Early Dynastic and Predynastic Egypt

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  • Created by: Lauriie
  • Created on: 04-04-17 09:56
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  • Predynastic Egypt 5,500-3,000 BC, ED Egypt and unification
    • In 8000 BC egypt was a savannah, with monsoon rains etc, this meant people could more easily roam, and did not feel the need to live in the Nile Valley, by 5,000 BC the desert started to take over so people were forced into the nile valley.
      • This is when it becomes possible to trace Egyptian people from, as they start to become sedentary.
      • Nabla Playa - 10th - 8th millennia BC —> It is in the middle of the desert, very far from the river valley. We know it was inhabited in the early period due to archaeological signs like an arrangement of standing stones. It is likely nomadic and semi-nomadic groups would gather here for watering holes and rituals.
    • Pre-Dynastic period is; Not unified + Had no clear leadership structure or pharaohs etc + All buildings were rudimentary and no stone etc + There is no writing whatsoever.
      • HOWEVER the Pre-Dynastic period had some similarities to Egypt of Old kingdom etc = Clear North South divide + Strong afterlife beliefs + Development of material culture traditions.
      • Merimda culture from Lower Egypt, we can establish the people of marimba had hearths and this combined with the finding of a lot of animal bones show that they were not a nomadic people.
      • Badarian Culture is the earliest settled agriculture culture we currently know of in upper Egypt. Unlike in marimba where there are settlements but no cemeteries, the majors of badarian culture is known through cemeteries.
        • There are a lot of grave goods here, with many functional and aesthetic objects, furthermore the levels of items in different graves are not all equal suggesting inequality. These grave goods suggest that there is an afterlife. Figures found in graves which had heavily emphasised the sexual organs of women suggesting rebirth and new life out of old.
      • Nagada UPPER EGYPT, spread over a larger areas from 4000-3200 BC. SEPARATE SITES,
        • Nagada was occupied over 800 years, so a lot of adaptation over this time, for example with pottery we can see the gradual transition in styles etc.
    • Early Dynastic; beginnings of Kingship
      • Beginnings of Kingship in Egypt: The Turin kings list: entire first column of the papyrus made up of names of gods; column 2: spirits and mythical kings; column 3: kings of dynasties 1-2. First king: Menes
        • Menes/ Narmer : first king on the Turin king list; depicted on the Narmer Palette in Cairo museum. Potentially related to cosmetic palettes.
          • Violence absolutely integral to egyptian kingship, he’s smashing someone with a mace. Depicted wearing both the crown of upper egypt and lower egypt.
          • use of serekh
      • First king: Menes; But there were some earlier that didn’t make it onto the list going back to Abydos (very sacred place as people thought it was the burial place of Osiris)
        • Have a Nagada 2 cemetery but evolution from this to royal tombs:
          • Tomb UJ; dates to 3150 BC: obviously a kingly tombReally big tomb with many separate rooms for all his stuff. He was so powerful he could take all these resources out of circulation; wine, oil
            • possibly belonged to ‘king scorpion’ (jars with scorpions on them)  Scorpion macehead in the ashmolean; depicts him wearing a Pharaoh's crown (upper egypt crown), twice the size of everybody else; scenes of the king smiting people with a mace:
              • his obviously royal tombs is very grand, with many separate chambers containing wine, oil, and other valuable resources.
    • Unification of Egypt
      • It required continued effort on the part of the ruling dynasties of Egypt to maintain unity, and unstable regimes resulted in the re-fragmentation of the nation and the emergence of alternative centres of power. This was demonstrated in the ‘Intermediate’ periods, where there were multiple centres of power, and in the Second Intermediate, parts of Egypt were probably even controlled by foreign powers, the Hyksos dynasty.
      • There are few sites in Lower Egypt which show any evidence of violent conquest or takeover from this period, and writing had not been developed to any degree which would have resulted in written records
        • the traditional story is that the legendary king Menes was able to lead the armies of Upper Egypt into Lower Egypt, to unify the nation and then found a capital at Memphis (Manley 1996: 22)
      • The cultural unification of Upper and Lower Egypt began with the spreading of the Naqada II and Naqada III culture (Bard 2000: 59) from Upper Egypt, potentially as a result of the migration of the Naqada people northwards.
        • There is some disagreement as to whether this process was completed during the Naqada II period or by early Naqada III, though sites such as Minshat Abu Omar show that the Naqada II culture had expanded into the northern parts of the Nile delta (Bard 2015: 104)
          • By the end of the Naqada II period other material cultures, such as the Maadi, seem to have faded from the archaeological record, suggesting a cultural unification of Egypt. political power still seems to have been centred around three main areas (Abydos, Nagada and Hierakonpolis) rather than in a single capital city (Bard 2015: 105)
      • a gradual process, with the expansion of trade networks and the expansion of the ability to govern due to advances in administrative technology. The ideology of divine kingship would also have begun to spread before Egypt was politically unified, affording the predynastic kings more power (Manley 1996: 23) Egyptian unification was also probably facilitated by some common language, though there would almost certainly be different dialects for each region (Bard 2000: 61)
        • However, it is still not certain if the political unification of Egypt was an equally gradual process, with several generations of kings expanding their spheres of influence, or whether this occurred as a sudden conquest of territory by one king.
          • lots of iconography of violence associated with early kingship, but no destruction layers
          • Another popular interpretation is that King Narmer, whose artefacts such as the Narmer Macehead and the Narmer palette indicate that he was a powerful king, is actually just the legendary king Menes under another name. This picture of the unification of Egypt would suggest that Narmer was the king who was able to unify Egypt in a violent campaign. There is some evidence for this, especially the Narmer Palette which depicts him wearing both the lower and upper Egypt crowns.
            • However there are problems with this interpretation as well. The remains of what could have been Narmer’s tomb at Abydos are much smaller than the tombs of other predynastic kings, which on the surface could suggest that he finished his life less powerful than he began it; not the picture of a successful unifier of Egypt.
              • However, it could be that his tomb is split into different areas scattered throughout Abydos, in a tripartite model which was copied in the tombs of other later kings (Wilkinson 2000:31
        • the predynastic cultural traditions, who depicted kings as wild animals, with physical strength and the ability to use force against their rivals, were switched out for much more ideologically potent images of ‘God-kings’ who were just as close to the heavens as they were to ordinary people. (Wilkinson 2000: 28)


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