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Author Topic: PRE-HISTORY OF EGYPT  (Read 6012 times)
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« on: May 26, 2007, 01:05:52 pm »

                                                          L O W E R   P A L E O L I T H I C

 c. 2 Mil. - 100,000 BC

As hard as may be to believe, there was an Egypt before the Pharaohs. Over a century ago, Charles Darwin, without any real evidence to back up his theory, set forth the statement that Africa might have been the cradle of the human race. Today, we still have no conclusive proof, but many signs point to one of the first civilizations created by human-like beings might have been in the Nile Valley around 700,000 years ago, if not earlier. Possible evidence to push the date back much earlier was found at Olduvai.

The Olduvai Gorge site in Tanzania is the oldest archaeological site in the world. Discovered by Dr. Mary D. Leakey and her husband, Louis Leakey, it contains the remains of large hominids (humanlike creatures) almost two million years old, which they labeled as Zinjanthropus boisei. But even more important than the remains themselves was the large amount of animal bones and crude stone tools found with them, evidence that these were intelligent beings. The existence of these stone tools prompted archaeologists to label them the "Olduwan Industry."

Remains of boisei and similar hominids, as well as the shelters they built and tools they used have been found in many places in Africa, from Lake Rudolph in eastern Africa, to South Africa, to the Afar and Omo river valleys in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, to date, no remains of boisei or even of Australopithecus africanus and Homo habilis (two species of advanced hominids believed to be our ancestors) have been found in the Lower Nile Valley, but if human-like creatures were already roaming over Africa nearly two million years ago, it seems very likely they could have migrated to the Nile Valley. Many archaeologists now believe, based on what has already been found at Olduvai and similar sites, that it is only a matter of time before remains of early hominids are found in Egypt. There is a strong case for this, but until the discovery of australopithecine remains there, the evidence is still only circumstantial.

For nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers, as some anthropologists believe our ancestors were, the fertile Nile Valley, with its readily available water, game, and arable land, must have looked inviting indeed. Additionally, this period is believed to have been much more temperate and rainy than the Nile Valley of today, and so one must imagine this area to be filled with wide expanses of grasslands, teeming with life, similar to the savannas of southern and eastern Africa. These savannas may even have extended well into what is today the Sahara Desert, and oases such as the Karga Oasis and the Dungul Oasis are all that is left of these vast ranges of vegetation. The Nile may even have served as a migration route for early civilizations to make their way up through Africa and into Europe, beginning the spreading of the human race throughout the world.

At the very least, we can say early humans were in Egypt 700,000 years ago for certain. To date, the oldest tools found in the lower Nile Valley have been found in and near the cliffs of Abu Simbel, just across the river from where, millennia later, the descendants of these people would build the temple of Rameses II. Geological evidence indicates they are around 700,000 years old, giving a fairly good estimate as to when a Stone Age people was living in the area. "Slightly" later, dating to approximately 500,000 years ago, are various finds of stone tools, including the stone axes that the Lower Paleolithic is noted for. Gertrude Caton-Thompson and Elinor Gardner report industry in the Achulean Period (c. 250,000 - 90,000 BC) of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic. Paleolithic sites are most often found near dried-up springs or lakes, or in areas where materials to make stone tools are plentiful.

One of the most important finds from the Achulean Period is known as Arkin 8, discovered by Polish archaeologist Waldemar Chmielewski near the the Nile Valley town of Wadi Halfa. Arkin 8, unlike many Paleolithic sites in Egypt, was not only remarkably well-preserved, but astonishingly rich. Arkin 8 boasts the earliest known house-like structures in Egypt and the Sudan, some of the oldest buildings in the world. The structures are oval depressions around 30 cm deep and 1.8 x 1.2 meters across, many lined with flat sandstone slabs. Most likely these are what are known as "tent rings," in which a dome-like shelter of skins or brush was held down by heavy rocks lain in a circle. This type of dwelling provides a permanent place to live, but if necessary, can be taken down easily and moved. They are the dwelling that seems to be most favored by nomadic tribes making the transition from hunter-gatherer to semi-permanent settlement and similar structures are still built by modern hunter-gatherer tribes all over the world. Another striking detail of the Arkin 8 site is the concentration of artifacts in small areas of the "village," implying that these were areas where groups of people gathered to work on stone artifacts together. Arkin 8 paints a vivid picture of emerging human society.

Another important site is the site labeled BS-14, in the Libyan Desert's Bir Sahara depression. Today this area is dry and parched, but during the Achulean Period it was nourished by the frequent rainfall. As was mentioned before, Egypt and the surrounding area of this period was subject to much more rainfall than it is now. The Abbassia Pluvial prevailed during the late Achulean Period, lasting around 30,000 years. During this time, according to the artifacts and remains found at BS-14, the hunter-gatherer culture became more stationary around the permanent water holes. Women, children, and young men browsed for the bulk of the tribe's food near the water hole, while the older men would go out and hunt on the grasslands.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2009, 08:08:21 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2007, 01:12:10 pm »

                                                M I D D L E   P A L E O L I T H I C

100,000 - 30,000 BC

Between the Lower and Middle Paleolithic eras, the Abbassia Pluvial ended and the Sahara returned to a desert state. By this time Homo erectus had evolved into Homo neanderthalensis, and began to escape the encroaching desert by migrating to the Nile Valley and to the oases that were left, such as the one at Kharga.

It was about this time that a more efficient stone tool industry developed. Called Levalloisian after the site in France where tools of this style were first discovered, it involves the making of several stone tools from one piece of stone by chipping a number of similarly sized and shaped flakes from around the circumference of the stone. This technique was a good step over the previous techniques which often required an entire stone to make a single tool, or if multiple flakes were taken from a single stone, they would be of varying sizes, many unusable. With this technique, numerous thin, sharp, almost identical flakes could be made and only slightly reshaped to make what was desired. The standardization of stone tools, as well as the development of several new tools had begun. Most importantly, the Levalloisian industry resulted in an invention that would change everything that had come before: the spear point.

Levallois points not only had a better piercing point, they were also made to be fitted to wooden shafts. The advantages of a stone spear point over a sharpened wood one permitted a great increase in hunting efficiency, as well as a change in hunting tactics. The stone spear point may even have led to another trait of the Middle Paleolithic, which was the focus of tribal attention on one particular type of game, such as sheep or goats, a step toward domestication.

It was during Middle Paleolithic times that early humans began to spread throughout the area. The development of these new stone industries and survival techniques, coupled with the Mousterian Pluvial (which was even greater than the Abbassian that preceded it) between 50,000 and 30,000 BC caused a widespread distribution of early human culture. Whereas Lower Paleolithic sites are few and far between, Middle Paleolithic sites are scattered all over Egypt and the Sudan, from the Nile Valley to the coast of the Red Sea to even the now-hostile Liqiya depression in the southern Libyan Desert. The Mousterian Pluvial caused the Sahara to bloom like never before, not only in vegetation and wildlife, but also in new human settlements. By this time, early humans (still Neanderthaloid) had spread to almost every habitable area of North Africa.

Two new industries emerged during the Mousterian Pluvial, those being the Aterian Industry and the Khormusan Industry. The Aterian Industry, named for the type site at Bir-el-Ater in Tunisia, began some time around 40,000 BC, about the middle of the pluvial, and ended just shy of 30,000 BC. Aterian points are characterized by a distinct "tang" or plug on the bottom, which allowed for a more secure fit to the spear shaft. Originally thought to be arrow points, Aterian points may have been far too bulky to be used on primitive arrows, and were more likely points for a smaller variety of spear, the dart, which was more efficient in hunting small game than the normal-sized spear. Another invention of the Aterian Industry was that of the spear-thrower, a small length of wood with a notch at one end for the back end of the spear shaft, which allowed for greater power in throws as well as greater accuracy. These new developments permitted increased efficiency in hunting large grazing animals. The discoveries of gigantic stores of animal remains and human artifacts at site BT-14 attest to the success of these new hunting methods as well as the success of the settlement itself. The bones from this site reveal that our ancestors made use of a wide variety of animal life such as the white rhinoceros, the now-extinct Pleistocene camel, gazelles, jackals, warthogs, ostriches, and various types of antelopes.

In the Khormusan Industry, stone tools became even more varied and advanced, and tools made of bone and ground hematite became widespread. Of course, these industries did not follow one another one by one, but rather overlap by several thousand years as well as in area. The Khormusan is noted above all for the prolific use of a small, sharp point that greatly resembles the early arrow points of the Native Americans. In fact, such points were used during the Upper Paleolithic to tip the arrows developed at that time. Whether the Khormusans developed bow technology is still under debate, as is whether the Aterians did. Regardless, the Khormusans were certainly efficient hunters, as well as being gatherers and fishers, and their diet resembled that of the Aterians, and added wild cattle (think of cattle roughly twice as big as our domestic cattle), and fish from the Nile. These animals came from many different in the Nile Valley and the surrounding area, so Khormusan hunting parties must have ranged from the river itself to the savanna grasslands. These two industries, or rather, these two cultures, for such they were, existed almost side-by-side until the end of the pluvial, foreshadowing the the great cultural cross-sections that would inhabit Dynastic Egypt thousands of years later.

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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2007, 01:15:42 pm »

                                                 U P P E R   P A L E O L I T H I C

 30,000 - 10,000 BC

Some time around the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, or in the few centuries before it, the Mousterian Pluvial ended and desert once again reclaimed the Sahara region. Fleeing the desert, many of the peoples settled in the area migrated closer and closer to the Nile. It is possibly during this time that various tribes began to interact, providing a much wider gene pool on which to draw. It is unfortunate that little is known about the period from 40,000 - 17,000 BC. However, it is easy to draw conclusions based on earlier and later events. The growing barrenness of the Sahara would obviously cause many of the settlements to die of starvation, and once again survival of the human race in this area depended on the Nile. Naturally, some industries would survive and new ones would be created. These new industries show many similar trends, especially that of the miniaturization of tools, possibly as a desire to conserve resources. Most of the data about this period in time comes from the famous site of Kom Ombo. Kom Ombo is located on the east bank of the Nile in the southern area of Upper Egypt. Archaeologists know that this site is from the Upper Paleolithic because of the existence of burins, small, stubby, pointed tools made of flakes and characterized by long, narrow flakes forming a point. The discovery of burins in Egyptian archaeological sites prompted Edmund Vignard, the discoverer of Kom Ombo, to label it a new industry: the Sebilian.

Sebilian tools are manufactured from diorite, a hard, black, igneous rock that was plentiful in the area. The Sebilian Industry is divided into three distinct stages, based on the artifacts created and the techniques used to make them. Sebilian I, also called Lower Sebilian, is essentially a modified Levallois industry with retouched points and the first burins (small, knobby points). Sebilian II and III are true microblade and burin industries and by this time diorite had given way to the more durable and workable flint. But even with these developments, Sebilian artifacts appear technologically conservative and backward when compared with some of the Upper Paleolithic industries in Europe.

Complicating everything, however, is the discovery of a coexisting industry now labeled Silsillian (c. 13,000 BC) which effectively puts the early Egyptians back at the forefront of prehistoric technological development. Sisillian was a highly-developed microblade industry that included truncated blades, blades of unusual shapes made specifically for one task, and most significant of all, a wide variety of bladelets for mounting onto spears, darts, and arrows. There is almost no trace of earlier techniques such as Levalloisian, and Silsillian blades in some cases are thousands of years ahead of anything found in Europe from this period. The Silsillian Industry also premiered the creation of microliths. Microliths are small, fine blades used in advanced tools such as arrows, harpoons, and sickles, and since they are smaller, use less material. This latter development may have been due to the fact that in the Kom Ombo area, high-quality stone was in short supply. Additionally, the fact that these blades were used for agricultural tools such as sickles shows that by this time basic farming had begun, and earlier than had been previously thought.

Unlike their European "contemporaries" who had to deal with the changing post-ice age climate and the disappearance of several food species, the early Egyptians were still able to engage in hunting large game animals, and since many of the animal herds were now concentrated near the Nile, more stable settlements could be made. The Halfan Industry, or rather, the Halfan people, for it was much more than just a way of making tools, flourished between 18,000 and 15,000 BC (though one site has been found dating to before 24,000 BC) on a diet of large herd animals and the Khormusan tradition of fishing. Although there are only a few Halfan sites and they are small in size, there is a greater concentration of artifacts, indicating that this was not a people bound to seasonal wandering, but one that had settled, at least for a time.

Another group that did rather well during this time (17,000 - 15,000 BC) was the Fakhurian, an industry based entirely on microlithic tools. Indeed, they are the only industry discovered so far that is solely microlithic. Some Fakhurian blades are less than 3 cm long! At the same time, the two Idfuan industries were retaining a culture based on nomadic hunting, trapping, and snaring. During this time, at least in Upper Egypt, there is a trend for industries, as they become more advanced, to become more localized. No doubt this is due to the fact that the people were ceasing to be nomadic, settling in various areas, and then developing separately from everyone else depending on the environment in which they made their home, whether it was on the banks of the Nile, on the savannas, or in one of the outlying oases not yet claimed by the desert. Perhaps it should be mentioned that the Nile of the Paleolithic was much different than the Nile of today. Although dry, the desert areas were not completely hostile, as the annual flooding of the Nile was much higher than today, which resulted in a greater groundwater table and in turn, oases, floodpools, and waterholes.

With the sites from these periods archaeologists begin to see the signs of "true" cultures emerging. The Qadan (13,000 - 9,000 BC) sites, stretching from the Second Cataract of the Nile to Tushka (about 250 km upriver from Aswan), actually have cemeteries and evidence of ritual burial. It is also during this time that the first great experiments in ordered agriculture began. Grinding stones and blades have been found in great numbers with a glossy film of silica on them, possibly the result of cut grass stems. Sadly, as stone preserves better than straw baskets or satchels, the extent of agriculture from this period can not be determined. It may not have been true agriculture as we know it, but rather a sort of systematic "caring for" the local plant life (watering and harvesting, but as yet no planting in ordered rows and the like). Yet even this would put the Paleolithic Egyptians on almost the same technological level as the early Neolithic peoples in Europe. Some of the sites also give evidence that fishing was abandoned by the people living there, possibly because farmed grains (barley, most likely), together with the large herd animals still hunted, created a diet that was more than adequate.

Oddly though, almost as soon as this protoagriculture was developed, it appears to have been abandoned. Beginning around 10,500 BC, the stone sickles that were so predominant seem to simply fade out of the picture and there is a return to the hunter-gatherer-fisher culture that came before. Invasion by another people is a possible explanation, though a series of natural disasters that devastated the fledgling crops is more logical, as we are dealing with abandonment by not one, but many prehistoric societies over a widespread area. At first it would seem that the growing aridity of the environment was the cause. Certainly, given the present state of the Sahara and the surrounding area, this is a logical conclusion, but new evidence shows that this period was marked by a series of rather severe and violent Nile floods which could have destroyed the "farmlands" and discouraged the people from continuing to rely on crops as a dietary index.

It was about this time that the demise of the various Paleolithic peoples in Egypt began. It may very well be that the abandonment of protoagriculture contributed to this, but the discovery of the Jebel Sahaba cemetery sheds some new light on the end of many Paleolithic cultures. In all, three Qadan cemeteries are known: one at Tushka, and two at Jebel Sahaba, one on each side of the river. Although many of the remains unearthed at these sites are the usual cross-section of elderly and young, chieftains and commoners, there are quite a disturbing number of bodies from the final 10,000 years of the Upper Paleolithic that appear to have died by violence. Stone points found with the remains were almost all located in areas of the body that suggests penetration as spear points or similar weapons. Most were located in the chest and back area, with others in the lower abdomen, and even a few entering the skull through the lower jaw or neck area! Additionally, the lack of bony calluses as a result of healing near these points shows that in many of these cases the wound was fatal (bone tissue repairs itself rather quickly, preliminary healing often begins before even that of soft tissues). A statistical analysis of the main cemetery at Jebel Sahaba gives a figure of 40 percent of the people buried there died from wounds due to thrown projectiles; spears, darts, and arrows.

Why then was a hunter-gatherer culture so prone to violence? One explanation is diminishing resources, caused by the growing aridity and the failure of the protoagriculture experiments. The Jebel Sahaba cemeteries must only have been used for a few generations and for that many violent deaths to occur within that time supports an explanation based on massive intertribal warfare. Also, since the victims were of all ages (except infants; only one infant is buried in each of the Jebel Sahaba cemeteries), this could indicate that the majority of the skirmishes were actually based on raiding and ambush, as "normal" warfare usually only involves young to middle-aged males. And we should not dismiss the possibility of invasion by a more advanced, or at least more powerful, people from outside, especially if Jebel Sahaba and similar sites date to as late as 7000 BC, as by then the people would have been in competition with larger and more advanced Epipaleolithic cultures.

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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2007, 01:21:52 pm »

                                                   E P I P A L E O L I T H I C

 10,000 - c. 5,500 BC

The Epipaleolithic years are largely a transition between the Paleolithic and the Predynastic time periods in ancient Egypt, a time between the hunter-gatherers of before and the appearance of the true farming of the village-dwelling cultures after 5500 BC. Most of the information from this era comes from the site of El Kab, nestled between the eastern bank of the Nile and the Red Sea Hills. Before the discoveries at El Kab, it was thought that Paleolithic artifacts, even those dating to the Epipaleolithic, would not be found on the floodplain of the Nile, simply because of the action of the inundation. However, in the case of many of the artifact sites, it was the inundation that preserved them, as the Nile deposited layer upon layer of soil each year without washing the artifacts away.

Three major "camps" of Epipaleolithic peoples were discovered, the oldest dating to around 6400 BC, the one above it to 6040 BC, and the uppermost to 5980 BC. The importance of this site can easily be seen in the fact that the major archaeologist of the site, Dr. Paul Vermeersch, classified over 4,000 artifacts. Most of these were artfully made and minutely detailed microblades. Beads made of ostrich shell were also discovered, showing that even then the ancient Egyptians had a love for ornamentation. Burins, scrapers, and points of all sizes and description rounded out the inventory.

The camps at El Kab were most likely occupied only during spring and summer. The annual inundation of the Nile, especially given how massive it was then, would make it next to impossible to live in those locations year round. It is apparent that these tribes were still largely nomadic. Despite this, the camps (for such we should label them) enjoyed many times of prosperity, living near the cool Nile and benefiting from its supply of fish, supplemented by the traditional hunting of savanna wildlife such as wild cattle and gazelles.

The two most prominent industries at this time, as discovered near Wadi Halfa in the northern Sudan, were the Arkinian and the Sharmarkian. So far, Arkinian artifacts have only been found at one site and have been dated to around 7440 BC. The site is a small settlement, with possibly around thirteen dwellings, given the concentration of debris in a clustered location. Like many of the settlements at this time near the Nile, this was most likely a seasonal camp of some kind, though we will have to wait until other Arkinian sites are discovered. Arkinian was largely a microlithic industry, making use of very small, skillfully crafted stone tools, but large blades and a new method of extracting more material from a stone, the double-platform core, have been found.

We know more about the Sharmarkian industry than the Arkinian. A newer industry, but one that spans a much larger time period, Sharmarkian artifacts have been dated from 5750 BC to 3270 BC, if not even more recent. Although more prolific, the Sharmarkian artifacts actually show a decline in the quality of toolcraft toward the end of the Sharmarkian. Settlements of these people have been found on the beaches of soil left by the inundation. These seasonal camps merged together and grew into large concentrations of dwellings over time. There is evidence in these later Epipaleolithic sites of a population explosion around 5500 BC, possibly due to the development of true agriculture as well as animal domestication. In a very short time, geologically speaking, the people had gone from savanna nomads to riverdwellers, making a very efficient adaptation to the new environment.

Unfortunately, we still do not know exactly when agriculture and animal domestication were discovered (or introduced by another people) in Egypt. There is an odd gap of around a thousand years between these riverine settlements of the late Epipaleolithic and the true farming villages of the Predynastic cultures during which great strides in Egyptian knowledge were made. It is even surmised that it was during this time that they began to develop the writing systems that would evolve into the hieroglyphs. There are sites in Nubia that possess possible remains of domesticated animals that date to around 5110 BC. Whether domestication was brought into Egypt or was discovered within her borders is still a debated topic. All things aside, this final time period before the Predynastic age remains a very important problem for researchers. Each new discovery, though, sheds more light on the history of the first Egyptians.


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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2007, 04:36:10 pm »



By Caroline Seawright

The people who are believed to be the ancestors to the predynastic Egyptians were a people known as the Badarian people. They lived in Upper Egypt, on the eastern bank of the Nile, near the village of Badari, south of Asiut. Archaeologists have found both a series of settlement sites as well as various cemeteries. They lived at about 4400 BC and may have even been as far back as 5000 BC.

Though they were a semi-nomadic people, they started to cultivate grain and domesticate their animals. They found the need for a series of small villages in the flat desert bordering on the fertile land created by the Nile, and the burial grounds were found on the outskirts of these villages. They even gave their cattle and sheep ceremonial burial!

The graves of the people were simple - the dead were laid to rest on their left sides facing the west, in a fetal position and wrapped in matting. They were buried with fine grave goods - beautiful ceramics, decorated plates, bowls and dishes. Cosmetic utensils including makeup palettes, ointment spoons, decorative combs and bracelets, necklaces and copper beads and pins. They also usually had an ivory or clay female figure (which may have been fertility doll or idol) placed in the grave with the deceased. Unfortunately many of the graves were robbed soon after burial.

This seems to point to a highly evolved funerary system - they dead were buried with their finest possessions, personal possessions and clothing for use in the next world.
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2007, 04:40:50 pm »

The Amratians

Succeeding the Badari, the Naqada people took over. They were one of the most important prehistoric cultures in Upper Egypt, and their development can be traced to the founding of the Egyptian state.

The Amratian (Naqada I) started as a parallel culture to the Badari, but eventually superimposed itself on the other, and finally replaced it. These, though, were the race thought of as the first 'true Egyptians', and dominated between 4500-3100 BC.

 Like the Badari, they lived in villages, and started the first real attempt at cultivating the fertile Nile valley and supplemented their diet by hunting for food. Each village had it's own animal deity which was identified with a clan ensign. From this came the different Egyptian nomes with their own local totems - the gods of the dynastic pantheon.

The artistic accomplishment of the people were given a chance to grow, and pottery decorated with animals, human figures hunting or worshiping and even papyrus bundle boats started appearing. So, too, did the female idol figures continue to grow - they appeared in greater numbers and in a wider variety, and bearded male figures started to appear on pendants and ivory sticks ("magic wands"). These last sets of human figures seems to have been of a magical or spiritual nature.

In the Amratian graves, the deceased were buried with statuettes to keep him or her company in the afterlife. These were the forerunners of ushabti figures found in Egyptian tombs. Along with these figured, the dead person was buried with food, weapons, amulets, ornaments and decorated vases and palettes.
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2007, 04:42:53 pm »

The Gerzean

In the middle of the fourth millennium BC, the Naqada II period superceded the Naqada I. They had mastered the art of agriculture and the use of artificial irrigation, and no longer needed to hunt for their food. The people started live in towns, not just villages, creating areas of higher population density than ever before.

The Gerzean people continued to expand in the artistic area, creating new styles of pottery and more elegant artwork. They started to create a wide variety of animal-shaped palettes for mixing cosmetics, as well as a shield-shaped cosmetic pallet, the ancestor of the ceremonial palettes in early Dynastic Egypt. Metalworking increased - the Gerzean people made great use of copper knives. They also created their own cast-metal implements and weapons.

They traded with far distant peoples for copper and other goods (they traded much further than the previous two cultures) - silver, lapis lazuli, lead, cylinder seals were some goods traded for from Asia and Mesopotamia. Foreign influences through their trading began to show in their style of dress, ornaments and various implements. Radical changes in the design of knives, daggers and pottery were made by the Gerzeans.

They also introduced the images and totems of the falcon, symbol of the sun god Ra, and the cow, symbol of the love goddess Hathor.

There were also significant changes in the matter of burials. Whereas cemeteries that dated from an earlier period showed that the corpse was generally wrapped in some sort of covering and buried in a contracted position facing the west, those which were located in Gerzean deposits indicated a lack of regular orientation, a more elaborate form of grave, and evidences of ritual procedure at the time of burial in the form of deliberately shattered pottery.

There is evidence of an elite social class from the graves and grave goods found. The more elaborate funerary cult created larger, rectangular graves with walls lined with either masonry or wooden blanks, which could also hold grave goods. The differences in the lavish (or not) graves, with many or lesser goods, pointed to the distinction in classes in the Gerzean people.
In Nekhem (Hierakonpolis), the cult centre of Horus of Nekhem, there is a Naqada II palace and ritual precinct. This area was made of timber and matting, and can only be theoretically reconstructed from the positions of the postholes - some of which were big enough for entire tree trunks! The features of the complex were compared with the buildings of Djoser's pyramid complex, where such buildings were made in stone. It has a large oval courtyard, surrounded by various buildings, and is clearly the forerunner to the royal ritual precincts of the early Dynastic Period.

This, then, was the root of the Egyptian kingship system and the beginning of the unified state.
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2009, 11:31:42 am »

Predynastic Egypt

The Naqada III had many territorial divisions, known as nomes. They had their own sacred animal or plant that became the totem, fetish or emblem of that territory. The emblem was depicted on the pottery of that area. The nomes then resulted in two powerful states - Upper and Lower Egypt. It has been found that they ended up with twenty nomes in Lower Egypt and twenty-two in Upper Egypt! Each state had their own ruler.

There were thirteen or so rulers at Nekhem, of which only the last few have been identified (though they are by no means certain):

Horus "Crocodile"

Horus Hat-Hor

Horus Iry-Hor

Horus Ka

Horus "Scorpion"

Horus Narmer "Baleful Catfish"

The rulers who named themselves after animals, were probably attempting to identify themselves with the divinity found in these animals. The rulers became the personification of the named animal-god, as later on the pharaohs were known as the "Son of Ra". These rulers also wore the white crown of Upper Egypt and were depicted as superhuman figures, giants who towered above mortal men. They were depicted as being war-like, with Scorpion's macehead hints at the nature of Upper Egyptian rulers.
In Lower Egypt, a more commercial system ran the state. The centres of wealth were ruled over by important families or groups in each town, rather than by a single hierarchy. Ma'adi, Buto and Tell Farkha were the larger towns of the state, with the capital probably at Buto. By the Naqada III period, Buto's pottery was 99% from Upper Egypt, and so was thought to have been "Naqada-ised" by that time.

The rulers of Lower Egypt, who wore the red crown, taken from the Palermo Stone may have been:







There is not much known about these rulers, other than their names. Some believe that there was never one ruler over Lower Egypt in predynastic times, because of a lack of evidence of these rulers.
Narmer (who some believe to also be King Scorpion because of lack of evidence of the other king, other than one macehead) managed to take over the state of Lower Egypt, by force according to decorated palettes and maceheads. The famous Narmer palette shows him on one side wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, and the other shows him wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt. It also shows the hawk emblem of Horus, the Upper Egyptian god of Nekhem, dominating the Lower Egypt personified papyrus marsh. From this, Narmer is believed to have unified Egypt.

Manetho attributes the unification of Egypt to Aha "Fighter" Menes. He has been listed as the first pharaoh of the 1st Dynasty, but Menes and Narmer may be on in the same man. Menes was from Thinis, in the south of Upper Egypt, but he built his capital at Memphis, according to Diodorus.

The Narmer palette was found in the temple at Nekhem where they had been dedicated to Horus, as were other expensive objects with royal imagery. These items were not for every day use - they were more than twice the size of normal items! There was a clear link between the ruler and religion as he was a central figure in religious art. Burial customs became even more stratified, and much more elaborate for the highest classes - for the elite, there were two places to be buried: Abydos in Upper Egypt, and Saqqara in Lower Egypt. Many nobles and rulers were buried in both places in the early Dynastic Period.
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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2009, 11:32:16 am »


The religion of Neolithic and predynastic Egypt appears to have been animistic nature worship, with each village or town with its own spirit in the form of an animal, bird, reptile, tree, plant or object. The spirit was always in something that played a prominent part in the life of the people of that locality. The spirits fell into two general groups - that which was friendly and helpful, such as cattle, or that which was menacing and powerful such as the crocodile or snakes. In both cases, the favour of the spirit had to be solicited with a set formula of words and action, and they had to have houses built for them and offerings made to them.

As the spirits became gods, in each town or village, the deity had its own temple staffed by priests, who dealt with the deity's daily wants. In return for these services, the god was thought to protect its people, ensuring fertility and well-being. But if the needs weren't met, the deity might call down wrath on the community in the form of plague or famine or other such natural disasters.

The totemic origin of the Egyptian religion is that of great antiquity. From spirits worshiped through animals, plants and even mountains to being the standard of the town itself, then to being the god of the town. The standard of the nome clearly showed which deity protected the town. And, as the town gained prominence, so too did the town's standard.

The religion was interwoven into not only the ruling power, but into life itself. The deity of the town was who the people turned to, through the government, to prevent the everyday hazards of living - magic, spells, charms, folklore and amulets. They appealed to the deity for protection against hazards and to intercede on their behalf for anything from the Nile flooding to sowing and harvest to protection from poisonous animals to childbirth.

Horus and Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Al Kab, came to represent Upper Egypt. In Lower Egypt, Set and Udjo, the cobra goddess of Buto, were worshiped. In later Egyptian history, the vulture and cobra were united in the royal diadem, to represent dominion over both lands. So when Nekhem became the most powerful town, Horus became the god par excellence. The rulers started to identify themselves as the living embodiment of the hawk god.

The growth of the Egyptian religion is one of the reasons why Egypt ended up with such a complex and polythestic religious system. When a town grew in prominence, so did the god. When the town was deserted, the god disappeared. Only a few of the many deities ended up in the Egyptian pantheon, and even then their popularity waxed and waned through the thousands of years of Egyptian history. Another reason for complexity was when people moved, their god did, too. This meant that at the new town, there was sometimes a battle between the old and new gods - but the Egyptian gods were easily merged, with other gods taking over that god's attributes and abilities! So it is that some of the ancient gods of Neolithic and Predynastic Egypt came to national prominence are considered to be some of the main gods in the Egyptian pantheon today: Amun of Thebes, Ptah of Hikuptah (Memphis), Horus (the Elder) of Nekhem, Set of Tukh (Ombos), Ra of Iunu (Heliopolis), Min of Gebtu (Koptos), Hathor of Dendra and Osiris of Abydos.
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2009, 12:27:39 pm »

                                           P R E   -   D Y N A S T I C      P E R I O D

Scholars designate the Predynastic Period in Egypt as a time when Egyptian culture was beginning to resemble what would later become Dynastic Egypt, but Egypt itself was not yet unified. However, scholars generally divide this period further into four periods known as the Chalcolithic or "Primitive" Predynastic Period (beginning around 5500 BC), the Naqada I or "Old Predynastic" Period (also known as the Amratian Period, beginning around 4000 BC), the Naqada II Period (also known as the Gerzean Period, beginning around 3500 BC), and Naqada III, which has been labeled by a number of scholars as Dynasty 0. It should be noted, however, that respected scholars appear to differ on these exact dates. 

The Naqada III period, or Dynasty 0, is a particularly interesting segment of Predynastic Egypt because it is the real formative years just prior to the unification of Egypt, when we can begin to identify various rulers and some specific events. It is a period in which rulers appear to have controlled large segments of Egypt, even though they may not have controlled the whole. In fact, there is convincing evidence for the emergence of at least three Upper (southern) Egyptian states, centered at This (The city for which Abydos was a necropolis), Naqada and Hierakonpolis. There may have been a smaller, fourth territory ruled by an individual buried at Gebelein. These rulers used recognizable royal iconography to express the ideological basis of their power, and may therefore justifiably be called kings.

We traditionally place the advent of writing and the unification of Egypt at the beginning of the 1st Dynasty at the same point, though the reality of this is somewhat confused. Egyptian writing clearly evolved, and in fact, one must question exactly what constitutes "writing". Clearly, very early predynastic kings left behind primitive stylized symbols and signs that conveyed more information than simply a picture image. In fact, some left evidence of short phrases, though we currently cannot completely translate their meaning. For example, bone and pottery vessels from tomb U-j at Abydos were inscribed, some in ink with the figure of a scorpion and this has been interpreted as the owner's name (not to be confused with the later King "Scorpion" who commissioned the ceremonial macehead found at Hierakonpolis). Other vessels from this tomb bear short ink inscriptions consisting of a combination of two signs. Some of these inscriptions have common signs.

The real problem with calling this period "Dynasty 0" is that the term "dynastic" is not consistent with the words later use. Egyptian dynasties attempt to group either a family of rulers, or at least those who ruled from a specific place. However, the Naqada III Period takes none of this into account. We cannot establish family lines during this period, and the term "Dynasty 0" attempts to take in rulers in different locations ruling different territories. Nevertheless, the term "Dynasty 0" has come into general use and is unlikely to be discarded.

A number of these Naqada III kings are individually known, even though we may not be able to exactly decipher their real names. However, we also know a number of other specific individuals from this period, and there is great uncertainty as to which of these individuals were actually rulers, and in what sequence they ruled. 

For example, several tall vessels from Tura and el-Beda are cut with the motif of a serekh surmounted by two falcons, and some scholars have suggested that this represents the name of a late Predynastic ruler, probably from southern Egypt. However, it is also very possible that this mark refers to royal ownership without specifying the specific ruler. Another example is a famous rock-cut inscription at Gebel Sheikh Suleiman in Nubia, which shows an early serekh presiding over a scene which seems to record an Egyptian raid into Nubia at the end of the Predynastic Period. This serekh is empty, but it is very probable that the individual who ordered the inscription to be cut was a Southern Egyptian king, perhaps based at Hierakonpolis.

A combination of evidence is frequently used in an attempt to identify specific kings (though we still may not be certain of their names). For example, vessels and shards from tomb B1/2 and the adjacent pit B0 at Abydos are inscribed with a mark consisting of a falcon perching on a mouth-sign. This has been read as Iry-Hor and it has been suggested that he was both a king and the owner of this tomb. However, this "name" is never found in a serekh, despite the fact that this device was already in use for royal names prior to the construction of this tomb.  However, this multi-chambered tomb closely resembles the later tombs of  Narmer and a known predynastic king named Ka, who preceded Narmer. Perhaps even more compelling is its location, which suggests that the owner of the complex should be placed immediately before Ka, though some would have him earlier because of the lack of the serekh.

More certain is the royal nature of two other individuals, who are nevertheless referred to as King A and King B. King A is possibly known from a vessel from the eastern Delta, with an inscription consisting of a falcon above a serekh, with three hd signs (maces) in its upper part. Two similar serekhs were found on vessels from Tura, though both lack the Horus falcon, and the hd signs appear in the lower part of the inscription, replacing the more usual palace facade, and three circles are shown below the serekh. Hence, though this individual was certainly a king, the Tura serekhs may not represent the ruler whose mark appears on the jar from the eastern Delta.

King B is attested by rock-cut inscriptions in the western desert near Armant. An Epigraphy study of the inscriptions indicate that he ruled near the very end of the Predynastic Period, though the difficulties in reading early Egyptian script have so far rendered his name unreadable. Given the location in which the inscription was found, he may have been a member of the royal family at Hierakonpolis. He may also be attested by a serekh, though without the falcon, on a rock cut inscription in the eastern desert found on the ancient Qena to Quseir rout to the Red Sea coast.

One of the best known artifacts from the period immediately preceding the 1st Dynasty is the macehead of a king generally referred to as the Scorpion king. The Predynastic Period was a time when man had not yet established, at least in his own mind, his superiority over various animals. There is good evidence to suggest that animal skins or masks may have been worn not only for various ceremonies, but even in battle, and many of the earliest kings appear to have associated their names with animals. Hence, scorpion may have been this king's true name, since it has been convincingly demonstrated that the rosette/palmette sign above the scorpion on this macehead signified the ruler. Though the style of the Scorpion macehead and a similar object belonging to Narmer are stylistically similar, the Scorpion king's reign has traditionally been perceived to be prior to that of Narmer, one of the candidates for Menes who founded the 1st Dynasty. However, no evidence of Scorpion has been found at Abydos for his burial, though a completely uninscribed tomb with four chambers has been suggested as belonging to him. Hence, he may not have been a Thinite ruler at all. His macehead was discovered at Hierakonpolis, perhaps indicating that he was a member of that royal line. Therefore, he may have even been at least partly contemporary with Narmer. There are also a few other inscriptions that are thought to have possibly belonged to Scorpion, including two serekhs written in ink on pottery vessels from Tarkhan.

However, one recent hypothesis suggests that the Tarkhan inscriptions may belong to another proposed Predynastic king who we refer to as Horus 'Crocodile', which is based upon new infra-red photographs of the inscriptions and their comparison with a seal impression from another tomb at Tarkhan which has been dated to the reign of Narmer. The sealing, which may have belonged to a governor of the Tarkhan region, depicts a series of crocodiles above coils that probably represent water. Based on the inscribed vessels themselves and the form of the serekhs, the Horus 'Crocodile' may have either been an usurper of the throne, or perhaps a king reigning concurrently with the main Thinite royal family, possibly early in the reign of a king 'Ka'. However, the existence of a King 'Crocodile is not universally accepted by all Egyptologists, while the Scorpion macehead presents a strong argument for his existence as a late Predynastic king.

From horizontal stratigraphy of the royal tombs at Abydos and various ceramic evidence, we are fairly certain that Narmer's immediate predecessor as ruler at Abydos (This) was probably a king by the name of Ka. His Horus name shows a pair of arms. He was buried in a double tomb (B7/9) which lies between the graves of his Predynastic predecessors in Cemetery U and the tombs of his successors. There was a theory that this was actually the 'ka' tomb of Narmer, but this has been invalidated by the occurrence of his name at sites other than Abydos. Prior to Narmer, he is the best attested king and it is conceivable that he may have even ruled over a united Upper and Lower Egypt. His name has been found in both Upper and Lower Egypt, including grave sites at Helwan, which was a necropolis that served Memphis. Of course, this suggests that Memphis perhaps preceded Narmer and Aha, who are both candidates for the traditional founder of Memphis and the 1st Dynasty, Menes. However, this does not rule out the possibility that Memphis, or a predecessor village did not exist prior to Narmer or Aha making an existing village into his capital.

With whom the Predynastic Period ends and the 1st Dynasty begins is a matter of speculation, with Narmer either being the first king of the 1st Dynasty, or the last king of the Predynastic period. This is an argument that has never really been settled. However, it is very interesting that king Ka is attested in the Helwan necropolis, which was Memphis' second necropolis after Saqqara. Some scholars believe that the legendary Menes may have been more of a composite of early kings than a specific individual, and indeed, if Memphis was founded prior to Narmer, this might be the case.

Irregardless, our dividing point between the Predynastic Period and the 1st Dynasty is almost certainly arbitrary. We would wish to place the invention of writing in Egypt, the founding of Memphis and the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt upon the shoulders of one individual who would theoretically have established a new family line, or at least ruled Egypt from a new capital (and thus a new Dynasty), but this is surely not the reality of the situation.

As a final note, beware of Dynasty 0 kings' lists. Many such example exist, particularly on the internet, that definitively arrange these very early kings in some sort of order, such Crocodile, Iry-Hor, Ka, Scorpion and Narmer. Both the name and the order of these kings is only fairly certain to any degree for the very last king (If Narmer is considered a 1st Dynasty King) or kings of this period. (Ka and Narmer).
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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2009, 08:03:30 am »

                                                        THE DYNASTY 0

                                             Francesco Raffaele - I.U.O. Napoli

Part I - Introduction

The general picture we have of the Egyptian Late Predynastic period and early state is profoundly changing in the last decades.

Modern archaeological campaigns, re-examination of scarcely published old excavations, fresh new theoretical and methodological approaches to old and new problems, are quickly transforming the way in which we interpret this important stage of the ancient Egyptian history and its material remains.
An outstanding step of renewal in the Egyptological studies has been accomplished under the influence, since the '70s, of anthropological- formation scholars like B. Trigger and M. Hoffman; Egyptologists have begun to accept and adopt a real multidisciplinary approach in their researches as well.

Especially in the first half of the 20th century the 'lack of history' characterizing the period in object, was a main factor leading very learned scholars to try to extract historical events from myths, iconography and royal symbolism.

K. Sethe arrived to reconstruct two predynastic stages of the process of expansion of the Lower Egyptians southwards and then of the Upper Egyptians northwards, through sparse allusions in later myths and the order of importance of some hieroglyphs of the royal titulary.

In these years one of the mostly debated aspects of Egyptian Late Predynastic studies concerns the State formation: infact we are still very uncertain about the causes and the modalities of its origin and development.

As we will see below there must have been a combination of different factors to start the process of state formation; indeed the attempt to gain the control of Palestinian and Nubian trade routes seems a determining element.

Modern Egyptologist are inclined to give more weight to the archaeological data than to representations imbued of ideology;
and many of the 'dogmas' of the past are falling down: for example, the Narmer palette, once considered one of the key sources attesting the 'Unification' of Upper and Lower Egypt by this king, is now almost completely dismissed as a proof for such an event, and tendencially removed from discussions about Unification.

Scholars now tend to look at this important object as a memorial of a military victory [1] or as a ritual object reinforcing the role of the king through the depiction of a scene (not necessarily happened in Narmer's reign) which was part of an already well formed iconography and ideology of kingship[2].

The Unification is still a recurrent argument in the discussions on the origin and evolution of the Egyptian state.

There is a whole series of so called "monuments of the unification" [3]; palettes, maceheads, other types of decorated objects, but also later-dated documents like Royal Annals, Kings-lists and traditions or quasi-legends preserved by Greek - Roman historians.

We have no explicit source of late predynastic date which mentions the 'Uniting the two Lands' ('Sma Tawy') in the same terms as it appears in Khasekhemwy's reign[4]; the Vth Dynasty Annals report a 'Sma Tawy' ceremony at the beginning of each king's reign, since those of the Ist Dynasty (Djer).
The Palermo stone has preserved, in the first line, some Lower Egyptian kings' names[5], while on the Cairo 1 fragment both Lower Egyptian and Upper Egyptian Kings were listed (although their names are lost); it's possible that the left hand end of the first line of the original monument did report 'Double Crown Kings', thus sovereigns already at the head of a united state[6].

The Turin Canon gives an important list of the kings of Egypt [7]; this papyrus was written during the reign of Ramses II. Contrarily to the funerary Kings lists like those found at Abydos and Saqqara (same period) the papyrus of Turin also includes 'pre-menite' sovereigns like the 'Followers of Horus' and, before them, a number of gods each one reigning in turn for lengthy periods of time since the creation (cfr. Hinduism Yuga, Near Eastern myths, some Maya long counts).

Herodotus was the first one to record the Unification of the two lands of Egypt; in the past some Egyptologists have pushed as far as to propose that this concept did not reflect Egyptian history but it could have been instead an effect of the well known and recurrent dualism of ancient Egyptian ideology tending to conceive the One as union of two opposites.

Some iconographic motives recurring in the predynastic Egyptian 'art' since the Naqada IIc period are assumed to have been introduced through various kinds of contacts with Near Eastern contemporary cultures.

The Master of the Beasts, an hero depicted frontally while grasping with his hands two rampant lions beside him, surely had a precise symbolical meaning. Certainly the Egyptians were initially inspired by the iconography of late Uruk and Elamite glyptic - cylinder seals, which they knew through long distance commercial contacts; but they re-elaborated and manipulated these visual metaphors according to their own ideology: later in Naqada III another similar motif, that of the two 'serpopards' with their long necks held with ropes, recurs in the central register of the Narmer palette obverse. It has been advanced that this would have the same value as the later fusion of the Upper and Lower Egyptian heraldic plants which symbolized the Union of the two Lands.

Indeed, as we have seen, Narmer was probably ritually, magically and symbolically enhancing his role through the depiction of a military victory and subsequent ceremonial of sacrifice of the defeated[8].
The described motives abruptly ceased to be represented with the end of the Dynasty 0; on the other hand a further old motif, the king smashing his enemies' heads by a mace, first attested in middle-late Naqada II (c. 300 years before Narmer) did remain as one of the major symbols of the violent aspect of the Egyptian kingship in its role of annihilator of the forces of chaos which constantly menace the order the king must grant[9]; but we generally don't use to attribute to each depiction of a pharaoh smiting enemies a value of chronicle of a real victory he would have obtained.

It's impossible here to even only list the whole series of attributes, emblems and rituals of the early sovereigns which they had manifestly inherited from the middle Naqada or older chiefs[10].

These 'paraphernalia', which continued to accompain the pharaohs for the following 3000 years, are thus part of an ideology of power which had already begun to form in the predynastic period. Although, as we have shown, some aspects of the predynastic material and ideological culture were abandoned, many others were maintained forming the base of the Ancient Egyptian civilization and the symbols of a successful ruling elite.

This powerful state, which appeared in the past (for the scanty evidence available) as if come out of the nothingness, has had a long period of formation; Cheops and the Great Pyramid are not a starting point in Egyptian history, but the result and the apex of nearly one millenium of evolution, half of which was accomplished before the dynastic period.

Therefore, as a result of the actual knowledge, we are inclined to stress the points of continuity between the predynastic and dynastic periods rather then the sudden change between them, which was only a distorted view depending on the scarcity of data available in the past for the oldest phases of this culture.

The German archaeologist Werner Kaiser is an outstanding figure of modern Egyptology; still young in 1957 he re-elaborated Petrie's Sequence Dating chronology devising the subdivision into stufen: Naqada I, II and III with 11 and later 14 sub-phases; the system has carried on for forty years and has only recently undergone some corrections[11].

In 1964 Kaiser proposed, in an important article, that the political unification of Egypt had to be happened some generations before Narmer [12]; moreover the study of the objects commonly found in cemeteries, particularly pottery, had already shown that well before this political unification, a 'cultural unification' had affected and amalgamated customs and traditions of the peoples living along the Nile valley. These processes must have been both prolonged ones, not lasting the time span of only one or two generations.

As early as the Badarian and Naqada I the cemeteries denote the beginning of social stratification [13].
The increasingly larger funerary offerings in certain tombs, the same presence of larger tombs and wealthy burials for children, are all the expressions of two important factors: 1) diffused specifical mortuary beliefs; 2) the formation of a ruling class which did not share anymore the same destiny in life and death as the common people. The small egalitarian communities are becoming large low-density farming villages[14].

Initially these elites lived in small villages sparsely scattered along the Nile valley; this was not very densely populated at that time; but the climatic conditions were no more favourable for a life far from the river, hence the small population had begun to concentrate near the Nile; the agricolture and breeding, which mean better life conditions and increase in the population, were the main sources of food, but also hunt and fishing were practiced (Badarian, Naqada I).

Once a group of individuals took the leadership of a larger population (for the charisma, success in battle, superstition, inclination to the power or other attributes proper of their leader), this class became the ruling one, the others the ruled.

The rulers exploited the lower classes who were forced to produce for them; the increasing population means larger needs of lands for cultivation and breeding; specialization of crafts requires that agricolture sustains a broader part of population; not only the rulers and their families, but also those who work for them, producing objects, building their houses, procuring them particular materials, defending them from inner and outer dangers. The storage of large quantities of products, made these centers an easy and fat prey for ravagers; but, above all, other similar centers were contemporarily growing by the same 'multiplicatory effect' of various causes interplaying with each other.

The most powerful centers of the late Naqada I period were those controlling the Thinis-Abydos region, Naqada (Nwbt - Ombos and Ballas) and Hierakonpolis (Nekhen); before Naqada II there likely still existed at least two more independent key- areas at Abadiya (on Qena bend, between the Abydos and Naqada region, thus Hu, Abadiya, Dendera; cfr. part II note 36) and in the south at Gebelein, between the Naqada and Hierakonpolis regions.
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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2009, 08:04:45 am »

These sites, possibly founded on old islands of the Nile (flowing within a narrower course than before), began to be fortified with massive surrounding walls; the wood palisades which must have protected the older villages from the beasts, were no longer sufficient for these centers of the Naqada II period; a clay model of fortification walls has been found at Abadiya [15].

Kemp efficaciously described this stage of conflicts and competition in terms of many 'Monopoly' games simultaneously played along the Nile: a combination of chances (local factors, enviroment, gold and other resources, luxury-goods trade, 'military' victories) and personal decisions resulted in the growth of fewer and fewer centers which became more and more important and wide by conquering the territory of the neighbouring city-states.

The scenario at the end of Naqada II - beginning of Naqada III is infact that of few regional states, each one controlling a long sector of Nile valley for many kilometers[16]. These emerging polities were ruled by authoritative chiefs who were continuously strenghtening their position through warfare, monopoly of long distance trade, control of important resources of their territory, and also elaborating a true ideology which is evident in the objects their craftsmen produced ('powerfacts'), the first signs of display and 'conspicuous consumption' [17]. By this time, in Upper Egypt, only the 3 principal polities centered in Abydos, Naqada and Hierakonpolis continued to flourish; Abadiya and Gebelein had already lost their importance. (MAP)

The cemeteries of Naqada, probably the largest center in the Naqada II (Perie's Gerzean) period, show a rather rapid decline in wealth, size and number of tombs during the following period Naqada III; it could be assumed that this site was being eclipsed by the emerging rulers of the Thinite region, buried in Abydos cemetery U [18]; the Thinis/Abydos regional state, alike the southern one with capital in Hierakonpolis (Nekhen), lasted since the dawn of the dynastic period and probably struggled up to that time for the 'scepter of Egypt'; an alternative theory, stressing the importance of trade, would account for the decline of important centers of the past owing to the loss of their commercial importance; the Hierakonpolis leaders might have based their power on the intermediation in long distance trades between northern centers and the Lower and Upper Nubia; if the Thinite had begun to directly entertain commercial relations with the A-Group cultures of Seyala and Qustul [19] by-passing HK with the use of the Western Desert roads [20], the decline of centers like Nekhen (as perhaps Nwbt - Naqada before), would find a good explanation without recurring to military conflicts. In turn the same A-Group rapidly rapidly disappeared with the beginning of the First Dynasty, when the Egyptian kings military expeditions made them capable to directly exploit the Nubian territories.

Indeed it's ascertained that the Thinite kings were the founders of the Ist Dynasty; the commercial contacts that had spread the Upper Egyptian culture in the north since mid- Naqada II probably (but by no means certainly) drove the main U.E. city states to found new centers in the northern lands; C. Kohler [21] has recently pointed out two important factors of this process: Von der Way's 'cultural unification' of Egypt did happen through peaceful interactions (trade contacts) between the Upper Egyptian Naqada Culture and the Lower Egyptian 'Maadi-Buto'; the predynastic Middle Egypt, from Badari to the Gerzah and Tarkhan areas, is now the least known region of Egypt: Kohler thinks there could have been another regional polity, the Badarian facies, in this area, which favoured the northwards expansion of the Naqada culture; certainly this latter had reached the Gerzeh - Tarkhan region (i.e. cemeteries of Gerzeh and, later, Abusir el Meleq and Tarkhan) in early Naqada II, and its superimposition in Buto Layer III, marking the beginning of its influence in the Delta, coincides with Naqada IId2-IIIa1. In this period the local (Maadi-Buto) ceramic types are substituted by a production in the distinctive forms of the Naqadan jars, and a Naqada and Near Eastern influenced mudbrick architecture makes its first appearance here in the same period.

Later the earliest attestations of royal serekhs at Tarkhan (Petrie's S.D. 77-80 = Naqada IIIB-C1) and Helwan (Abydos Horus Ka) seem to show that the Upper Egyptians were now moving themselves, not only their products and culture, to the North.

The Memphite region was a fundamental strategic place: like the U.E. sites it was both very close to important resources and dominating the access to trade routes. Maadi-Buto sites all through the Delta had enjoyed commercial relations with the Palestine and other Canaanite city-states at least since early Naqada; through those relations foreign pottery reached Abydos where it has been aboundantly found in the cemetery U.
In the same way as with Nubia and A-Group cultures in the south, the Thinite rulers shifted their interests towards the northern rich commercial network with Palestine and Syria.

We have said that Naqada culture spread into the Delta at the end of the phase II (d2); the following period signs a progressive uniformation of the whole Egypt into one and the same civilization; but the political uniformity and the events of the phase III, remain obscure: there is not a marked funerary evidence of diffuse warfare and similar tensions; neither the Delta sites show any kind of distructional layers.

Maadi-Buto peoples were peaceful ones, living of their lands products and of trades; instead the southern 'Naqadians' are supposed to have been conquerors which had become few local entities after reciprocal annihilation and consequent enlargement of the strongest proto-states[22]; but if so, where are the proofs of their violent subjugation of the Lower Egyptian region ? We' ll examine these and other arguments in the next part, dedicated to Naqada III and the so called Dynasty 0.
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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2009, 08:14:01 am »

                                                            Notes of Part I

  • This part and the following ones form the core of two articles on Dynasty 0 I have submitted for a review and a concourse.
  • [1] Victory over the Libyans (A. Schulman, B.E.S. 11, 1992) but also other peoples have been proposed as Asiatics (Yadin, I.E.J. 5, 1ff; W.S. Smith, B.M.F.A. 65, 1967 p. 74ff, asiatic bedouins of the N.E. frontier of Egypt) and Nubians (?) (W.A. Fairservis jr., J.A.R.C.E. 28, 1991 p.1-20; ib. p. 20: "... a memorial to Djbwty Ankh, an officer of Narmer's military forces who participated in the conquest of both banks of the Nile Valley south of Edfu -or Nekhen- and into Northern Nubia").

    [2] J. Baines in O' Connor - Silverman eds. Ancient Egyptian Kingship 1995; but note that a recently found ivory label of Narmer (M.D.A.I.K. 54, 1998 p. 139) depicts the same 'eponymous event'. Also cfr. part II n. 16.

    [3] J. Monnet Saleh in B.I.F.A.O. 86, 1986 and 90, 1990; H. Kantor, J.N.E.S. 3,1944 p. 110-136+ fig.; E. Baumgartel, The Cultures of Prehistoric Egypt II, 1960; H. Asselberghs, Chaos en Beheersing: Documenten uit Aeneolitisch Egypte, 1961.

    [4] This king had succeeded, at the end of the Second Dynasty, in reuniting Egypt after a serious crisis which had probably resulted in two contemporary ruling powers, one in the Memphite area, the other one in the Abydos or Hierakonpolis region.

    The formula/ceremony "Sma Shema / Ta-Mhw" recurs during the First Dynasty on Adjib's (and perhaps also on Hor-Aha's) inscribed stone vessels (Pyr Deg IV, nr. 33) and on an important ivory label of Semerkhet (from Qaa's tomb) cf. MDAIK 52, 1995, pl. 14d (lower-right part); this latter has been uncorrectly interpreted by Dreyer as a tax indication (see ibid., p. 73-74).

    [5] Below their names the hieroglyph of the sitting king with the Red Crown, later symbol of Lower Egypt. Of seven names fully preserved and readable, not one has been found in other contexts (...pu, Ska, Hayw, Tyw, Tjesh, NHb, Wadj?, Mekh, ..a).

    [6] The Cairo 1 fragment, for internal reasons, must be surely placed on the left of the Palermo, i.e. after it (this piece is read from right to left), at 10 year-compartments of distance (in line 2). This object probably does not belong to the same original slab as the Palermo (slight differences in the stone thickness and in the size of the year- compartments) but this doesn't affect the discussion. The major reconstructions of the original slab and the reciprocal placement of the fragments were attempted by L. Borchardt, W. Kaiser (Z.A.S. 86, 1961, 39ff), W. Barta (Z.A.S. 108, 1981, 11ff), W. Helck (M.D.A.I.K. 30, 1974, 31ff; id., Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit, 1987). All agree in that the line 2 must have begun with Aha's reign (= "Menes" in their view): henceforth each king's reign is divided in rectangular compartments citing the most important events and the Nile level of every single regnal year; therefore Narmer should have been at the end of line 1 which, as we have said, only enumerates a number of earlier and nearly forgotten (mythical ?) kings.

    [7] The Greek historian Manetho (IIIrd century B.C.) who introduced the subdivision of the Ancient Egyptian history into dynasties, likely used a source like the Turin Canon to compile his list; but this latter, except for some intervals giving subtotals of years, is a continuous list of kings names, each with his reign duration and with no grouping into 'dynasties'.

    [8] Later pharaohs used to copy the representations of their predecessors' military exploits; Schulman (op.cit.) has shown that the names of the sons of the defeated Libyan chief , Wni and Wsa, are the same in the Abusir reliefs of Sahura and Neferirkara, in the Saqqara reliefs of Pepi I and II and in those of Taharka at Kawa; these belonged respectively to the Vth, VIth and XXVth dynasty! And curiously the two dead prisoners in the bottom register of the Narmer palette reverse, are labelled with hieroglyphs which have phonetical value 'Wnt' and 'Sa', recalling the cited Wni and Wsa. (Cfr. Smith, B.M.F.A. 65, 1967, 76).

    [9] S. Hall, The Pharaoh Smites his Enemies, 1986 (esp. p. 4-7).

    [10] R. Fattovich, 'Elementi per una ricerca sulle origini della monarchia sacra Egiziana', Rivista Studi Orientali 45, 133-49 describes false tail, **** sheath, crowns, maces, reed, sceptres, ritual race, gazelle and hippopotamus hunt, and some further characters common to both predynastic and dynastic sovereigns. See also n. 17.

    [11] W. Kaiser, Archaeologia Geographica 6, 1957, 69-77; id., M.D.A.I.K. 47, 1991; S. Hendrickx, in A.J. Spencer ed. 'Aspects of Early Egypt', 1996; id., Archéo-Nil 9, 1999 p. 13ff.

    [12] W. Kaiser, Z.A.S. 91, 1964 p. 86-125.

    [13] K. Bard, From Early farmers to pharaohs. Mortuary evidence ... 1994.

    [14] For some models of State formation cfr. B.J. Kemp, Ancient Egypt. Anathomy of a Civilization, 1989; M. Hoffman et al., A Model of Urban Development..., J.A.R.C.E. 23, 1986, p.75ff.; C. Kohler, G.M. 147, 1995, 79ff. (see below).

    [15] B. Williams,' Security and the problem of the city in the Naqada period' in P. Silverman ed. 'For his Ka' 1994 p. 271-83

    [16] C. Kohler, G.M. 147, 1995 p. 79 ff; T.A.H. Wilkinson, M.D.A.I.K. 56. 2000 p. 376-94, fig. 1 p. 379.

    [17] K. Bard, 'Toward an Interpretation of the Role of Ideology in the Evolution of complex Society in Egypt' J.A.A. 11 (1) 1992 p. 1-24; B. Trigger, 'Monumental Architecture, a thermodynamic explanation ...' W.A. 22.2, 1990 p. 119 ff.

    [18] T.A.H. Wilkinson, M.D.A.I.K. 56. 2000 p. 377-95; id. State Formation in Egypt, 1996.
    But note that (as my friend John Degreef justly comments) the general mortuary evidence used as a basis to reconstruct 'events' could be deceiving: the abandonment of a burial ground might have completely different reasons than the political or economical decline of the center which the cemetery served.

    [19] The cemeteries 137 at Seyala and L at Qustul have yielded some objects of Upper Egyptian culture inspiration; a row of animals on a gold mace-handle from 137.1 and the important incense burner from L24 (with barks processions leading a ruler with White Crown, Rosette and falcon topped anonymous serekh to a palace facade structure) are dated early Naqada III; the excavator B. Williams hypothesized a Nubian influence or origin of some of the early Egyptian state iconographic traits; but this assumption, as that of the earliest Unification of Nubia than Egypt, was made some years before the most important findings of the German archaeologists in the Abydos cemetery U. (cfr. larger descriptions in part II and n. 62).

    [20] For which there is recent evidence in Gebel Tjawty (and Wadi Qash) newly found serekhs and graffiti: cfr. Wilkinson, 'Early Dynastic Egypt' 1999; id. op.cit., 2000 p. 386.

    [21] Kohler, op. cit. in n. 16.

    [22] But we have already pointed also for them the importance of factors like trade and control of resources. (F.R.)
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« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2009, 08:16:45 am »

                                                Part II - DYNASTY 0: THE KINGS

                                                  (NAQADA IIIb1,2 - early IIIc1)

When W.M.F. Petrie readily published his excavations in the cemetery B of Abydos, [1] it soon became clear to him that that some of the piece of evidence he, and E. Amelineau few years before, had found on that site, did belong to a very ancient period, one immediately preceeding the First Dynasty Horus Aha and the legendary Menes (who was then thought to have been buried in the Naqada "Tomb of Menes" discovered in 1897 by J. de Morgan) [2].

The term 'Dynasty 0', used by James E. Quibell to describe late predynastic materials he found at Hierakonpolis, was adopted by W.M. Flinders Petrie for rulers such as Ka-Ip, Ro, Zeser, Nar-Mer and Sma [3]; only more recently it has gained a general acceptance with its use by W. Kaiser [4].
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« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2009, 08:17:14 am »

The Dynasty 0 rulers of Thinis/Abydos were buried in the cemetery B; its latest royal tomb was that of Aha (if we exclude Dreyer's attempt to attribute B40 to Athotis I); Djer started the cemetery commonly known as Umm el Qa'ab which became the burial place of all the other kings of the First Dynasty, queen Merneith, and the hundreds of retainers slain at their burial; after a period of disuse, kings Peribsen and Khasekhemwy of the late Second Dynasty also built their tombs on this sacred ground.

Cemetery B, the 'predecessor' of the Umm el Qaab, was in turn the continuation of an older necropolis, some steps to the north, i.e. the currently excavated cemetery U.

What had emerged after the work of the archaeologists was not the only clue suggesting the existence of a "Dynasty 0": Royal Annals, Turin Canon and later Greek-Latin sources [5], proved as well that many kings had reigned in Upper and Lower Egypt before the so called 'First Dynasty'.

It must be soon made a precisation: the terms 'Dynasty 0' and 'Dynasty 00' [6], were both cloned to account for newly found royal names and objects of older and older periods: those just mentioned found by Petrie and the more recent ones discovered by the German archaeologists directed by Gunter Dreyer (cfr. below); but the word 'dynasty' is here somewhat improperly used, because it is often no longer applied to indicate a same line of rulers of a certain site and of equal origin (like for the Manetho's dynasties). Dynasty 0 infact, not only includes the Abydos kings of the B cemetery who preceeded Aha, but also chiefs from entirely different ruling elites of other sites like Tarkhan or Hierakonpolis; they have in common only the same chronological collocation in Kaiser's stufe Naqada IIIb1-2. Similarily the tomb U-j king Scorpion I and his contemporaries of Naqada IIIa1-2 period, are to be considered Dynasty 00 kings within the same 'chronological acceptation' of the term [7].

In this survey on Dynasty 0 I' ll proceed in an inverse chronological order (but note that no fixed succession has been followed except for Iry Hor-Ka-Narmer; many of the following kings must have had contemporary reigns).

The predecessor of Hor Aha was ceratinly the famous NARMER. Since his discovery, a century ago, almost simultaneously at Hiraconpolis by Quibell and Green and at Abydos by Petrie, many more attestations of his name (especially by pottery incised serekhs) have been found in Upper and Lower Egypt, Western and Eastern Deserts and outside Egypt in Palestine.

Narmer is one of the few single individuals of the Egyptian history before the Fourth Dynasty on whom whole books might be written; the role of this sovereign, who can be both considered the last one of Predynastic and the first one of the Dynastic age, must have been a crucial one in the development of the early state.

Some uncertainties in his collocation in late Naqada IIIb2 or Naqada IIIc1, possibly also reflect either a long reign with important cultural transformations in act, or the fact that this figure fits equally well at the end of a period as at the beginning of a new one.

The long debated question of the identity of Menes is an argument which can hardly escape any discussion on such a subject: but it has been until recently treated by many scholars [8], thus I won't rehearse discussions already known and available elsewhere, because my aim here is to focus on the fresh new data and objectives, rather than to face over-speculated problems.
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