given and not fully understood universe of meaning (Luckmann 1967).

My research considers both archaeological and textual primary sources in light of individual religiosity and the theories discussed in The Invisible Religion (Luckmann 1967). In order to gain an accurate understanding of individual religiosity in ancient Egypt, it is vital to examine both types of evidence as this will give the sources considered context and will increase the meanings and understanding derived from them. The sources are studied from a broadly temporal perspective in order to ascertain whether individual religiosity in ancient Egypt changed and developed over time.
As well as an introduction and conclusion, the research is divided into five main chapters: gesture and speech; festivals; communication with the dead and with gods; art; amulets and jewellery.