has three geographically distinct zones: the delta, the Nile
Valley and the desert. Historically the Delta of the north and
the Nile Valley of the south dominate and are termed Lower and
Upper Egypt respectively. Pharaoh ruled over the two lands and
wore the Red and White crown, or Pschest, representing the "Two
Lands" of Upper and Lower Egypt. Pharaoh was no ordinary mortal:
he was deified upon his coronation and he had to keep order
(maat) on earth and in the cosmological universe. Keeping Egypt
as a unified land ensured Maat. The period we define as the
Predynastic spans from 5500 BCE- 3050 BCE and this is the period
that precedes the Unification of Egypt and rule under one King.
Our knowledge of this period is limited by archaeological finds
and historical sources. Increasing social contacts and the acquisition
of writing are factors that provided impetus for a united nation
about 5000 years ago.
Beni Salamais located on the western edge of the Delta and dating
from c. 4750 BCE it is the oldest settlement site so far found.
The site was occupied for a long time and the progression of
house styles and street patterns reflects the growing level
of urban organisation. Merimde is in northern Egypt, though
our evidence for the predynastic largely comes from sites in
southern Egypt. This bias is because of the paucity of ancient
sites that have survived the less favourable archaeological
conditions of the Delta. The Delta is a dynamic wet landscape
with annual alluvial deposits and a moving set of Nile River
channels. These wet conditions do not normally favour the preservation
of organic material such as papyrus, leather or wood. Many ancient
settlements were located because of their strategic position
that is still viable now and thus many sites are now inaccessible
because of modern occupation. Sites such as these often keep
the name of the ancient site, e.g. Kom Ombo and Tell el d'aba
(Tell and Kom being the Arabic for mound). The most damaging
activity in the Delta is the removal of Sebakh, which is degraded
mud brick, the most common building material in ancient Egypt,
which now makes an excellent fertiliser and is removed with
an unquenchable appetite. The sites in Upper Egypt are usually
above the inundation level and are located in less densely populated
areas. The Supreme Council for Antiquities of the Egyptian Government
is addressing this desperate bias by encouraging more excavation
and preservation projects in the Delta.
on B. Adams & K. Cialowicz, Protodynastic Egypt, Shire Publications
Fayum A, Merimda, Badarian
Amaratian (Naqada IA-IB)
Early Gerzean (Naqada IC, IIA-B)
Middle Gerzean (Naqada IIC)
Late Gerzean (Naqada IIDI-IID2)
Egypt essentially starts with the large-scale use of agriculture
and farming of animals. By 5600 years ago the people of the
Nile Valley were cultivating Emmer wheat and barley and raising
herds of cattle and small stock (goats, sheep and pig) to supplement
fish and game meat which could be readily caught along the Nile.
This chapter of Egyptian history is called Badarian culture
after a village where the first settlements were found by Caton-Thompson
Esq. Rather than being a cemetery site this is a domestic site
typified by settlements of mudbrick and crude simple architecture,
which contains evidence right through to Naqada II (c. 3500-3100
BCE). The Badarians normally wrapped their dead in matting and
buried them in simple pits. The Badarian pottery that has been
found is very well made, and in most cases has a distinctive
red appearance with a polished black top. As early as the Badarian
we find small copper implements, such as pins, which have been
made from naturally occurring copper, and as of yet, we have
no evidence of extensive copper ore use.
in southern Egypt have passed the wrath of time more favourably
than those of the delta, and our knowledge of Upper Egypt supercedes
that of Lower Egypt. However excavations in the delta have revealed
a number of sites that were inhabited before the Naqada I period.
Merimde, a site excavated in the 1930's, is situated on the
edge of the desert, facing the delta. It covers an area of c
180 000 m2 and was occupied for at least 400 years beginning
at about 4900 BCE. The inhabitants of Merimde lived within quite
humble shelter's (c.3x1.5m) with floors lower than the doorway.
The dead were buried within the settlements in shallow oval
pits with few grave goods. In later Egyptian culture this trend
stops and the whole of the country adopts a more southern style
of burial by including lots of goods. Large pits understood
to be granaries, have inspired scholars to believe that Merimde
pooled together surplus crops in some form of community organisation.
Alongside growing cereals people reared cattle, goats and pigs,
and hunted animals such as antelope on the grasslands. The Nile
supplemented their diets with fish, shellfish, turtle and hippopotami.
Pottery found at the site is rather plain and simple in its
shape. Various tools made from stone and flint would have been
used for butchery, craftwork and felling trees. Some archaeologists
believe that pear shaped flint mace heads were used not for
killing animals but for use on other humans, and believe that
Merimde was possibly at conflict with some other community.
Maadi is quite a large settlement just 5km south of Cairo. This
late Predynastic site presents itself as an important merchant
town providing interesting imported pottery and products from
Palestine. The Native pottery is quite poor with similar upper
Egyptian pottery being found here. Like Merimde the population
of Maadi took advantage of fish resources, though in a greater
dependence. The people of Maadi achieved high standards in processing
copper from Sinai ores. Large storage jars, remains of agricultural
activity (granaries and millstones) and craft specialisation
would suggest that Maadi became a community of increasing complexity.
Buto is a similar site that was excavated in the 1980's and
revealed upper Egyptian pottery, basalt vessels and pottery
related to the Amuk/Uruk culture. Trade and diffusion of ideas
with west Asia and Mesopotamia increased in Upper and Lower
Egypt before the unification of Egypt, some 5050 years ago.