Naqada II Context

Page Contents

 

Date

Faiyum

Cairo / W.Delta

Upper Egypt

Eastern Delta

Period Name

Main Sites

Period Name

Main Sites

PeriodName

Main Sites

Period Name

Main Sites

3500-3200BC

 

 

Maadi-Buto /Naqada II

Tura, Tarkhan, Buto, el Gerzeh

Naqada I

Naqada

Naqada I and II

Minshat Abu Omar

Naqada II

Hierakonpolis

3200-3050BC

 

 

Naqada III

Abydos, Buto, Minshat Abu Omar, Tell el Farkha, Sais

 

4.4.1 Introduction

The changes described so far in Lower Egypt now need to be placed in the overall Egyptian context, in order to provide a clear view of what happened in the Late Predynastic, as Lower Egypt became archaeologically identical to Upper Egypt.

 

4.4.2 Chronology

The dating for this period has been roughly summarised above in tabular form.  However, it requires more detailed explanation.  Two principal ways of dating the Predynastic are referred to in most literature – Petrie’s Sequence Dating (SD) based on pottery analysis (modified by Kantor in 1944), and Kaiser’s phases or Stuffe, which he first proposed in 1957 and then modified in 1964 and 1990.  However, other attempts to resolve dating issues have also been attempted – notably Kemp (1982), Hendrickx (1989) and Wilkinson (1996).  The Kaiser revision of Petrie is the reason why there are often two sets of terminology in use for the Upper Egyptian Predynastic. 

Petrie believed that unification took place after Naqada III, and Kantor, (in 1944), that it took place after Naqada II. 

In 1957 Kaiser, on the basis of his studies at Armant, recognised the validity of Petrie’s basic model, but saw far more continuity than Petrie had recognised, and divided his three Naqadan phases into eleven sub-phases.  The main weakness of Kaiser’s 1957 model based on Armant, is that Naqada III, the critical period for discussions about unification, is very poorly represented at Armant, because it and other cemeteries were largely abandoned at the end of Naqada II, and it was not at all clearly defined.  However, perhaps the biggest problem with Kaiser’s sequence is that although it was based around one site, it has been used as the basis for dating sites from all over Egypt, which ignores the possibility that there were regionally distinct chorological sequences.

In 1964 Kaiser moved his attention to the cemetery at Tura in Lower Egypt.  At this site the identified three periods.  More recent studies have suggested that horizons B and C should be incorporated into one period.  This piece of work has often been used to tie in the Upper and Lower Egyptian sequences to synchronise the two areas.

Kemp’s 1982 pottery seriation-based computer analysis of Mahansa and el Amra-b also suggested that the Predynastic was confined to Naqada I and II, and that Naqada III actually belongs to the Early Dynastic.

Hendrickx (1989) analysed concentrations of pottery and their distribution at a number of predynastic cemeteries, and concluded that the broad evolution of pottery forms had been correctly identified by Petrie and Kaiser.  He highlighted the probably invalidity of Kaiser’s Naqada IId2, and on the basis of his studies at Elkab suggested a sequence for Naqada III based on Kaiser but differing from it in a number of ways.  His version is considered to be particularly useful for the period of state formation precisely because of the detail he expends on defining six stages in Naqada III. 

In 1990 Kaiser again revised his chronology, adding a further three subdivisions and extending Naqada III to the end of the First Dynasty.  In the new version, Naqada IIIb is further subdivided into IIIb1 and IIIb2, and Naqada IIIc is now divided into IIIc1, IIIc2, IIIc3/d1

Wilkinson’s 1996 analysis of pottery from Upper Egypt, Middle Egypt and Lower Egypt suggested yet another revision to Kaiser’s sequence, with Naqada I divided into a Ia, Ib, Ic and IIa, Naqada II divided into IIb, IIc, IId1 and IId2 and Naqada III presented as a unified assemblage that runs into the First Dynasty.

For the purposes of this paper, I have placed state formation squarely in Naqada I, state consolidation in Naqada II, and unification during Naqada III.  Wilkinson puts state formation from the beginning of Naqada IIa1 to the middle of IIIb2.  Hendrickx puts it at the beginning of IIIA1 to the end of IIIB and includes political unification.  I split the two into three because I think that a two-way system is confusing in terms of terminology.

 

4.4.3 Polity Formation - The Badarian and Naqada I

4.4.3.1 Overview

During the Badarian and by the beginning of Naqada I, at around 4000BC, settled agriculture had become the way of life for Egypt as a whole, exploiting  rich but geographically restricted natural resources probably due to changing economic conditions, competition and social impetus: “Agriculture has such great inertia because once people begin making and using large grinding stones, big grain storage silos, sickles and all the rest of the primitive farmer’s took kit, there is a strong incentive not to move” (Wenke 1999, p.445).   By 3000BC all habitable areas of Egypt were occupied (The Nile Delta, the Faiyum, the Western Desert Oases and the Nile Valley).

In Lower Egypt subsistence activities in the Predynastic period represent a largely unchanging extension of the Prehistoric, with agricultural activities becoming the main, if not sole, form of subsistence and settlements becoming sedentary. Settlements grew much larger and more sophisticated, with closer and probably more structured links to other communities in both neighbouring and more distant areas. The dead became increasingly important and there were many signs of overseas connections.

Upper Egypt, for reasons that have been a matter of extensive speculation, agricultural development was accompanied by, or was the spur for, increasing and very beautifully expressed cultural and social complexity.  Hassan sees the adoption of agriculture as one of the factors involved in the evident increase in social differentiation in Egypt: “Once agriculture became the dominant mode of subsistence with an attendant reduction of spatial mobility, and enlargement of group size, and a simplification of the ecological network by focusing on a few resources the economic system became vulnerable to periodic fluctuations in agricultural yield.  Given the unpredictability of Nile floods and the fact that about one of ever five floods is a ‘bad flood’, emergence of intraregional and interregional networks of food exchange fostered the emergence of a managerial elite, formal social organization, and military force” (Hassan 1984, p.223). 

4.4.4 Naqada I (c.4000-3500BC)

4.4.4.1 Introduction

Naqada I was first recognised by Petrie, who named it the Amratian after the site where he recognized it, el-Amra.  It was renamed by Kaiser in 1957, to emphasise the continuity between the three main Naqadan phases.  It extends from Matmar in the North to Wadi Kubbaniya in the south.

The material culture was very similar indeed to the previous Badarian, and some writers have questioned the validity of separating it out from the Naqadan because the continuity is so evidence, but there are enough differences to make the differentiation valid, the key ones being increased evidence for social stratification, improved craftsmanship and new styles of artistic expression and the concentration of the new sites much further to the south.  Key differences include:

  • Larger and wealthier graves as well as smaller and poorer graves

More widespread distribution of material culture that clearly dates to Naqada I

  • Larger and more permanent settlements
  • A concentration of settlement around Naqada and Abydos (representing a shift to the south)
  • Improved stone working, including
    • bifacial and flaking techniques
    • the production of thinly ground pieces
    • fish-tails and rhomboidal knives.
  • Increasingly complex slate palettes, which evolved from geometric forms to zoomorphic forms at the end of Naqada I
    • Symbolic and decorative elements
    • The first disc-shaped maceheads
    • Ivory combs which were carved with animal and human forms
  • Human figurines in both pottery (68%) and ivory,
    • modelled in either seated or standing positions
  • Bone and ivory “tags” depicting bearded figures, with tanged bases, sometimes perforated
  • Increasing amounts of disc-shaped maceheads
  • Changes in pottery types
    • A decline in the characteristic black-topped wares
    • Continued use of red wares painted
    • The introduction of white linear designs on red wares with geometric and representational designs
  • First faience working
  • Early use of copper working with more varied forms appearing
  • The first stone vessels
  • Bone and ivory functional objects
    • Needles
    • Combs
    • Spoons

Almost no metal was found in Naqada I, and very few settlement sites have been found.  However, houses at El Hammamiya were 1-2m in diameter, one of which contained a hearth, and at Khattara “No actual built structure has survived from this date but the existence of numerous areas of earth rubble as well as post hols and hearths suggests that mud-brick buildings were already being constructed” (Midant-Reynes 1992/2000, p.183).  At Hierakonpolis, consisting of a kiln and a slightly depressed rectangular house build on the ruins of earlier enclosures, with posts held into position with mortar. This combination of well-built permanent buildings and more temporary hut-type structure suggests that either

  • Permanent settlements subsidized their economy with hunting parties who built temporary structures while away from their main bases.
  • Two types of community living side by side in the Nile valley – one more sedentary than the other

As in the Badarian, items were often portable:  “personal possessions of the Naqada I period, are characterized, above all, by their small size and ready portability.  They suggest a lifestyle in which people moved around a great deal, where you had to be able to carry your worldly wealth with you, on your own body:  in short, a rather nomad existence” (Wilkinson 2003, p.93).

Burials took the form of oval pits with the dead interred in a contracted position, head to the south, on their left hand sides.  A mat was often placed under the body and sometimes a pillow of fabric or hide was placed under the head.

Because of the differences between Upper and Lower Egypt, both in terms of cultural expression and survival, it is very difficult to compare them directly.  Poor survival, which has already been discussed, becomes a particular problem when trying to gauge the impacts of Upper Egypt upon Lower Egypt and when trying to compare the two cultures directly:  “once we reach the delta, our chances of finding sites with which to make a fair comparison with the south becomes very slim indeed” (Kemp 1989, p.43).

However, it is clear that during Naqada II, the cultural profile of Lower Egypt began to change and it is against this backdrop that we begin to see increasing homogeneity throughout Egypt.

 

4.4.4.2 Naqada I Polity formation and Social Complexity

Polity Formation, the development of individual defined polities, apparently begins in Naqada I and consolidates in Naqada II.  Kemp identifies a number of key factors which identify the concept of state as “ideology, earthly power, the enabling force of bureaucracy” and it is these type of features that we begin to see in the way in which Naqada I evolves, particularly at the site of Naqada.

During Naqada I the town of Naqada itself rose to a position of prominence and individual towns began to evolve towards local polities.   As Wilkinson says (1999,2001, p.36-7) “The heartland of the technological, social, ideological economic and political changes that led to statehood was the southern part of the Nile valley”.  With its roots in the successful exploitation of the Nile Valley and the Eastern Desert (Wilkinson 2003), Naqada I was the first truly organized society in ancient Egypt.

Trigger (1983, p.68-69) and Endesfelder (1984, p.96) believe that the environmental conditions in Upper Egypt and the rich Nile ecology provided for increased productivity and specialisation.  Trigger further suggests that exploitation of mineral resources supported a power-base of an emerging elites whose control over trade led to power struggles in Naqada II and III.

Hassan looked at ecological factors and suggested that a need to pool resources in response to Nile fluctuations would cause villages and large settlements to have worked together on an inter-regional basis to share crops when conditions required it: “Once agriculture became the dominant mode of subsistence with an attendant reduction of spatial mobility, and enlargement of group size, and a simplification of the ecological network by focusing on a few resources, the economic system became vulnerable to periodic fluctuations in agricultural yield” (1988, p.165).  He believes that these loose affiliations may have evolved slowly into regional states with both managerial and military components.  The consequential impacts on the economy would have required leadership and would have led to the establishment of chiefs which in turn led to the need to reinforce political position in a number of both active and symbolic ways. It is possible that this happened in both Upper Egypt in Naqada I and in Maadi in Naqada II - perhaps this would account for some of the signs of increased ritual activity in the Maadi-Buto complex in terms of separate cemeteries with marked concern for the orientation of the dead and the presence of gravegoods in burials.

Midant Reynes suggests that during Naqada I “there must have been urban centres that brought together the clients, the workshops, the apprentice craftsmen, and the facilities for commercial exchange” (Midant Reynes 2000, p.56). But she also believe that “the graves and the funerary offerings indicate not so much increasing hierarchization as a tendency towards social diversity in the Naqada I culture” (2000, p.49).

Bard believes that trade was responsible for “the rise of an administrative class in the local societies of Upper Egypt.  The rise of institutions that procured materials, sometimes from long distance  . . . and that organized trade of items (regional and long distance into Nubia) can perhaps be viewed as the genesis of a managerial elite” (1987, p.91).

Kemp (1989, p.32) sees instead a motive drawn from the elite for increased wealth in the form of surplus and better standard of living deriving from the successful occupation of and production from a piece of land which passed from generation to generation.  He emphasises the role of locational and environmental factors in the success of some areas over others.

It has been frequently hypothesised that the Dynastic nome system grew out of a predynastic small-state structure, and that this structure survived both consolidation and unification.  Instead of chiefs in charge of small states, big states dominated, and regional heads answered to states.

The entire subject of state formation is still highly speculative. Even the question is not well defined.  It requires considerably more work, certainly involving additional sites in the Delta.  As Kohler says (1995, p.89) “There is serious demand for new concepts and approaches to illuminate the complex interactions of social groups and polities of Late Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egyptian culture including the economic and ecological bases.”

It is likely that Lower Egypt also had regional centres which, if not actual states, were probably loose confederacies based at places like Buto, Sais and Helwan. 

 

4.4.4.3 Naqada I Economy

Due to very few settlement sites having been examined, the understanding of the economy is poor.  However, from grave goods we know that goat, sheep, pig, geese and cattle were represented, and the diet was supplemented by wild fauna – particularly gazelle and fish.  Cereals included barley, emmer wheat, peas and vetch.

Wilkinson (2003) believes that the economy was based on seasonal occupation of both Nile and Eastern Desert environments:  “Taken together, the picture seems to have been one of seasonal occupation, with communities returning to their temporary settlements on a periodic basis, before leaving again some months later for pastures new” (Wilkinson 2003, p.94).  Eastern Desert rock art, dated by direct comparison to securely dated objects from Badarian Nile-side settlements depict the hunting of hippopotamus, crocodile, elephant and gazelle, and suggest that the use of boats were important.

Cattle herding required a degree of mobility as cattle need to moved to new pastures, and it is likely that the Nile-side areas were abandoned during floods when groups are likely to have moved into the Eastern Desert.

The first signs of trade over long distances date to Naqada I, suggested by grave-goods, which include vessels from Syria/Palestine, Nubia and Mesopotamia and Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan.

4.4.4.4 Naqada I Society

The importance of individuals and the increasing importance of a ritual component associated with them is attested to by the production of specialist goods that were exclusively created for burials, and were not in any way directly useful in terms of subsistence. 

Cattle burials appear alongside human burials at Mahasna, Abadiya, el-Amra, Gebelein and Hierakonpolis, and at el-Amra rich burials were often accompanied by models of horned cattle:  “whatever bond united the early Egyptians and their herds, it was a strong deep and spiritual one” (Wilkinson 2003, p.102).

The town of Naqada at this time was clearly very important as reflected in the establishment, ultimately, of Cemetery T.  This cemetery contains a small number of very rich graves and is generally interpreted as containing the members of a ruling elite.  It is far wealthier than any other Naqada I site. Burial throughout Naqada I was increasingly complex, with clear signs of social differentiation in excess of what was visible in the Badarian. We are beginning to see resources being diverted BY a few for the benefit OF a few.

The establishment of centres of power and the growth of polities will have forced a certain social evolution at levels beneath the elite, offering both opportunity and a certain rigidity of convention.

Hoffman (1979) sees the processes of this time leading to major patterns in society:  “I suspect that the architectural or human-spatial dynamics of southern Egypt tended towards a more compacted or ‘agglutinated’ settlement and that this pattern was an important element in the development of a distinctive social, political and economic ethic for the region” (p.147).

4.4.4.5 Naqada I Sites

Naqada, the site which Kaiser selected to name the predynastic period from c.4000BC onwards, seems to have been the earliest of Egypt’s elite societies.   In ancient Egypt it was known as Nubt, which means “gold” and it may be that gold and other mineral deposits from the Eastern Desert, were the foundations of Naqada’s success as one of the earliest towns in Egypt.  Cemeteris N and B produced a total of at least 112 Naqada I graves throughout Naqada I.  By the end of Naqada I, stratification in society had reached a point where an elite cemetery was established, Cemetery T, in which a small number of much richer graves were deposited.

At Abadiya one of the more remarkable of the Naqada I tombs was found.  Grave B101 contained pottery vessels in large numbers, once incised with a picture of an antelope.  There were six balls of whitened clay, one decorated with zig-zags , 100s of beads (144 of carnelian), a model of a hippopotamus, nice bracelets and three comps of hippopotamus ivory, three hippopotamus tusks, and a siltstone hippo palette, its eye inlaid with shell.

Armant was a farming village located between Naqada and Hierakonpolis.  Unlike the other sites of Naqada I, towards the end of Naqada I it actually experienced “an overall decline in inequality from period Ic onwards, as elite functions and personnel were concentrated in the major centres” (Maisels 1999, p.58).  Bard (1988, p.53-54) suggested that even between Ic and IIa-IIc, social stratification did not increase beyond ranked population until very late.  Armant was therefore never destined to rise to the level of power and influence that was achieved by Naqada, Hierakonpolis and Abydos, and this is visible in even its earliest stages.

Hemmamiya is a settlement site, found by Caton-Thompson, consisting of 9 circular hut-type structures partly sunk into the ground, some of which had traces of hearths.  Some may have served as storage areas, as they were significantly smaller structures.  Hoffman (1979) summarises the excavation discoveries at the site as follows: “ the overall impression given by the Amratian settlement of Hemamieh is of a small community, living in circular , probably dome-roofed huts with a number of small outbuildings of similar plan but smaller dimension surrounding the dwelling proper” (p.146).  In many ways it is similar to the settlements of Merimde and Omari in Lower Egypt, which is an important point, suggesting that the funerary record has highlighted the differences between Upper and Lower Egypt whereas the settlement record might highlight similarities.

Hierakonpolis, ancient Nekhen, at this time was another conspicuous presence during Naqada I.  Hierakonpolis was most important in Naqada II and III, but the settlement at Locality 29 mentioned above with its permanent rectangular buildings and kiln, and the cemetery known as Locality 6 were established at this time.  Its success, as with Naqada, could have been based on its proximity to the Eastern Desert but it was also conveniently located for potential trade with southern areas like Nubia.   Graves were rectangular, unusually large, and sometimes included disc-shaped mace-heads.  There were many zoomorphic features in pottery designs and, towards the end of Naqada I, palettes.  Most of the animals featured were riverine with some wild desert animals (Midant-Reynes 2000, p.47).

Abydos, which became so important in Naqada III, also had a large cemetery at this time.  There are early signs of social stratification.  Grave U-502, which dates to the end of Naqada I, contained the burial of a premature baby, accompanied by an elaborate pottery vessel with eight female figures around the rim, and was accompanied by three male figurines. The presence of babies in rich burials is often associated with the appearance in society of heredity in terms of power and position.

4.4.4.6 Naqada I Summary

In summary, towards the end of Naqada I we see the formation of easily identifiable centres of settlement with smaller settlements dotted around.  We see differentiated graves, with the evolution towards very rich graves at the end of Naqada I, implying increased social stratification.  We are seeing the beginnings of centralization of power in the south, probably managed by a restricted leasdership who were able to command elaborate graves.

4.5 Naqada II and Polity Consolidation and Replacement

4.5.1 Naqada II Overview

In Naqada II we see increasingly interesting developments.  The north and south developed independently, with the south, Upper Egypt, displaying very distinctive cultural elements like artistic activities, highly specialised craftsmanship and religious belief and practise.  The earliest of these distinctive phases is the Badarian, succeeded by Naqada I.   Both of these were exclusive to Upper Egypt and are contemporary with the Faiyum Neolithic, and Western Delta Neolithic.  Only a few artefacts appearing in Upper Egypt and fewer in Lower Egypt indicate any contact between the two areas. 

However, after Naqada I, Upper Egyptian features began to appear in Lower Egypt and eventually, completely replaced Lower Egyptian elements.  The most important of these sites in Upper Egypt were Naqada, Hierakonpolis and Abydos. Naqada had been at the height of its success, judging by graves and gravegoods in Naqada I, and was overtaken by Hierakonpolis, which was probably the dominant of the three proto-cities in Naqada II.  Wilkinson (1999) describes them as “the centres of powerful territories, each ruled by a hereditary elite exercising authority on a regional basis.” The heads of these states are generally accepted as early kings, and some writers have gone as far as referring to Naqada II as Dynasty 00 to reflect this. Naqada III is often referred to as Dynasty 0.  These were apparently contemporary with Maadi in the Western Delta and Minshat Abu Omar in the Eastern Delta, where there are regionally characteristic features but there are no signs of an evolving elitist, state-based, organization.

The chronological scheme adhered to here is Kaiser’s 1990 scheme. 

Differences in terminology need clarification – I have defined “polity consolidation” as the process whereby the early polities apparently established by the end of Naqada I become consolidated into larger polities and/or small states by the end of Naqada II.  I avoid the use of the term “state formation” because it is used differently by different authors, and could cause confusion.  I have used the term “unification” in the conventional sense of both a process and an event – a set of actions and situations leading to the unication of Egypt as one country under one king.

 

4.5.2 Naqada II in Upper Egypt

4.5.2.1 Introduction

Naqada II characteristics include a range of features which are related to Naqada I.  The sites are located in the same area and have many of the same features.  However, they represent a change of direction, including:

Increasing evolution of funerary practises, including

    • Fewer burials
    • Variation in type and form from simple poor grave to mudbrick-lined ones
    • Increasing number of much richer graves of varied size and designs
    • Rarely more than one person in each grave, but a greater number of multiple burials than in Naqada I
    • Emergence of the coffin
    • First attempts to wrap bodies
    • Increasingly compartments provided for burial goods
    • Increasingly formal pattern of deposition for grave goods
    • Inclusion of fine flint knives

Child burials in pottery vessels

    • All burials were still underground at this stage
  • Settlement patterns developing, including
    • Larger settlements, and less of them with major settlements surrounded by a smaller ones which were clearly less important, but had their own cemeteries with their own important elites
    • Consolidation of resources, people, power and prestige goods
  • Shift of the main centre of power from Naqada to Hierakonpolis in the south, while both Naqada and Abydos continue to be secondary powers.

New types of art and craft output

    • New types of pottery, with new decorative styles
      • Light coloured vessels painted in red with both geometric and representational images, with decoration following standardised and highly organized forms
    • Use of marl for pottery making
    • Development of improved stone-working skills (including large bifacial flakes)
    • Zoomorphic stone palettes, decreasing throughout Naqada II, replaced at the end by fewer and simpler forms but with more complex and apparently iconographic relief decoration
    • Establishment of a well defined copper industry (for the production of both tools and jewellery), with increased gold and silver working for jewellery
    • Further developments in the form of female figurines and bone and ivory tags
  • Increase in amulets
  • Replacement of disk shaped mace by pear-shaped form
  • Increasing overseas contacts
    • Palestine
      • Wavy handled pottery imported and copied (apparently from Palestine dating to EBA1
    • Mesopotamia
      • Vessels with tilted spouts
      • Possibly Mesopotamian boats depicted on funerary pottery
      • Cylinder seals (in the late Naqada II)
  • Replacement of Lower Egyptian Maadian traits with Upper Egyptian ones (From final phase, Naqada IIc)

Overall, these features show an increasing interest in the arrangement of only a few select individuals, a growing focus on symbolic forms of expression, and increasing social stratification: “The wide range of types of funerary arrangement in Gerzean cemeteries . . . all reflect the growing complexity of the social structure, which has becoming both more diversified and more hierarchical” (Midant-Reynes 1992/2000 p.188).  This was a time of massive growth in terms of social activity, foreign contacts, early urban development, cultural output, and territorial expansion, when the beginning of  polities or states are clearly visible and the process of unification is in its incipient stages.

4.5.2.2 Naqada II Chronology

Naqada II is usually subdivided into four sub-phases, following Kaiser (1956).  For the purposes of this paper, the Naqada II period is divided into two phases IIa/b and IIc/d. 

In Naqada IIa/b there are signs of increased wealth, population, technological innovation, specialization, social structure and improved quality of craft artefacts made of ivory, stone and ceramic.  The majority of burials resemble those from Naqada I.  The dead were buried in shallow oval or rectangular pits with a minimal number of grave goods.  A minority, however, are buried in large rectangular pits up to 3m deep with roofs and walls, with rich offerings.

In Naqada IIc/d the Upper Egyptian sites remain fairly similar, but there is significant evidence for expansion.  The Lower Egyptian sites were either no longer occupied or no longer contained Maadi-Buto material remains.  Replacement is seen at Buto, Sedment, Harageh, Abusir el Maleq and Minshat Abu Omar.   There is increased presence of Egypt in Sinai and southern Palestine (Ain Besor, Tel Erani, Azor).  Within Egypt there is influence from Mesopotamia, probably via Palestine, in pottery styles, motifs and the first cylinder seals to appear in Egypt (Mark 1997, p.20).  Cylinder seals have symbols that are known in Mesopotamia from the Late Uruk and Jamdat Nasr periods as well as Mesopotamian colony sites in Syria (Tell Judeidayh, Byblos and Megiddo).

4.5.2.3 Similarities and Differences between Upper and Lower Egypt in Naqada II

When comparing Upper and Lower Egypt, the richness of the Upper Egyptian funerary record seems to throw a shadow over the unspectacular and often coarse domestic assemblages found in Lower Egypt settlements.  However, it has always been clear that when comparing a funerary record with a settlement record, certain dislocations are going to occur, and it has now become a priority for predynastic archaeologists to locate and excavate Naqadan settlement sites so that direct comparisons can be made between equivalent assemblages.  A number of regional studies have recently suggested that this picture is as by no means clear cut as previously thought.

For a start, it is beginning to be clear that there was far more regional variation in Upper Egypt than had previously been recognised (see Appendix E).

Similarly, it is also beginning to be clear that there are many more similarities between Upper Egyptian and Lower Egyptian domestic assemblages than had previously been recognised.    Schmidt’s study of the Maadi-Buto twisted blade industry has led him to the conclusion that the directly comparable Mostagedda industry is “a southern counterpart of the Maadi-Buto industry, which in its early phase seems to be older and ancestral to it” (Schmidt 1996, p.280).  In other words, although the Maadi-Buto complex has always been seen as a Lower Egyptian phenomenon, there is some evidence that it extended further afield.

There are of course stark differences as well.  It is quite clear that the funerary tradition of Upper Egypt was lacking in Lower Egypt, and many have argued that this indicates that Upper Egypt was developing a highly stratified society, with power becoming consolidated in a few main centres, while Lower Egypt was an egalitarian society that may have had main centres (e.g. Maadi and Buto) but did not have the elitist social structure that would result in extravagant gestures of wealth and status.

In spite of increasing evidence for more regular contacts between the two areas in the domestic and economic spheres than previously believed (e.g. Holmes 1989, Wilkinson 1996) the differences between Upper and Lower Egyptian funerary traditions are remarkable.  There is no question that burial customs, in spite of some superficial similarities, were different in the north and south, with both orientation and gravegoods as key differentiators, although as Kohler puts it (1995, p.85): “The question is only whether this can justify the definition of a separate cultural unit or whether it mirrors simply differing religious conceptions or economic backgrounds in terms of prosperity or the level of social complexity, which can differ within cultural units”. 

The elaborately decorated pottery developed for funerary contexts indicates uniformity throughout Upper Egypt in formalised funerary belief and practise.  Recent studies (e.g. Holmes 1989, Kohler 1985) suggest that this uniformity does not extend to secular life, but in the funerary sphere it is remarkable.  Trigger suggests (1983, p.33) that “the standardized forms of these vessels that are found distributed throughout Egypt are evidence not of cultural uniformity but of the mass-production of this ware in one or, at most, only a few centres”.

The provision for the dead, being one of the main cultural differences between Upper and Lower Egypt, could also account for the economic differences.  A number of writers have pointed out that the need to produce luxury goods to accompany the dead would lead to the development of specialist craftsmen and increasing division of functional roles within the economy, as well as competition amongst those who could afford them to possess them in greater numbers.

New and more decorative items requiring considerable skill and specialisation by craftsmen indicate that a market for such items existed, and that there were individuals with enough means at their disposal to afford them.

In some ways it seems surprising that the more sophisticated of the two areas grew up in an area where land was increasingly at a premium as opposed to in the Delta, where fertile land was extensive: “It might seem somewhat paradoxical on ecological grounds that Lower Egypt and the Delta were not the initial heartland of cultural complexity in Egypt, since they have wide areas of fertile land, more resource diversity than the south because of its Mediterranean littoral, and the stimulating effects of contacts with Southwest Asia.  But . . . the initial cultural primacy of Upper Egypt may be linked to the fact that the levees of Upper Egypt were probably easier for primitive agriculturalists to farm because the smaller size of the Upper Egyptian natural flood basins made them easier to control” (Wenke 1991, p.301).  Wenke also believes that the very restriction created by the Nile valley could have promoted more competition, social awareness and self expression: “When we compare Upper and Lower Egypt it is evident that Upper Egypt is much more sharply circumscribed by natural barriers to agricultural extension, and this could have generated at least a more intense form of cultural interaction and even competition in Upper Egypt” (Wenke 1991, p.301).

Although there is no general agreement at the present time, and a lot more work needs to be done to clarify matters, the overall picture may become one of a very similar type of daily material culture throughout Egypt, albeit with significant regional variations, but with a different funerary component in Upper Egypt that was not regionally varied due to the values and ideas incorporated into the iconographic and ceremonial nature of the items.  This funerary component appears to be the main difference between Upper and Lower Egypt and may imply that Upper Egypt, while operating similar economic strategies (agriculture supplemented by fishing, hunting and trade) was more successful than Lower Egypt in creating wealth in the form of surplus to be traded.  Alternatively it may be that competition for resources in the south was fiercer than in the north, and that this caused consolidation through power struggles or negotiation, bringing with it the rise of elite controlling entities and individuals.  Yet another possibility (Hassan 1988, el Baz 2001) is that a fusion of Nilotic and Desert groups and traditions, caused by deteriorating climate and the need to concentrate around increasingly restricted areas of water and productive land, could have caused the development of a uniquely creative and adaptive culture.

More excavations need to be carried out, but for the time being it is simply worth bearing in mind that Egypt may have been far less clear cut than previous writers have implied.

4.5.2.4 Polity Consolidation and Social Complexity in Upper Egypt in Naqada II

Polity consolidation has never been clearly understood, but matters are becoming clearer as new excavations shed light on the situation.  The consolidation of some polities into small states and is probably accompanied by the survival of some polities as either independent units, or regions managed by former chiefs as governors under new regimes. 

Murray in 1956 suggested that Naqada II consolidated its position by conquering the “Amratians” – the occupants of the towns of Naqada I (p.94).  More recently it has been traditional to suggest that a number of small towns/states in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt consolidated: “Out of the union of these tiny states, two coherent independent kingdoms were thought to have emerged” (Trigger 1983, p.44).  However, it is quite clear that nothing so simple happened, and there is evidence for pre-unification kings present throughout Upper Egypt.  As Wenke says, (1999, p.445) “One of the most impressive and puzzling things about ancient Egypt is the apparent rapidity and comprehensiveness with which hundreds of unconnected and functionally similar villages were transmuted into an organized social, economic and political unity”.

Instead it is thought that the main states that formed during the initial period of polity formation consolidated in other ways.  In Upper Egypt, it seems clear that Hierakonpolis took over from Naqada in terms of position and importance, probably subsuming Naqada into it.   There are a number of pieces of archaeological evidence that back this up, and one piece of historical mythology that also suggests that something like this happened.  This process was not an overnight one and will have been complex.

The dynastic myth of the dispute between the gods Seth and Horus describes the domination of Seth (the god of Predynastic Naqada) by Horus (the god of Predynastic Hierakonpolis) may suggest that Hierakonpolis overtook Naqada not merely in terms of influence, but actually conquered it.

Takamiya (2001) believes that the restriction of important symbols of power, like ivory objects and maceheads, exclusively to large communities in Naqada IIc/d shows that prestige good were now being monopolized by those communities with the most power:  “It is highly probable that the symbolic system became integrated within an extensive area of Naqada societies, and that this process was accompanied by the emergence of hierarchical structures among Naqada communities, in which large communities controlled small ones.  As a result, small and middle-sized villages may have lost not only their traditional prestige goods but also their political autonomy” (p.493).  Kemp (1989, p.39) comments that both Naqada and Hierakonpolis show “a pronounced shrinkage towards the end of the Predynastic Period.  This marks a fundamental change in the nature of settlement, bound up with the appearance of true urbanism in Egypt:  the shift from sprawling low-density settlements to walled brick-built towns of far higher population density”. 

The reasons for this apparent consolidation are not known, although speculation offers a number of theories.  Trigger, for example (1983) suggests that Upper Egypt’s wealth derived from trade with southwest Asia and that local rulers must have been in competition for this trade and its profits.  This might have lead to competition and conflict in the search for hegemony.

Kemp suggests that the domination of all or most states by one player is inevitable when the evolution of states reaches “a critical point where one player has accumulated sufficient assets to outweigh the threats posed by the other players, and so becomes unstoppable.  It becomes only a matter of time before he wins by monopolising the assets of all” (1989 p.32)

El Baz (in Hawass, p.68) suggests that deterioration in climatic conditions, which he traces by the dating of lacustrine deposits from desert areas of Egypt, could have caused the arrival of Western Desert inhabitants in the Nile area, expanding the population and requiring better social organisation to produce sufficient food:  “The dynamic convergence of these two peoples may have planted the seeds of ancient Egypt” (p.68).  This could also have caused pressures which lead to increased competition.  Population pressure as a means for consolidation of mini states has been argued by a number of authors including Service (1985), Midant-Reynes (1992/2002) and Bard (1994, 2001).

Wilkinson (1999, 2001 p.45) does not consider population pressure to be a plausible explanation as he believes that the available land would have sustained the population.  And while he does agree with El Baz that an influx of new peoples into the Nile area is likely, he suggests that this movement into areas already marked out for ownership could have caused problems.

Carneiro argues that competition for the best land would have been a motivation for consolidation of states, as local polities sought to establish both security and dominance (1981, p.50).

Assman sees this process of consolidation extending to the end of Naqada III:  “For a Prehistorian, an interpenetration of styles points to trade relations, while the eclipsing of one style by another points to conquest.  From this perspective, the expansion of the Naqada culture can be read as a gradual conquest and subjection of more and more extensive areas of the Nile valley until the whole of Upper Egypt was under Naqadan control by 3900BCE” (Assman p.31).  This argument suggests that there was no unification as such, but a gradual extension of a process that had been happening for generations.

The consolidation of polities and the resulting establishment of three main power bases, small states in their own right, in the south could have been caused by a number of factors including:

  • Military action
  • Migrations in response to ecological conditions or for trading purposes
  • Sharing of resources
  • The effects of closer trading relations leading to a mingling of ideas and materials
  • Or even rarely considered possibilities like the effects of inter-marriage between important families looking to expand the gene pool

Although it is clear that there was a considerable degree of consolidation, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that it is entirely possible that a number of minor states continued to survive, or that heads of former states were left in charge of their regions as “governors”.  As has been mentioned above, it has been frequently hypothesised that the Dynastic nome system grew out of a predynastic small-state structure. Trigger (1983, p.23) suggests that serekhs that appear on pottery in the Delta, a subject of much conversation and speculation, are the names of Predynastic kings of small states who were trading with Delta sites.

4.5.2.5 Society in Naqada II

Socially, there are numerous signs of development, with new craft components, artistic ideas and increasingly complex forms of social expression through artistic means in a variety of two dimensional and three dimensional media.  Motifs on pottery appear to be iconographical with the same images, highly stylised, appearing repeatedly.  Even functional rather than purely funerary items demonstrated high levels of sill and dedication.  Specialised craftsmen were clearly employed, probably in workshops, to produce prestige items for the use of an increasingly small section of society.

The Ancient Egyptian fascination with representation and art clearly date to this time.  Although the character of expressive art changes towards and throughout the Dynastic period, the skills were learned and built upon from the earliest times onwards.  It is to this time that some of the Dynastic themes were established – cattle and boat motifs, for example, and perhaps even the earliest precursors of hieroglyphic characters

Tomb 100 at Hierakonpolis, which has been dated on stylistic grounds to Naqada II, produced richly decorated walls with a highly distinctive almost narrative theme.  It is believed to have been the burial place of an important leader.  Tombs are clearly becoming elaborate and explicit forms of expressing social stratification.

The first known temple also dates to this time.  Again at Hierakonpolis, it shows formalisation of religious ideas and the establishment of places of worship.  By extrapolation it also suggests the formalisation of rituals associated with and expressive of religious ideas and mythological beliefs.

4.5.2.6 Economy in Naqada II

The economy was based on cultivation, domesticated animals (cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and dogs) and on fishing.  It was supplemented by hunting.  Cultivation was probably considerably assisted not only by the valuable deposition of silts during the flood season, but by the creation at that time of flood basins which could have been used both for fishing and for maintaining the land after the flood waters had retreated.

The Nile was irrigated by natural means at this stage (the earliest, disputed, evidence for irrigation comes from the Scorpion Macehead which dates to late Naqada III). A network of natural levees and resulting basins, into which Nile flood overflowed in August and September, created natural flood basin to a depth of around 1.5m (Butzer 1976, p.17).  After several weeks the waters would retreat and evaporate, leaving basins covered in Nile alluvial silts:  “There was no need for drainage to make the valley inhabitable.  Furthermore, as long as the annual floods were persistently good, the density of Predynastic population was probably insufficient to warrant artificial irrigation” (Butzer 1976, p.20).  Without irrigation and water lifting systems, the only farming patterns were simple winter agriculture in flood basins;  there were not multiple season crop plantings in any single year.

There is increasing complexity and division of labour clearly visible in Naqada II, with specialist craftsmen producing funerary goods for a clientele who could afford to purchase them, and who recognised both the social value and the prestige of luxury goods.  As Midant-Reynes says (2000, p.56) “there had to be an economy that was capable of supporting groups of non self-sufficient craftsmen”.

There is general agreement that trade seems to have been a major aspect of Naqada II:  “That trade and exchange were important factors as society in Predynastic Egypt became increasingly complex seems likely, particularly given the distribution of Predynastic craft goods in cemeteries from Gerza in the north to the Nubian A-Group in the south” (Bard 1987, p.92).  A number of artefactual pointers show the extent of Egypt’s connections at this time.  Pear-shaped mace-heads appear in Upper Egypt for the first time in Naqada II, and also appear at Merimde, Palestine, Iran and Tepe Gawra (level XII) and southern Mesopotamia in the Jamdat Nasr period.  Cylinder seals appear in Egypt in IIc/d, both imports and copies. 

Mark (1997) traces two phases of trade activity during Naqada II corresponding to Naqada IIa/b and Naqada IIc/d. There was a third phase that took place during Naqada III, which will be described later. The first phase coincided with the appearance of lapis lazuli beads in Palestine at around the same time that it appears in Egypt.  Lapis lazuli was a Mesopotamian export, and there were trading villages established in north Mesopotamia including the site of Tepe Gawra where both gold and lapis are found in increasing volumes in levels XIII and X.  Mark suggests that Egypt acquired its lapis from Palestine via a trading route from Mesopotamia through northern Syria to the Amuq regions and then south through Hama (p.123).  He also thinks that there may have been a sea route between Egypt and northern Syria.  In his second phase (corresponding to Naqada IIb/c in Egypt, Late Uruk in southern Mesopotamia and Gawra IX in northern Mesopotamia), Mark describes the establishment of Mesopotamian colonies at Habuba Kabira and Tell Brak in the far north of Mesopotamia, some with an agcirultural basis, but some with no agricultural basis:  “The voluminous trade through northern Mesopotamia is illustrated by the fact that a complex the size of Huba Kabra, with a population of 6000-8000 inhabitants could be built and then maintained for a period of 100-150 years while the city’s population, instead of growing their own food, acquired it from the indigenous population” (1997, p.124). He suggests two land routes – one over land via colony site at Jawa and Habubak.

4.5.2.7 Naqada II Summary

In summary, what we are looking at here is the formation of small polities who have established themselves as regional centres with their own leaders and their own regional identifies by consolidating resources of all types.  Secondary settlements also exist within these regions, with their own cemeteries, but they were less richly endowed.  All had a funerary tradition in common, but it is increasingly clear that domestic traditions were regionally distinct. 

By the end of Naqada II the foundations of Early Dynastic Egypt have been established.

4.5.2.8 Upper Egyptian Sites in Naqada II

This is a small sample of the main Upper Egyptian sites dating to Naqada II, for purposes of comparison with Lower Egypt. Numerous sites were dotted along the Nile Valley of Upper Egypt at this time, from Mahansa in the north to Elephantine in the south.

Naqada consists of two settlement areas (the North and South Towns) and a number of cemeteries with thousands of graves.  Both North and South Towns have Naqada II features and the South Town is particularly notable for a group of rectangular houses and a single large rectangular mud-brick structure.  Within the site, burials of babies were found, which is similar to the situation at both Merimde and El Omari in the north.  Petrie, who excavated the site, believed that these were enclosed by a wall.  Over time, the site shifted towards the river.  The graves in cemeteries dating to this time were extensive and are particularly characterised by beautifully worked bifacial tools.

Hierakonpolis, 17km to the north west of Edfu, was an extensive site extending 2.5km along the Nile and at its maximum 3.5km in width. It grew to prominence during Naqada II. The main settlement areas dating to this period are Locality 29, a large zone (200,000m sq) which was clearly the main settlement and Locality 11 (only 64,000m sq) which, located near the wadi, was apparently connected with pastoralism and the manufacture of pottery in kilns.  It is notable for rich graves, particularly the famous Tomb 100.  The cemetery known as Locality 6, established during Naqada I, was abandoned during Naqada II, even though it was re-used in Naqada III.  As with Naqada the settlement was characterised by a move towards the river

Abydos was the northernmost of the Naqada II centres. Cemetery U at Abydos, well used in Naqada I, was hardly used during Naqada II, for reasons which are not yet understood, even though it was reoccupied with rich burials in Naqada III.  It shares this fact with Locality 6 at Hierakonpolis, which was used in Naqada I and III but not Naqada II.

4.5.3 Naqada II in Lower Egypt - Replacement

Upper Egypt, with its big towns, large cemeteries and thousands of graves, with a wide variety of high quality decorated pottery, fine flint items, and status items, was defining itself as early as the Badarian. 

As we have seen, Cairo and the Delta had an entirely different profile, but the size of the settlements, the dependence on farming in the Maadi-Buto period, initially supplemented by hunting or fishing, but later without the need for wild supplements, together with the slow development of formalised burial patterns are indications that the Western Delta, had a regional identity of its own: “It is na´ve to equate material culture and its ‘level’ with social and political complexity.  We must accept that some degree of political and social centrality had developed in the Delta by late Predynastic times, and that the people of the north, like people everywhere irrespective of their lifestyle in material terms, had a well-developed body of myth and social tradition bound up with territorial claims (Kemp 1989, p.44). 

However, Lower Egyptian identity did not survive the expansion of the Naqada II phase as it “extended from its source at Naqada towards the Delta (Minshat Abu Omar) and southwards as far as Nubia” (Midant-Reynes 2000, p.53), replacing Maadi-Buto elements and seeing the death of some sites (e.g. Maadi) and the replacement of Maadi-Buto cultural components by Naqadan (e.g. Buto). Sites like Merimda, El Omari, Maadi, Buto and Sais in the Western Delta and Minshat Abu Omar, Kafr Hassan Dawood and Tell el-Farkha in the Eastern Delta, were large centres but without the elitist and socially complexity of the south.  The situation in Lower Egypt changes, during Naqada II and is changed forever in Naqada III.  Maadi is abandoned, Upper Egypt artefacts and then traditions appear in Lower Egypt, and although sites like KHD, Buto and Sais survive into the Protodynastic period, they do so with a southern material culture.  Note of these towns become great centres.  Instead a newly important centre is established ast Memphis as primary centre.

Mark (1997) suggests that the changes at the end of Naqada II were far reaching – not only are Maadi-Buto traits replaced at this time by Upper Egyptian ones, but the Mesopotamian trading colonies were abandoned at this time.  Although this abandonment may have been the result of internal problem in Mesopotamia, Mark points out that it could have been caused by a fall-off of trade from Egypt because of social and cultural difficulties, or more specifically power struggles, which would have impacted highly specialised trading economies.

The fact that Maadian cultural elements were replaced by Naqadan cultural and political components is very clear in the archaeological record, and is undisputed.  However, the process by which native Maadian cultural elements are replaced by Naqada II is not at all clear although  it is clear that the effect was all-encompassing, and is generally agreed to be the first of the steps that led to the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The same processes that have been cited for polity consolidation and the formation of three proto states in Upper Egypt have also been widely quoted as possible forces behind the gradual replacement of Maadi-Buto components Naqadan ones in Lower Egypt:

  • Military action
  • Response to ecological conditions and an increased demand on resources forcing population shift
  • Sharing of resources amongst groups and eventual combining of groups

However, there are other theories as well.

By the third sub-phase of Naqada II, (Naqada IIc), the disappearance of Maadi-Buto elements coincides with “the establishment of Naqada II sites in the eastern Delta, and an increase in Upper Egyptian influence in the northern Sinai and a corresponding increase of influence at Ain Besor, Tel Erani and Azor in Palestine” possibly due to trading requirements (Marks 1997, p.126).

Some writers have discussed this process of replacement in purely military terms.  Others see competition for land in the south forcing migrations into the less highly populated but fertile north.  Others see the presence of artefacts less in terms of movements of people and more in terms of trading activities. 

Kaiser sees it as an initial period of unification: “Based on an analysis of archaeological evidence the earliest writings in Egypt and later king lists, Kaiser (1964, p.118 p.105-114) proposes that the Nagada culture expanded north in Nagada IIc-d times to sites in the Fayum region (such as the cemetery at el-Gerzeh) and then later to the Cairo area and the Delta.  The unification, therefore, was much earlier than the period immediately preceding the First Dynasty” (Bard 1994).

Schmidt (1996) gives a slightly different slant on the end of Naqada II:  “At the end of Nagada IId1/2 there is a deep change within the lithics of Buto and el-Tell el-Iswid, which at first had been explained by the expansion of the Nagada culture.  But now we see that the situation of Upper Egypt is very similar.  After the spread of the Lower Egyptian blade technology to the south during the Chalcolithic we have a similar change in the lithic materials all over Egypt at the end of the Chalcolithic.  So we find in the lithics of Buto and Iswid not an expanding Nagada culture but a common Egyptian event” (p.205).  He believes that this is due to Near Eastern influence.

4.5.3.1 Naqada II Sites showing Replacement in Lower Egypt

In the Faiyum itself there are at least two sites which are known as “Predynastic”:  FS3 and E29G4.  In the Cairo area the main sites dating to this period in Lower Egypt are el-Gerzeh, Tell el-Fara’in, and Abusir el-Maleq.  At the same time a number of sites, including Maadi, cease to be occupied, and their material culture is lost from view.

E29G4 and FS3

Site E29G4 is a dense concentration of stone artefacts and ceramic sherds 700m west of E29G3 to the north of Lake Qarun in the Faiyum basin.  A trench was excavated and surface collections were made to determine the site’s date.  The ceramics are of better quality than those at Kom W.  They were sand-tempered rather than fibre-tempered and are thought by Wendorf and Schild (1976 p.213) to be possibly later than those of the Faiyum A represented at Kom W and K.  Wendorf and Schild (1976, p.215) suggest that the site may be “Predynastic” in date.

FS3 is located to the southwest of Lake Qarun in the Faiyum depression.  It was examined first by Caton-Thompson who found artefacts which she said resembled Predynastic artefacts from Hememieh.  It was named FS3 (Faiyum Survey 3) by Wenke et al (1988, 1989).  It was excavated by both Caton-Thompson (see photograph, right, from Caton-Thompson 1934) and later by Wenke, both of whom found artefacts but no structures or indications of structures (e.g. postholes).  Two dates were obtained, which give an average of 5133+/-130BP.  Wenke agrees with Caton-Thompson that lithics correspond to predynastic assemblages elsewhere, including fish-tails, twisted blades and oval scrapers. They are very distinct from Faiyum Neolithic lithic tools.  Pottery corresponds to predynastic types in Petrie’s pottery Seriation, where it can be categorised.  Much of it was too badly eroded to be of use in determining which other types they resemble.  There were insufficient plant remains to determine plant usage, but faunal remains indicate exploitation of wild game including gazelle or goat, hartebeest and lake-fish (mostly Clarias, suggesting a late spring/early summer and summer/fall occupation).  The difference between FS3 and Neolithic and Qarunian faunal assemblages is notably different, as the following graph shows:

El-Gerzeh

El-Gerzeh is probably the best-known site in the Eastern Faiyum region, located 5km to the north of the Meidum pyramid.  A cemetery site, el-Gerzeh dates to the second half of the Naqada II period, the first phase when Upper Egyptian cultural elements began to make a significant appearance in Upper Egypt.  As Midant-Reynes says, the site “immediately signals the fact that this second phase of the Naqada culture was essentially a phase of geographical expansion (Midant-Reynes 1992/2000 p.187).  Petrie’s name for Naqada II was the Gerzean, a term which is still very commonly in use, and is applicable to a great many Upper Egyptian sites. 

El-Gerzeh was a small cemetery in Predynastic terms, with 288 burials of which 198 were adults and 51 were children or very young infants.  249 of the graves were intact.  It was characterized by Naqada II artefacts including wavy handled and decorated pottery, beads, stone vessels, zoomorphic slate palettes and flint knives (Bard 1987).  Orientation of the burials varied. Eight of the graves contained animal remains.  Only a few of the sites were plundered, which means that a very good record of complete graves exists.

Abusir el-Maleq

Abusir el-Maleq is located outside the mouth to the Faiyum, 10km west of the Nile.  It was excavated in 1902-6 by Georg Moller and was published by Alexander Schraff.  The excavation publication lacked a site map and there as no attempt to categorise the pottery in terms of Petrie’s Sequence Dates. 

The site has produced several Predynastic burials dating from Naqada II (IIcd) to IIIb, and early First Dynasty (Scharff 1926).  The cemetery was quite large, consisting of over 900 graves, around 815 of which were predynastic. The simplest of the graves were oval pits, most of which appear to be moderately affluent.  There were a few rich rectangular graves as well, lined with mudbrick, which contracted bodies lying in coffins of pottery or wood, some of which were divided into chambers containing gravegoods and animal bones. Animal bones include ribs, skulls, leg bones, and pelvic bones, nearly all of cows, appear in 53 graves and were probably deposited in the form of food for the dead.  In one grave, 1078, the skull of a goat and several ceramic vessels accompanied the burial.

Pottery from the site was of an Upper Egyptian variety but lacked the black-topped red vessels and had an unusually high percentage of black-polished ware more typical of Lower Egypt.  Other vessels were made of stone, bone, ivory and some of the earliest copper known. Other artefacts include flint tools, pear-shaped mace heads, cosmetic palettes, bone pins, both zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figurines, and combs.

Tell el-Fara’in (Buto)

Tell el-Fara’in (Buto) still retains its identity in Naqada II, but eventually loses it in Naqada III when its Maadian components are replaced.  There is no evidence from the site that this process was one of military confrontation – the seven layers from predynastic to early dynastic times seem to show a fairly smooth transition from one form of material culture to another

These sites and others confirm the replacement of the Maadian by Naqadan culture, industry and economy, prior to the processes that formed Egypt into a single state:  “It is a known fact that the rise of the Predynastic Naqada Culture in Upper Egypt and its northward expansion eventually led to the ousting of the Lower Egyptian Maadi culture.  Cemeteries like Abusir el-Meleq and Minshat Abu Omar show how ‘pure’ and unaffected by local traditions this culture remained on its

march towards the Delta . . . This does not necessarily mean that the very conception of life after death had changed, but it rather reflects a more detailed social stratification of the society – the conditio sine qua non for the development of the Pharaonic kingdom in Egypt” (Seeher 1992, p.231-2).

Harageh

The site of Harageh is located SE of Lahun and was excavated by Engelback in 1913-1914. Two small predynastic cemeteries were found, cemeteries G and H, dating to Naqada IIc-d1.  Engelbach described 30 graves in cemetery G, one of which possibly had a dog buried with it.  There is a site plan for Cemetery G, but none for cemetery H.  Lithics and Upper Egyptian pottery of types SD55-58 was found in both cemeteries, including D-ware, and in cemetery G wavy-handled vessels were found, but there were no palettes or beads.  Black polished vessels were only found in cemetery H.  Many of the graves had been robbed.

Tura

Tura was almost certainly a small settlement, which is now represented only by the Tura cemetery.  Tura is located on the east bank of the Nile, 9km south of Cairo, 2km from the predynastic settlement and cemetery of Maadi and 1km from Wadi Digla.  The Nile is 500m away but this may have changed.  In the more recent past it was bisected by a canal.  It was excavated by Junker (1909-10 season) and Petrie (1912).  No Naqada II pottery was found at Tura but there were vessels of Maadi-Buto type.

Minshat Abu Omar

The eastern Delta site’s cemetery dates to both Predynastic and Early Dynastic eras, with a total of 370 early burials.  The earliest group of graves (designated MAOI) date to Naqada IIc, with burials in small pits and pottery of Naqada II types. The graves are concentrated in the southern and eastern part of the cemetery.  Grave 89 was considered to be an elite burial.

Kafr Hassan Dawood

Another eastern Delta site with layers dating to Naqada II, several hundred burials have been dated to Naqada IIc/d by their excavators (Tassie and Van Wettering, 2003), who suggest that social stratification can be seen within the cemetery at this time, representing an upper and middle class.  40 burials were identified as elite.

4.5.3.2 External Contacts and Trade in Naqada II

Increasingly complex trade relations date to this time: “We know that the Naqada IIc period coincides with the disappearance of the Maadi culture in most of Lower Egypt, the establishment of Naqada II sites in the eastern Delta, an increase in Upper Egyptian influence in the northern Sinai, and a corresponding increase of influence at Ain Besor, Tel Erani, and Azor in Palestine.  This Upper Egyptian expansion into Palestine is believed to have been the result of increasing trade between Lower Egypt and Palestine and possibly a need for copper in Egypt” (Mark 1997, p.126).

Wenke sees the role of Lower Egypt as one of the factors influencing change throughout Egypt: “One must consider the possibility that by about 3000BC the importance of Egypt’s contacts with Southwest Asia was a major factor in reshaping the demographic pattern of Egypt and its socio-economic fabric.  Syro-Palestinian artefacts are in evidence at most Early Dynastic Delta sites, and it is interesting in this context that both Hierakonpolis and Nagada shrank in size in this period – although Kemp suggests that this “marks a fundamental change in the nature of settlement, bound up with the appearance of true urbanisms in Egypt: the shift from low density settlements to walled brick-built towns of far higher population density’ (1989, pp.38-39)” (Wenke 1991, p.306).

Further study of the Upper Egyptian sites of this time should provide greater insight into the process by which Upper and Lower Egypt began to display the same cultural traits, and by which the state of Egypt evolved and formed.  It is important not only to an understanding of how Egypt itself developed as a Pharaonic nation, but as an insight into the process of state formation globally.

4.5.3.3 Economy in Naqada II

The economy continued to be agricultural, as it would throughout the remainder of Egypt’s history, but was apparently supplemented to an ever increasing degree by trade with Palestine and Mesopotamia (Marks 1997). 

Wilkinson sees the procurement of prestige items by local rulers as a driving force behind the Naqadan economy during Naqada II:  “A local ruler, with more agricultural produce at his disposal than was necessary for mere subsistence could afford to employ craftsmen on a permanent basis” (1999, 2001, p.34).  He believes that this in turn had an impact on distribution and exchange, accounting for its appearance by the end of Naqada II in Gerzeh, Harageh, Buto and Minshat Abu Omar, perhaps as the result of these craftsmen seeking new markets for their products or because the lack of knowledge of techniques for production of this quality of pottery encouraged Lower Egyptians to import it.

4.5.3.4 Social Organization and Religion in Naqada II

The evidence from both Maadi-Buto and Naqadan sites indicates increasing although disparate social complexity throughout Egypt.  Elite burials become characteristic of some cemeteries, and prestige goods are found in far more quantity.  The increase in the number of elite child burials may be an indication that power was hereditary. 

Religion, expressed in the formal deposition of the dead, is not visible in terms of belief systems and deities.  However, the increasing emphasis on the ritual nature of some of the depositions does indicate that formalisation of ideas was taking place.

4.5.4  Naqada II Conclusions

In summary, during the Maadi-Buto, contemporary with Naqada I and Naqada II in the south, the Upper Egyptian sites evolve into clear centres of power in Naqada II with highly formalised social and religious ideas and specialised crafts. 

In Lower Egypt at the same time we have a loose network of urban clusters in the north with few signs of anything more than basic social differentiation, certainly no sign of hierarchies and a form of craft specialisation based on production for functional, not funerary or prestige purposes.  At the end of Naqada II, we see the complete replacement of northern features by southern ones at the end of Naqada II and the establishment of new Naqada II sites in the southern parts of Lower Egypt.