The mysterious Egyptian culture that has inspired several movie flicks was so ancient that even the ancients Greeks and ancients Romans called the Egyptian culture as ancient. This super-ancient culture has been divided into a number of periods that span over several thousand years. We will be creating a series of articles over the next few days that will try to cover the different periods of this great ancient culture. This article in particular will deal with the period from where it all began. Historians call this period the Predynastic Egypt or the Predynastic Period that lasted for nearly 3000 years before the proper Egyptian culture came to existence.
However, before we start we will like to sum up the different periods that are usually used by historians for easy reference. Here are the different periods:
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Predynastic Period: c. 6000 BCE to c. 3100 BCE
Early Dynastic Period: c. 3100 BCE to c. 2686 BCE.
Old Kingdom Period: c. 2686 BCE to c. 2181 BCE.
First Intermediate Period: c. 2181 BCE to c. 2055 BCE.
Middle Kingdom Period: c. 2055 BCE to c. 1650 BCE.
Second Intermediate Period: c. 1650 BCE to c. 1550 BCE.
New Kingdom Period: c. 1550 BCE to c. 1069 BCE.
Third Intermediate Period: c. 1069 BCE to c. 664 BCE.
The Late Period: c. 664 BCE to c. 332 BCE.
These different periods show how ancient Egypt rose from rags to riches and then glided back into dust. In this article and the articles that follow, we will travel through time and learn a few interesting facts about ancient Egypt and its culture. So, let us begin with 50 interesting Predynastic Egypt facts and find out how it all started.
Interesting Predynastic Egypt Facts: 1-10
1. The Predynastic Egypt started some 400 years into late Neolithic Period aka Neolithic 3 or Pottery Neolithic. Put in other words, the Predynastic Egypt started in c. 6000 BCE (late Neolithic started in c. 6400 BCE).
2. It is during that time that Neolithic settlements began in Lower Egypt. Such settlements around the Nile was a result of increased desert expansion, which forced the ancestors of those early Egyptians to give up migratory lifestyle and opt for somewhat sedentary lifestyle.
3. These early settlers became known as the Faiyum A Culture and were responsible for bringing in agriculture. The people of this culture also engaged in weaving.
4. The people of this culture selected areas close to their settlement or at times areas inside their own settlement area to bury the dead people.
5. The Faiyum A Culture continued from c. 6000 BCE to c. 5000 BCE. That’s when the next culture known as the Merimde Culture began in Lower Egypt.
6. The Merimde Culture continued from c. 5000 BCE to c. 4100 BCE. Unfortunately, the only archeological evidence for this culture comes from a large settlement site that was dug up on Western Delta’s edge.
7. Evidences of strong connections of Merimde Culture with the Levant and the Faiyum A Culture have been found.
8. People of the Merimde Culture were engaged in agriculture and planted barley, sorghum and wheat. They also kept pigs, goats, sheep and cattle.
9. As far as tools were concerned, these people made use of stone tools and they also produced simple pottery which were completely undecorated and plain.
10. They built small huts for living. These people never buried their dead people outside their settlement areas.
Interesting Predynastic Egypt Facts: 11-20
11. One of the most remarkable achievements of the Merimde Culture was the production of clay figurines. In fact, the archeologists have dug up a clay head of the size of a fully grown human from this culture’s settlement site. This was the first Egyptian clay figurine that was made.
12. A separate culture known as El Omari Culture popped up in Lower Egypt. Historians say that it existed during the period c. 4600 BCE and c. 4350 BCE.
13. The El Omari people used separate cemeteries that were outside their settlement areas. These cemeteries had pit burials. The bodies in these burials were found to have southward orientation and the bodies were usually laid down on their left.
14. The people of El Omari Culture were into pottery, fishing, animal husbandry and agriculture. Pottery from this culture were simple in design but did have a red coating. Pigs, cattle, sheep and goat were the domesticated animals.
15. The El Omari people were not into desert hunting at all but fishing was their very important subsistence activity.
16. The most important culture of the Lower Egypt was the Buto Maadi Culture or simply the Maadi Culture. This culture came into existence somewhere around 4000 BCE and continued till 3000 BCE.
17. This culture grew up in Maadi, which is a site close to Cairo. However, the culture did spread out to areas of the Nile Delta. The Maadi Culture had the know how of copper usage and several copper cutting tools have been discovered.
18. People of the Maadi Culture were also into pottery, animal husbandry and agriculture. Like the El Omari people, the Maadi people built separate cemeteries for their dead. However, very few goods were buried along with the dead people.
19. As far as pottery is concerned, the Maadi Culture too created undecorated and simple pottery. These people built small huts that were partial dug in ground. These huts were used for living.
20. As far as the Upper Egypt is concerned, i.e., Nile’s eastern bank, the earliest settlements that have been found are of the Tasian Culture that came to existence somewhere in 4500 BCE.
Interesting Predynastic Egypt Facts: 21-30
21. The Tasian Culture was a short-lived culture but was pretty important in terms of pottery at least because they were the first to produce the blacktop-ware. These pottery were basically brown and red in color but the interior and the top of the pottery were painted using black color.
22. From the Tasian Culture followed the Badarian Culture that evolved somewhere around 4400 BCE and continued till 4000 BCE. Both the Tasian and Badarian cultures were under heavy influence of the Lower Egyptian cultures.
23. The Badarian Culture continued the heritage of blacktop-ware but they managed to improve the pottery quality significantly.
24. The Tasian and the Badarian cultures were pretty similar but the Badarian people learned the usage of copper while the Tasian settlements were stuck with rocks and were basically Neolithic settlements.
25. The Badarian people domesticated animals, got engaged in agriculture and made sharper tools and blades.
26. The Badarian Culture maintained cemeteries outside their settlement areas. Not just for dead humans, the Badarian people were actually engaged in ceremonial burials even for some of animals they domesticated.
27. The dead were buried facing west (the fetal or foetal position). The Badarian people also a large number of goods like fur, cloth, jewelry, ceramics etc along with dead. A female idol of fertility was also placed in the simple graves along with dead.
28. The Badarian Culture was succeeded by the Naqadan Culture that started in c. 4000 BCE (around the same time as the Maadi Culture of Lower Egypt). This new culture became Upper Egypt’s most important culture of the prehistoric times. The archeological evidences for this culture were unearthed from Naqada city and hence the name.
29. The Naqadan Culture is divided into Naqada I (started in c. 4000 BCE and ended in c. 3500 BCE) and the Naqada II (started in c. 3500 BCE and ended in c. 3200 BCE). This means that the entire Naqadan Culture lasted from c. 4000 BCE to c. 3200 BCE.
30. Naqada I also goes by the name Amratian Culture because the archeological evidences were found in a village named El-Amra. The Naqada I culture started off as parallel settlements to the Badarian Culture but over time, replaced the Badarian Culture..
Interesting Predynastic Egypt Facts: 31-40
31. The Naqada I people created small villages and they were the one who first started the Nile Valley cultivation.
32. Nile Valley cultivation was not their only accomplishment. Their accomplishments in artistry overshadowed all other cultures of prehistoric Egypt. While the female fertility figurines already existed, the Naqada I people added bearded male figurines.
33. There were several villages in the Amratian Culture and each village had separate clans. Each clan was in turn was represented by an animal and hence, each village had a separate animal deity.
34. The people of the Naqada I culture used to bury statuettes, food, amulets, weapons, palettes and decorated vases with the dead people. The statuettes were supposed to keep company to the dead people in the afterlife. The ushabti figures which were found in every Egyptian tomb in later centuries were actually the successors of the statuettes used by the Naqada I people.
35. The Naqada I Culture was then replaced by the Naqada II Culture also known as Gerzean Culture somewhere in 3500 BCE. The Naqada II people turned out to be the most advanced people in the Predynastic Egypt and lasted till 3200 BCE.
36. The Gerzean or Naqada II people mastered agriculture and started making use of artificial irrigation. They also started building big towns where population density was way higher than previous cultures or of contemporary cultures on the other side of the Nile.
37. Great advancements were made in pottery. New artistic designs and intricate carvings replaced the somewhat plain and simple pottery of Naqada I and Badarian cultures. They also came up with new palettes of shield and animal shapes that were mostly used for cosmetic mixing.
38. Apart from that, the Naqada II people also created ceremonial palettes that laid down the foundations of ceremonial palettes belonging to the Early Dynastic Period known as the Narmer Palette.
39. Metalwork improved vastly, especially copper work. The Naqada II people traded their copper goods with ancient Asian and Mesopotamian people.
40. The famous Egyptian gods – Horus, Ra and Hathor – all were creations of the Naqada II Culture. These people even brought great changes in burial rituals.
Interesting Predynastic Egypt Facts: 41-50
41. The graves carved by the Naqada II people were mostly rectangular and had wood or masonry lining. The dead bodies were no longer laid down in specific orientation. Graves of the rich had better quality goods than the graves of the poor.
42. The Naqada II people also made significant advances in architecture. They used matting and timber to create a ritual precinct and a palace in Hierakonpolis (Nekhen). The whole complex, which served as Horus’ cult center had a big oval-shaped courtyard with small buildings all around the courtyard.
43. After the Naqada II was a brief period known as the Naqada III Period or the Semainean Period which lasted from 3200 BCE to 3000 BCE. Some people refer to this Dynasty ZERO or Protodynastic Period. The reason why it is called Dynasty ZERO is that some argue that the Predynastic Egypt ended with Naqada II after which Early Dynastic Period began through unification of Lower and Upper Egypt. Some others say that Naqada II was not the end of Predynastic Egypt and that it continued for another 200 years before the Early Dynastic Period began through unification of Lower and Upper Egypt.
44. Irrespective of the debate, the Naqada III Period was very much real and was a period when the cultures of the Lower and Upper Egypt developed significant differences.
45. During the Dynasty ZERO, the Lower Egypt picked up a commercial and bureaucratic system. Small areas came under rule of important families. Rigid hierarchical system of rule was absent. The rulers wore Lower Egypt’s Red Crown.
46. There is something called the Palermo Stone which has a list of 7 kings that supposedly ruled the Lower Egypt during the Naqada III Period. However, the existence of those kings is often contested because there isn’t enough information available to validate their existence.
47. Despite having a different societal system, the Lower Egypt used Upper Egypt’s art because almost all pottery dug up from Lower Egypt during the Naqada III period belonged to the Upper Egypt.
48. The Upper Egypt on the other hand had possibly 13 rulers during Naqada III Period but identification of only the last few rulers has been possible till date. Names of animals were used to name the kings of Upper Egypt. Unlike the kings of Lower Egypt, the kings of Upper Egypt wore White Crown and were looked upon as personified god.
49. God Set and Goddess Wadjet started representing Lower Egypt whereas Goddess Nekhbet and God Horus represented Upper Egypt. Wadjet was Cobra Goddess of a city named Buto while Nekhbet was Vulture Goddess of the Upper Egyptian site known as El-Kab. Later Cobra and Vulture were unified to represent the dominion of Pharaoh over both Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt.
50. The Naqada III Culture was a period when both Lower and Upper Egypt were going through an ongoing political unification process that would eventually form a single state and eventually lead to Early Dynastic Period. It was during the Naqada III Culture or Dynasty ZERO or Protodynastic Period that hieroglyphs was used for recording Egyptian Language.