Prehistoric Egypt


Prehistoric Egypt
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The Prehistory of Egypt spans the period of earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt in ca. 3100 BC, starting with King Menes/Narmer.

The Predynastic Period is traditionally equivalent to the Neolithic period, beginning ca. 6000 BC and including the Protodynastic Period (Naqada III).

The dates of the Predynastic period were first defined before widespread archaeological excavation of Egypt took place, and recent finds indicating very gradual Predynastic development have led to controversy over when exactly the Predynastic period ended. Thus, the term "Protodynastic period," sometimes called "Dynasty 0," has been used by scholars to name the part of the period which might be characterized as Predynastic by some and Early Dynastic by others.

The Predynastic period is generally divided into cultural periods, each named after the place where a certain type of Egyptian settlement was first discovered. However, the same gradual development that characterizes the Protodynastic period is present throughout the entire Predynastic period, and individual "cultures" must not be interpreted as separate entities but as largely subjective divisions used to facilitate study of the entire period.

The vast majority of Predynastic archaeological finds have been in Upper Egypt, because the silt of the Nile River was more heavily deposited at the Delta region, completely burying most Delta sites long before modern times.[1]

Contents

Late Paleolithic

The Late Paleolithic in Egypt started around 30,000 BC.[2][citation needed] The Nazlet Khater skeleton was found in 1980 and dated in 1982 from nine samples ranging between 35,100 to 30,360 years.[3] This specimen is the only complete modern human skeleton from the earliest Late Stone Age in Africa.[4]

Wadi Halfa

Some of the oldest known buildings were discovered in Egypt by archaeologist Waldemar Chmielewski along the southern border near Wadi Halfa.[2] They were mobile structures — easily disassembled, moved, and reassembled — providing hunter-gatherers with semi-permanent habitation.[2]

Aterian Industry

Aterian tool-making reached Egypt c. 40,000 BC.[2][citation needed]

Khormusan Industry

The Khormusan culture in Egypt began between 40,000 and 30,000 BC.[2] Khormusans developed advanced tools not only from stone but also from animal bones and hematite.[2] They also developed small arrow heads resembling those of Native Americans,[2] but no bows have been found.[2] The end of the Khormusan came around 16,000 B.C. with the appearance of other cultures in the region, including the Gemaian.[5]

Mesolithic

Halfan culture

The Halfan culture flourished along the Nile Valley of Egypt and Nubia between 18,000 and 15,000 BC, though one Halfan site dates to before 24,000 BC. They survived on a diet of large herd animals and the Khormusan tradition of fishing. Greater concentrations of artifacts indicate that they were not bound to seasonal wandering, but settled for longer periods.[6][citation needed] They are viewed as the parent culture of the Ibero-Maurusian industry, which spread across the Sahara and into Spain. The Halfan culture was derived in turn from the Khormusan,[7] which depended on specialized hunting, fishing, and collecting techniques for survival. The primary material remains of this culture are stone tools, flakes, and a multitude of rock paintings.

Qadan and Sebilian cultures

About twenty archaeological sites in upper Nubia give evidence for the existence of a grain-grinding Mesolithic culture called the Qadan Culture, which practiced wild grain harvesting along the Nile during the beginning of the Sahaba Daru Nile phase, when desiccation in the Sahara caused residents of the Libyan oases to retreat into the Nile valley.[8]

Qadan peoples developed sickles and grinding stones to aid in the collecting and processing of these plant foods prior to consumption.[2] However there are no indications of the use of these tools after around 10,000 BC, when hunter-gathers replaced them.[2]

In Egypt, analyses of pollen found at archaeological sites indicate that the Sebilian culture (also known as Esna culture) were gathering wheat and barley. Domesticated seeds were not found (modern wheat and barley originated in Asia Minor and Palestine[8]). It has been hypothesized that the sedentary lifestyle used by farmers led to increased warfare, which was detrimental to farming and brought this period to an end.[8]

Mushabian culture

The Mushabian culture emerged from along the Nile Valley and is viewed as a parent of the Natufian culture, which is associated with early agriculture.[9][10] Epipalaeolithic Natufians carried parthenocarpic figs from Africa to the southwestern corner of the Fertile Crescent, c. 10,000 BC.[11] The Mushabians are considered to have migrated to the Levant, merging with the Kebaran.[12]

Harifian culture

The Harifians are viewed as migrating out of the Fayyum and the Eastern Deserts of Egypt during the late Mesolithic to merge with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) culture, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian. This assimilation led to the Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism, and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout Mesopotamia.[13]

Neolithic

Lower Egypt

Faiyum A culture

Continued desiccation forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle.

The period from 9000 to 6000 BC has left very little in the way of archaeological evidence. Around 6000 BC, Neolithic settlements appear all over Egypt.[14] Some studies based on genetic,[15][16][17][18][19] and archaeological data[20][21][22][23][24] have attributed these settlements to migrants from the Fertile Crescent returning during the Egyptian and North African Neolithic. However, morphological and post-cranial data has linked the earliest farming populations at Fayum, Merimde, and El-Badari, to local Nilotic African populations.[25][26][27] The archaeological data suggests that Near Eastern domesticates were incorporated into a pre-existing foraging strategy and only slowly developed into a full-blown lifestyle, contrary to what would be expected from settler colonists from the Near East.[28][29] Finally, the names for the Near Eastern domesticates imported into Egypt were not Sumerian or Proto-Semitic loan words[30], which further diminishes the likely hood of a mass immigrant colonization of lower Egypt during the transition to agriculture.[31]

Weaving is evidenced for the first time during the Faiyum A Period. People of this period, unlike later Egyptians, buried their dead very close to, and sometimes inside, their settlements.[32]

Although archaeological sites reveal very little about this time, an examination of the many Egyptian words for "city" provide a hypothetical list of reasons why the Egyptians settled. In Upper Egypt, terminology indicates trade, protection of livestock, high ground for flood refuge, and sacred sites for deities.[33]

Merimde culture

From about 5000 to 4200 BC the Merimde culture, so far only known from a big settlement site at the edge of the Western Delta, flourished in Lower Egypt. The culture has strong connections to the Faiyum A culture as well as the Levant. People lived in small huts, produced a simple undecorated pottery and had stone tools. Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were held. Wheat, sorghum and barley were planted. The Merimde people buried their dead within the settlement and produced clay figurines.[34] The first Egyptian lifesize head made of clay comes from Merimde.[35]

El Omari culture

The El Omari culture is known from a small settlement near modern Cairo. People seem to have lived in huts, but only postholes and pits survive. The pottery is undecorated. Stone tools include small flakes, axes and sickles. Metal was not yet known.[36] Their sites were occupied from 4000 BC to the Archaic Period.[37]

Maadi culture

The Maadi culture (also called Buto Maadi culture) is the most important Lower Egyptian prehistoric culture contemporary with Naqada I and II phases in Upper Egypt. The culture is best known from the site Maadi near Cairo, but is also attested in many other places in the Delta to the Fayum region.

Copper was known, and some copper adzes have been found. The pottery is simple and undecorated and shows, in some forms, strong connections to Southern Israel. People lived in small huts, partly dug into the ground. The dead were buried in cemeteries, but with few burial goods. The Maadi culture was replaced by the Naqada III culture; whether this happened by conquest or infiltration is still an open question.[38]

Upper Egypt

Predynastic artifacts: clockwise from top left: A Bat figurine, a Naqada jar, an ivory figurine, a porphyry jar, a flint knife, and a cosmetic palette.

Tasian culture

The Tasian culture was the next in Upper Egypt. This culture group is named for the burials found at Der Tasa, on the east bank of the Nile between Asyut and Akhmim. The Tasian culture group is notable for producing the earliest blacktop-ware, a type of red and brown pottery that is painted black on the top and interior.[32] This pottery is vital to the dating of predynastic Egypt. Because all dates for the predynastic period are tenuous at best, WMF Petrie developed a system called Sequence Dating by which the relative date, if not the absolute date, of any given predynastic site can be ascertained by examining its pottery.

As the predynastic period progressed, the handles on pottery evolved from functional to ornamental, and the degree to which any given archaeological site has functional or ornamental pottery can be used to determine the relative date of the site. Since there is little difference between Tasian and Badarian pottery, the Tasian Culture overlaps the Badarian range significantly.[39] From the Tasian period onward, it appears that Upper Egypt was influenced strongly by the culture of Lower Egypt.[40]

Badarian culture

The Badarian culture, from about 4400 to 4000 BC,[41] is named for the Badari site near Der Tasa. It followed the Tasian culture, but was so similar that many consider them one continuous period. The Badarian Culture continued to produce the kind of pottery called Blacktop-ware (albeit much improved in quality) and was assigned Sequence Dating numbers 21 - 29.[39] The primary difference that prevents scholars from merging the two periods is that Badarian sites use copper in addition to stone and are thus chalcolithic settlements, while the Neolithic Tasian sites are still considered Stone Age.[39]

Badarian flint tools continued to develop into sharper and more shapely blades, and the first faience was developed.[42] Distinctly Badarian sites have been located from Nekhen to a little north of Abydos.[43] It appears that the Fayum A culture and the Badarian and Tasian Periods overlapped significantly; however, the Fayum A culture was considerably less agricultural and was still Neolithic in nature.[42]

Naqada culture

Amratian culture (Naqada I)

The Amratian culture lasted from about 4000 to 3500 BC.[41] It is named after the site of El-Amra, about 120 km south of Badari. El-Amra is the first site where this culture group was found unmingled with the later Gerzean culture group, but this period is better attested at the Naqada site, so it also is referred to as the Naqada I culture.[42] Black-topped ware continues to appear, but white cross-line ware, a type of pottery which has been decorated with close parallel white lines being crossed by another set of close parallel white lines, is also found at this time. The Amratian period falls between S.D. 30 and 39 in Petrie's Sequence Dating system.[44]

Newly excavated objects attest to increased trade between Upper and Lower Egypt at this time. A stone vase from the north was found at el-Amra, and copper, which is not mined in Egypt, was imported from the Sinai, or possibly Nubia. Obsidian[45] and a small amount of gold[44] were both definitely imported from Nubia. Trade with the oases also was likely.[45]

New innovations appeared in Amratian settlements as precursors to later cultural periods. For example, the mud-brick buildings for which the Gerzean period is known were first seen in Amratian times, but only in small numbers.[46] Additionally, oval and theriomorphic cosmetic palettes appear in this period, but the workmanship is very rudimentary and the relief artwork for which they were later known is not yet present.[47]

Gerzean culture (Naqada II)
A typical Naqada II pot with ship theme

The Gerzean culture, from about 3500 to 3200 BC,[41] is named after the site of Gerzeh. It was the next stage in Egyptian cultural development, and it was during this time that the foundation of Dynastic Egypt was laid. Gerzean culture is largely an unbroken development out of Amratian Culture, starting in the delta and moving south through upper Egypt, but failing to dislodge Amratian culture in Nubia.[48] Gerzean pottery is assigned values from S.D. 40 through 62, and is distinctly different from Amratian white cross-lined wares or black-topped ware.[44] Gerzean pottery was painted mostly in dark red with pictures of animals, people, and ships, as well as geometric symbols that appear derived from animals.[48] Also, "wavy" handles, rare before this period (though occasionally found as early as S.D. 35) became more common and more elaborate until they were almost completely ornamental.[44]

Gerzean culture coincided with a significant decline in rainfall,[49] and farming along the Nile now produced the vast majority of food,[48] though contemporary paintings indicate that hunting was not entirely forgone. With increased food supplies, Egyptians adopted a much more sedentary lifestyle and cities grew as large as 5,000.[48]

It was in this time that Egyptian city dwellers stopped building with reeds and began mass-producing mud bricks, first found in the Amratian Period, to build their cities.[48]

Egyptian stone tools, while still in use, moved from bifacial construction to ripple-flaked construction. Copper was used for all kinds of tools,[48] and the first copper weaponry appears here.[43] Silver, gold, lapis, and faience were used ornamentally,[48] and the grinding palettes used for eye-paint since the Badarian period began to be adorned with relief carvings.[43]

The first tombs in classic Egyptian style were also built, modeled after ordinary houses and sometimes composed of multiple rooms.[45] Although further excavations in the Delta are needed, this style is generally believed to originate there and not in Upper Egypt.[45]

Protodynastic Period (Naqada III)
T3
Pear-Shaped Mace
in hieroglyphs

The Naqada III period, from about 3200 to 3000 BC,[41] is generally taken to be identical with the Protodynastic period, during which Egypt was unified.

Naqada III is notable for being the first era with hieroglyphs (though this is disputed by some), the first regular use of serekhs, the first irrigation (water routed for farming), and the first appearance of royal cemeteries.[50]

Timeline

(All dates are approximate)
  • Neolithic, from 11th millennium BC
    • c. 10,500 BC: Wild grain harvesting along the Nile, grain-grinding culture creates world's earliest stone sickle blades[2]
    • c. 8000 BC: Migration of peoples to the Nile, developing a more centralized society and settled agricultural economy
    • c. 7500 BC: Importing animals from Asia to Sahara
    • c. 7000 BC: Agriculture—animal and cereal—in East Sahara
    • c. 7000 BC: in Nabta Playa deep year-round water wells dug, and large organized settlements designed in planned arrangements
    • c. 6000 BC: Rudimentary ships (rowed, single-sailed) depicted in Egyptian rock art
    • c. 6th millennium BC: common knowledge of animal-skin tanning[51]
    • c. 5500 BC: Stone-roofed subterranean chambers and other subterranean complexes in Nabta Playa containing buried sacrificed cattle
    • c. 5000 BC: Archaeoastronomical stone megalith in Nabta Playa, world's earliest known astronomy[52]
    • c. 5000 BC: Badarian; furniture, tableware, models of rectangular houses, pots, dishes, cups, bowls, vases, figurines, combs
    • c. 4400 BC: finely-woven linen fragment[53]

See also

References

  1. ^ Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. (Princeton: University Press, 1992), p. 10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Minnesota State University EMuseum: Ancient Egyptian Culture: Paleolithic Egypt. Dead link as of March 2011
  3. ^ http://anthropology.osu.edu/DAA/back%20issues/DA_12_2-3.pdf
  4. ^ L. Bouchneba and I. Crevecoeur,The inner ear of Nazlet Khater 2 (Upper Paleolithic, Egypt)Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 56, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 257-262 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004724840800242X
  5. ^ Nicolas-Christophe Grimal. A History of Ancient Egypt. p. 20. Blackwell (1994). ISBN 0631193960
  6. ^ David C. Scott. Upper Paleolithic 30,000-10,000 NOT VERIFIABLE SOURCE
  7. ^ Midant-Beatrix Reynes. The Prehistory of Egypt: From the First Egyptians to the First Pharohs. Wiley-Blackwell (2000). ISBN 0631217878.
  8. ^ a b c Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. p.21. Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1988
  9. ^ Bar-Yosef, O. (1987). "Pleistocene connexions between Africa and Southwest Asia: an archaeological perspective". African Archaeological Review 5: 29. doi:10.1007/BF01117080. 
  10. ^ Bar-Yosef, Ofer (1998). "The Natufian Culture in the Levant, Threshold to the Origins of Agriculture" (PDF). Evolutionary Anthropology 6 (5): 159–177. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1520-6505(1998)6:5<159::AID-EVAN4>3.0.CO;2-7. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/anthropology/v1007/baryo.pdf. 
  11. ^ Kislev ME, Hartmann A, Bar-Yosef O (2006) Early domesticated fig in the Jordan Valley. Nature 312:1372–1374.
  12. ^ Please refer to African admixture in Europe#Paleoanthropology.
  13. ^ Zarins Juris (1990), "Early Pastoral Nomadism and the Settlement of Lower Mesopotamia" (Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research), No. 280 (Nov., 1990), pp. 31-65
  14. ^ Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. (Princeton: University Press, 1992), p. 6.
  15. ^ Chicki, L; Nichols, RA; Barbujani, G; Beaumont, MA. 2002. Y genetic data support the Neolithic demic diffusion model. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 99(17): 11008-11013.
  16. ^ Estimating the Impact of Prehistoric Admixture on the Genome of Europeans, Dupanloup et al., 2004
  17. ^ Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area, 2004
  18. ^ Paleolithic and Neolithic lineages in the European mitochondrial gene pool, Cavalli-Sforza 1997.
  19. ^ Clines of nuclear DNA markers suggest a largely Neolithic ancestry of the European gene, Chikhi 1997.
  20. ^ M. Zvelebil, in Hunters in Transition: Mesolithic Societies and the Transition to Farming, M. Zvelebil (editor), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (1986) pp. 5-15, 167–188.
  21. ^ P. Bellwood, First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Blackwell: Malden, MA (2005).
  22. ^ M. Dokládal, J. Brožek, Curr. Anthropol. 2 (1961) pp. 455–477.
  23. ^ O. Bar-Yosef, Evol. Anthropol. 6 (1998) pp. 159–177.
  24. ^ M. Zvelebil, Antiquity 63 (1989) pp. 379–383.
  25. ^ Smith, P. (2002) The palaeo-biological evidence for admixture between populations in the southern Levant and Egypt in the fourth to third millennia Bce. u: Egypt and the Levant: Interrelations from the 4th through the Early 3rd Millennium BCE, London-New York: Leicester University Press, 118-128
  26. ^ Keita, S.O.Y. (2005) "Early Nile Valley Farmers from El-Badari: Aboriginals or "European" Agro-Nostratic Immigrants? Craniometric Affinities Considered With Other Data". Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 191-208
  27. ^ Kemp, B. 2005 "Ancient Egypt Anatomy of a Civilisation. Routledge. p. 52-60
  28. ^ W. Wetterstrom, in Archaeology of Africa, T. Shaw et al., Eds. (Routledge, London, 1993), pp. 165–226
  29. ^ N. Rahmani, Le Capsien typique et le Capsien supérieur, Cambridge Monographs in Archaeology 57 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2003).
  30. ^ Keita, S. O. Y. and Boyce, A. J. 2005. Genetics, Egypt and History: Interpreting Geographical Patterns of a Y-Chromosome Variation. History in Africa 32, 221-46.
  31. ^ Ehret C, Keita SOY, Newman P (2004) The Origins of Afroasiatic a response to Diamond and Bellwood (2003) in the Letters of SCIENCE 306, no. 5702, p. 1680 DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5702.1680c
  32. ^ a b Gardiner, Alan, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: University Press, 1964), p. 388.
  33. ^ Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. (Princeton: University Press, 1992), p. 8.
  34. ^ Josef Eiwanger: Merimde Beni-salame, In: Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Compiled and edited by Kathryn A. Bard. London/New York 1999, p. 501-505
  35. ^ picture of the Merimde head
  36. ^ Bodil Mortensen: el-Omari, in: Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Compiled and edited by Kathryn A. Bard. London/New York 1999. S. 592-594
  37. ^ http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/africa/elomari.html
  38. ^ Jürgen Seeher. Ma'adi and Wadi Digla. in: Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Compiled and edited by Kathryn A. Bard. London/New York 1999, 455-458
  39. ^ a b c Gardiner, Alan, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: University Press, 1964), p. 389.
  40. ^ Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. p.35. Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1988.
  41. ^ a b c d Shaw, Ian, ed (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 479. ISBN 0-19-815034-2. 
  42. ^ a b c Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. p.24. Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1988
  43. ^ a b c Gardiner, Alan, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: University Press, 1964), p. 391.
  44. ^ a b c d Gardiner, Alan, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: University Press, 1964), p. 390.
  45. ^ a b c d Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. p.28. Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1988
  46. ^ Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. (Princeton: University Press, 1992), p. 7.
  47. ^ Gardiner, Alan, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: University Press, 1964), p. 393.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. (Princeton: University Press, 1992), p. 16.
  49. ^ Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. (Princeton: University Press, 1992), p. 17.
  50. ^ Naqada III
  51. ^ http://www.touregypt.net/ebph5.htm
  52. ^ http://www.comp-archaeology.org/WendorfSAA98.html
  53. ^ http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/fayum/uc72770.html
  54. ^ "Iron beads were worn in Egypt as early as 4000 B.C., but these were of meteoric iron, evidently shaped by the rubbing process used in shaping implements of stone," quoted under the heading "Columbia Encyclopedia: Iron Age" at Iron Age, Answers.com. Also, see History of ferrous metallurgy#Meteoric_iron—"Around 4000 BC small items, such as the tips of spears and ornaments, were being fashioned from iron recovered from meteorites" -- attributed to R. F. Tylecote, A History of Metallurgy (2nd edition, 1992), page 3.
  55. ^ Shaw (2000), p. 61
  56. ^ http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hierakonpolis.htm
  57. ^ Brooks, Nick (2006). "Cultural responses to aridity in the Middle Holocene and increased social complexity". Quaternary International 151 (1): 29–49. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2006.01.013. 

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