Key Issues

2.0 Key Issues  -

The primary objective was to make a synthesis.  But syntheses begin and end in questions.  Part 4 lists the main questions left unanswered in the literature.  Of these, the most important are those which concern

  • Major gaps and uncertainties in the basic narrative of occupations in the areas under discussion
  • Gaps in our knowledge of Deltaic sites
  • Gaps in our knowledge of cultural relationships between different regions of Egypt in the prehistoric and predynastic periods
  • Gaps in our knowledge about the origins of different cultures and economies
  • Opportunities to shed light on the origins and evaluation of early farming practises in Egypt
  • Significant opportunities to shed light on the origin, structure, and early history of Early Dynastic and Dynastic society
  • Significant opportunities to enhance our understanding of Egyptian prehistory in a boarder African and Near Eastern context.

The synthesis of published work throws up three, not easily separated questions:

  • Questions about the Archaeological Record in the Faiyum and the Western Delta
  • Questions on the historical relationships existing between the Faiyum, its near neighbours , Africa, the Levant and with the Egyptian State in its formative years
  • Questions about the light shed upon the crucial questions in the evolution of Egyptian Civilization, broadly
    • The end of the Palaeolithic in the Faiyum
    • The origins of agriculture and its evolution from semi-permanent to permanent
    • The origins of social stratification and hierarchy
    • The origins of the Egyptian State
    • The process of unification
    • The distinctive features of Egyptian society
  • Origins may be taken to refer to
    • Empirical questions about the concrete steps visible in the archaeological record
    • Questions about the causes and adaptive reasons which prompted these steps
    • Questions about the social processes which entrenched the resulting structures, and made them difficult to reverse
    • Questions about influences, in particular the influence of Lower Egypt in State Formation and Unification
    • Questions about differences and their origins, for instance the religious, social and economic differences between Upper and Lower Egypt

The list which follows consists of questions arising from specific sites and is broadly chronological.  The more general questions are raised in the context of the individual sites.  No attempt is made to categorise or prioritise. The answers to these questions are not to be found in the literature.  Getting even partial answers will require research.

  • How do the different Epipalaeolithic economies in different parts of Egypt and north Africa compare?  What relations existed between them?
  • Can we build a clear picture of the Faiyum Depression’s ecology during the Epipalaeolithic/Neolithic hiatus?
  • Why were the Qarunian and Faiyum Neolithic so distinct from sites elsewhere?
  • What were the cultural and economic origins of the Faiyum?
  • How can the persistence in the Faiyum of semi-permanent habitation, involving hunting and gathering supplemented by agriculture be explained?
  • Can we demonstrate any concrete relationship between the distinctive geomorphology of the Faiyum and its distinctive cultural features?
  • How valid is the suggestion that the Moerian is an intrusive culture?
  • Can we account for the apparent absence of occupation in the Faiyum and Chalcolithic?
  • What lies behind the lack of cultural complexity in Lower Egypt?
  • What was the environmental history of Lower Egypt during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic?
  • Do the gaps in the archaeological record, especially between the Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic; and the Faiyum Neolithic and Moerian Neolithic represent gaps in occupation or our failure to find evidence of occupation?
  • Given the gaps in the known record, can we find any plausible explanation for the significant changes in assemblages recorded by excavation?
  • Why was Faiyum abandoned in the later Neolithic and Predynastic
  • How do the Faiyum and Cairo sites compare?  What are the key similarities and differences and what do these suggest?
  • Are the variations between different Neolithic site down to functional differentiation, occupation by different groups or temporal differentiation?
  • Can the process of change at the end of the Chalcolithic, leading to the erasure of distinctive Maadi-Buto features be explained in more concrete terms than that offered by current models of state formation?
  • How can we explain the fact that the Cairo area Maadi-Buto sites were abandoned while other Maadi-Buto sites in the Delta continued to be occupied?
  • What were the specific processes by which Faiyum cultures lost their identity in the Predynastic; what part does military conquest play
  • Was the replacement of Lower Egyptian by Upper Egyptian culture a one-way process or was there a two way movement and commercial relationships
  • What was the nature of contracts between the Faiyum, the western Desert, the Levant and SE Asia during its prehistory
  • How are we to account for the apparently isolated and unique status of Merimda Beni Salama and El Omari.  What, if any, conclusions can be drawn about the state of Egypt in this period?
  • Are suggestions of Levantine influence in Maadi-Buto supported by the evidence or are there more plausible explanations for the foreign materials discovered there?
  • Are suggestions that Maadi was a trading post valid, or are there more plausible explanations for the archaeological evidence?
  • Do the Maadi-Buto sites allow well-grounded inferences about the process of unification, in our present state of knowledge?
  • What are the key differences visible between funerary and domestic traditions in Upper Egypt?  How do domestic traditions differ on a regional basis?  How do these compare and contrast with Lower Egypt?  What conclusions can  be drawn on the basis of this data?
  • What were the characteristics of Lower Egyptian sites in Naqada III?  What does this tell us about the nature of both Upper and Lower Egypt at this time?
  • How was Lower Egypt organized before unification?  Were Deltaic sites a confederacy or in competition?  How did they relate to Upper Egypt?
  • During Naqada III, what are the late Predynastic origins for the idea that Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt were two different kingdoms?
  • What evidence is there in Late Predynastic contexts throughout Egypt for the establishment of the Nome system?
  • What would a detailed analysis of potmarks throughout Predynastic Egypt tell us? How do they correlate with serekhs of the late Predynastic, if at all?
  • Is it possible that sites still remain to be found?  Would new methods of predictive modelling identify potential new localities?