1. Map of Egypt
the scheme and development of my discussion:
- SPACE (Upper and Lower
- TIME (Temporal boundaries of Prehistory, Predynastic and Dynastic
- PURPOSE: Showing the millenary continuity in various aspects of
the ancient Egyptian cultural tradition within the context of State formation
(a durable process which developed along the end of Predynastic and the beginning
of Dynastic period) through the description of some of the most important remains
of the material culture and their interpretations.
Stress on environmental archaeology since the 1970s (K. Butzer).
in Predynastic Egypt (Northern sea, Eastern and Western 'deserts', Southern Nile
- Stones, timber, gold, minerals, semiprecious stones. Plants and
- Foundation of important predynastic settlements in strategic locations
controlling trade (Maadi, Buto, Thinis, Elephantine) or access routes to the Eastern
Desert quarries (Koptos, Naqada, Hierakonpolis).
- Benefìts of annual flood (wide valley, agriculture)
- Comfortable and fast navigation (N-S communication)
- Effects of these factors
in mythology, religion, rituals: the boats (from rock-art to the funerary "Solar
barks" buried beside mastabas and pyramids, to the bark as a synonym of 'feast'
in early writing, to the ceremonies involving boats processions, the boats as
a means of communication with the Netherworld. Analogies between Nile River and
- Pleistocene earliest dry phases (+50000 BP). Modern palaeoclimatological studies.
- Dry Middle-Holocene (c. VIth Millennium BC) and moister Subpluvial Neolithic
(c. Vth Millennium BC)
- CONSEQUENCES of the climatic changes and of their
increasing incidence during the Predynastic:
Melting of cultures since Epipalaeolithic
and Neolithic as a result of peoples migrations caused by the sudden climatic
Common cultural features in Nile Valley, Sudanese
and Sahara Neolithic:
- Lithic industries:
concave base arrowheads
- Wavy line
- Egypt as a crossover of cultures (Western and
Eastern Desert populations moved towards the Nile Valley mixing with local peoples
settled since Palaeolithic. Influxes from Near East -animals and plants domestication-,
and the Southern Africa).
- This ethno-cultural dynamism is also reflected
in the field of linguistics:
The Afro-Asiatic (Libyco-Berber,
Chadic, Ancient Egyptian, Kushitic, Omotic and North/South Western and Eastern
Semitic languages families).
NEOLITIZATION AND NEOLITHIC
Millennium BC in the Western Desert: Nabta Playa
Second half of the VIth millennium
-Vth millennium Fayyum (Fayum A, c. 5300-4200 BC)
- Aftermath of "Neolithic
Revolution" (agriculture): villages, more and more socially stratified societies,
emerging elites, specialization.
- BADARIAN (c. 4600-3900 BC): General features:
Settlements, cemeteries, material culture, sustenance, trade;
beginning of main socio-cultural transformations.
of objects of daily and funerary use, contacts and relationships with Fayum, Upper
Egypt (Naqada I) and Sudan (Khartoum Neolithic); social stratification evidenced
through tombs and gravegoods analysis.
EVOLUTION OF THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCIPLINE
Old excavations and
past theories: late XIXth and early XXth Century
- Different methods, aims
and needs in past archaeological excavations
of 'large and medium range theories' and of politics (colonialism) on the philosophical
and scientific thought
- Evolution(ism) (Darwinism)
- Diffusionism and
- The "quest for museum masterpieces"
New theories and researches; modern and more specific fields
of investigation, objectives, technologies.
Live interest for Predynastic
and Protodynastic Egypt; increasing studies and publications.
SUMMARY OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL THEORIES ON THE ORIGIN OF STATE/CIVILIZATION
Naqada I-II-III & subphases
K. Cialowicz, 2001, 38, fig. 3)
3. W-ware evolution
B. Adams, 1988, 27, fig. 13)
tombs and gravegoods
(aft. B. Adams,
1988, 16, fig. 4 with some modifications)
THE PREDYNASTIC CHRONOLOGY
The three phases of Naqada Culture.
How was this subdivision achieved?
- W.M.F. Petrie: Amratian, Gerzean and
Semainean. Contexts' seriation (1899, 1901, 1920).
and the bases of relative chronology. The units groupings SD: 30-39, 40-62, 63-80.
- Typologies and artefacts corpora (influence of the Evolutionism)
- W. Kaiser: Armant cem. 1400-1500 and the Naqadakulturstufen
- S. Hendrickx: further improvement to the system (1989,
1994, 1996, 1999).
- Terminology: "Late Predynastic", "Protodynastic",
"Archaic Period" and dynasties.
5.- 6. Palettes
7. - 8. C-ware vessels
9. Gebelein textile
NAQADA I (c. 3900-3600BC) Matmar - Kubbaniyeh area with its core in
the Qena bend (Diospolis, Naqada)
- Upper Egyptian culture
Badarian and Sudanese facies; differences with Lower Egyptian culture)
marked social stratification (particul. in Naqada Ic-IIa). Tribal societies and
- Few traces of semi-permanent settlements. Sustenance activities
and interregional contacts.
- Rock art of Western and Eastern Desert. Interpretation
and stylistical analogies.
- Grave-goods and their typological evolution;
their practical, and magic-symbolical purpose
B, C, P ware
and stone vessels
Cosmetic schist palettes ('slate'): practical
and ritual use
palettes with rare incised motifs (elephant, hippopotamus hunt, symbols)
palettes (fishes, amphibious, mammals) and early pelta shapes
Pottery figurines and statuettes (praying women,
wild/domestic animals, barks...)
Mace-heads (disk shaped)
- Interpretation of C-ware decorations (types of motifs and scenes; regional
Representations of human beings (Brussels E3002,
London UC15339, Abydos t. U-239)
(earliest violent rituals and high-sized
portraits of chiefs/gods)
- The Gebelein
textile in Museo Egizio, Turin (suppl. 17138).
(late Naqada I- early Naqada II [Naqada Ic-IIa(b), c. 3550BC]
with scenes and motifs painted on C (and D) pottery and incised in Desert rock
The Heb Sed (anthropology of regicide; purpose, phases/ceremonies,
periodicity of historical Heb-Sed)
- The oldest traits of sacred/divine kingship
begin to emerge:
The king as a champion/hero/annihilator
of foe/chaos and partisan of Maat:
and other wild beasts hunt
feathers/horns on the head, bull/lion tail, penis sheath, sticks and scepters
- Elites and chiefs:
Cemeteries: separation of nuclei of
tombs belonging to the ruling classes. Statistical analysis and other data
better built, more and better furnished tombs)
synthesis and comparison of Naqadan cemeteries: J.J. Castillos, B. Kemp, K. Bard,
Some 'Amratian' tombs:
6, t. 14, (c. 10 years old elephant, Naqada Ic period)
t. 1610 (red crown relief on a B-ware sherd)
tombs 101, 102
earliest tombs in U-cemetery: tomb U-239.
10. Nile Valley
(aft. B. Williams, 1994, 277)
Cultural and political regional units during Naqada II
B. Kemp, 1989, 34, fig. 8)
- 13. D-ware vessels
14: Hierakonpolis painted tomb 100
and Naqada tomb T5
15. Tomb 100 painting
16. Detail of the painting
NAQADA II (c. 3600-3350/3300BC) Northward and southward expansion of
the 'Gerzean' cultural area'.
- Higher structural complexity of society:
ruling élites and developed chiefdoms. Coercive strategies.
- Central and peripheric settlements
settlements on ancient Nile islands in strategic locations for the control of
wadis and/or trade
(mud walls or palisades): permanent settlements and sedentarization
for cultural-territorial encroachment towards Lower Egypt and Lower Nubia
- All-levels specialization (ideological, technological, artistic, political-organizative,
- Material culture
'Bearded men' statuettes
Stone vessels fashioned in several shapes
(extreme skill in working and retouching the ripple flake flint), flint
Palettes (zoomorphic, scutiform/shield-shaped)
Amulets (Bull head, small palettes)
R-, D-, W-ware
Objects of personal and domestic use
- The sense of D-ware paintings (more standardized than the previous phase ones):
(representations of the
Underworld, of ceremonies/rites/funerary processions, legends/folklore,
- Cemeteries and tombs of regional leaders (Hierakonpolis
loc. 33, loc. 6; Naqada T)
Crude mud brick, large rectangular
tombs, funerary gravegoods and exotic materials ('powerfacts').
tomb 100 (size: 4.5 x 2.0 x 1.5m; date: Naqada IIC, c. 3450BC)
motifs of the wall painting:
procession. Mace armed chief smashing the enemies' heads. The "lord of the
Conflicts. Hunt. Trapping.
prototypes of base-lines (registers).
with the Gebelein textile and the D-ware decorations). Interpretations proposed.
- Mesopotamic/Elamite influences (Uruk V-IV, Susa II)
iconographic features, imported seals.
17. Gerzeh palette
18. - 19. Hierakonpolis
20. Gebel Arak knife handle
21. Abu Zeidan
22. Carnarvon knife handle
23. Gebel Tarif knife handle
24. Seyala mace handle
25. Qustul incense
(aft. K. Cialowicz, 2001, 61, fig. 2)
NAQADA II-III TRANSITION
- Cultural expansion to the area East
of the Fayum (Gerzeh, Harageh, Abusir el Meleq) and into Lower Nubia
seal-impressions from Abydos U-cemetery (implications for the administration development)
- Earliest relief decorations on the surface of palettes (Manchester/Ostriches,
Proposed interpretations and implications
for the formation and development of ruling classes' ideology
handles (attached to the most beautiful ripple-flake flint blades ever
proposed for the carved scenes and motifs
animals rows; processions of soldiers, prisoners, offering bearers, boats; battles)
- Ritual-symbolical use/purpose of these
- Relative and
ivory handles from Abydos (cemetery U, t. 503,
127); recently cleared one from
- Examples of ivory
- Gebel el-Arak (Louvre
- Abu Zeidan (Brooklyn Museum)
- Carnarvon (Metropolitan Museum)
Gebel Tarif (Cairo Museum) gold handle
- Mace-heads (pear-shaped) with carved
ivory handles or with incised/hammered gold-leaf handle cover
mace (cemetery 137, tomb 1)
background and ritual use. Stylistical resemblance to the Gebel Tarif handle decoration
Origin (Egyptian manufacture
and gift of an UE chief Nekhen or Nubian origin?).
- Digression on Lower
Nubia 'proto-states' (Ta-Seti) early in Naqada III (Qustul, Seyala, Afieh).
A-Group (classical and terminal). General features.
great 'royal' tombs of cemetery L at Qustul and prestige objects (incense burners,
seals, stone vases...)
Relationships with Egypt and Palestine.
Long distance trade.
B.B. Williams' hypothesis on Ta-Seti
and the origin of Egyptian tradition (bias and confutation).
26. Model landscape
and stages of formation of ruling centres from small hamlets and villages: political
(aft. B. Kemp, 1989, 33, fig. 7)
GENESIS OF A STATE (from 3320/3300BC to Early Dynastic period):
cradle of State Formation
- Macroregional "proto-states" in Upper
Enlargement of political-territorial units which
absorb the closer ones
theories on the origin of ancient states:
Mono-causal hypotheses (environment, population pressure, trade/resources monopoly,
low resources competition, hydraulic technology, war, personal authority and decisions)
theories (more factors at work, their interaction and feedback)
limits and possible evaluation/interpretative mistakes in reconstructing the relevancy
of old politics from the archaeological data (more or less known and documented
Towns in (pre-)dynastic Egypt
- Causes of the scanty archaeological evidence of urban sites
(modern cities, deep stratification of alluvial deposit, sebakkhin)
Nile Valley archaeology: an unbalanced knowledge
(much better known, with but few exceptions, for/from cemeteries than for
- The picture
from the Delta according to the two recent decades of archaeological campaigns
Lower Egypt: General features of ancient Maadi-Buto culture late in Naqada I up
to early Naqada II
social inequalities emerging from funerary contexts, emphasis on trade with Southern
- Naqadization of Northern Egypt (apparently non-traumatic
Harageh, Abusir el-Meleq area during Naqada IID
Delta: Tell Fara'in-Buto, Minshat Abu Omar, Tell Ibrahim Awad, Tell el-Farkha
"Transitional layer"; scarce traces of destruction and struggles)
- Reasons of the spreading of the Naqada culture
pressure, monopoly of trade with the Southern Levant)
Formation and canonisation
of divine kingship
Rulers start to appropriate symbols,
objects and attributes proper of the previous periods' leaders
(iconography of powerful individuals portrayed on rock-art and artifacts decorations
during the first half of IVth millennium BC)
Plan of Cemetey U
G. Dreyer, 1998, fig. 1)
30. Abydos, tomb U-j (photo)
Abydos, tomb U-j (plan)
32. - 33. Some inscribed tags from tomb U-j
(ink inscribed on cylinder jars)
35. Seal impressions from
Abydos cemetery U
36. Koptos colossi
37. Predynastic kings list (as
reconstructed by G. Dreyer)
38. Gebel Tjauti graffito
ABYDOS (THINIS) DURING NAQADA IIIA
- Abydos Cemetery U. Tomb U-j
Absolute and relative datation: c. 3300±50 BC, Naqada
The constructional features: 2 crude mud-brick courses;
size 9.10 x 7.5m, 12 rooms, 2 building phases
of the tomb as a model royal palace (slits between the chambers). The southern
from tomb U-j:
2000 vessels (about 1/3 of which were Palestinese imports)
carved ivory knife-handles fragments
obsidian vase decorated in the shape of two hands
and ivory tags (150+) with incised hieroglyphic indications
inscriptions on cylinder (W) vessels (scorpion, shells, bucranium, fish...)
The Egypt most ancient true writing attestations:
Administration and royal propaganda; morphological characteristics
of reading/epigraphy of some tags' signs
phonetic reading of places where the labelled containers and their contents came
Buto, Abydos districts, Elephantine, some nomos; cf. Kahl, in: CdE 2003)
ideographical, logographical, phonetic signs; numerals.
- The alleged "King Scorpion" and the predynastic kings list proposed
by G. Dreyer:
Dreyer's hypothesis and recent critics to
his reading of the royal names (including Scorpion's own one)
(Kemp, Kahl, Breyer)
- Political status of the owner of tomb U-j of
Abydos: Thinite chief or king of an already unified Egypt?
impressions from cemetery U: the meaning of scenes/motifs and socio-administrative
earliest Egyptian seal impressions:
(tombs and South Town), Naga ed-Der, Mahasna, Matmar, Abusir el-Meleq...
Religion and (monumental) statuary: the Min Colossi
stylistical analogies (Mac
Gregor statuette in Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)
and their possible meaning (kings names; gods and/or localities emblems/names)
- B. Williams' identification of Narmer's name on
the Cairo Museum colossus, and its relevancy for Dreyer's kings' names hypothesis:
critics to both the reconstructions
between the signs on the Colossi and those found on other objects
- War and
submission: Gebel Tjauti tableau 1
and interpretations (both in political and in symbolical key)
Wilkinson, R. Friedman/S. Hendrickx, J. Kahl)
NAQADA IIIB: TOWARDS THE POLITICAL UNIFICATION
OF EGYPT (c. 3200-3050 BC)
- Hypotheses on the modalities of Egyptian
(Kaiser, Von der Way, Trigger,
Kemp, Köhler, Campagno)
- Conflicts with neighbouring peoples (Libya,
Delta, Asiatics, Nubians, Bedouins) or internal conflicts?
as a magical-symbolical-apotropaic need or as a mirror of real socio-political
Palettes with violent
scenes (Battlefield, Tehenu, Bull palettes), brief description and interpretations
- The oldest anonymous serekhs from the southern part of U-cemetery at
Abydos. What is a serekh?
- Royal ideology
propaganda or real events chronicles? Decorated objects and rock-art:
main graffito at Gebel Sheikh Suleiman and the beginning of the A-Group decadence
sense of the scene and some fresh notes on the anonymous serekh)
- King Scorpion
(II) at Hierakonpolis: his mace-head in Oxford, Ashmolean Museum (E3632)
The rosettes in Late Predynastic Egypt.
King Scorpion: a Thinite or a Hierakonpolite
- HIERAKONPOLIS (Nekhen):
site, Horus temple, 'main deposit', Locality 29A ceremonial centre, Locality 6
élite and animal tombs
did Hierakonpolis play in the Late Predynastic political panorama?
0": Thinis/Abydos, Hierakonpolis and other regions' kings ('Crocodile': a