The construction of civilization in the ancient Nile Valley at the end of the 4th millenium BC affected the subsequent development of civilizations of Africa and the Near East. Prior to the nation-building process in the Nile Valley, pre-dynastic people roamed the river swamps and high desert and built settlements which which lacked the complexity and centralized overnments which would emerge in the Dynastic era. The origins of these nation-states has been debated for millenia, from Central Africa or what is refreed b some as the Fertile Crescent, or from the indigenous Nilotic peoples themselves. It is believed that the founders of ancient NVC's were from an area near Abydos, in middle 'Egypt', and were known as the Thinite kings.
This period was known as Naqada III.
According to the following:
Naqada III is the last phase of the Naqadan period of ancient Egyptian prehistory, dating approximately from 3200 to 3000 BC. It is the period during which the process of state formation, which had begun to take place in Naqada II, became highly visible, with named kings heading powerful polities. Naqada III is often referred to as Dynasty 0 or Protodynastic Period to reflect the presence of kings at the head of influential states, although, in fact, the kings involved would not have been a part of a dynasty. They would more probably have been completely unrelated and very possibly in competition with each other. Kings names are inscribed in the form of serekhs on a variety of surfaces including pottery and tombs.
The Protodynastic Period in ancient Egypt was characterised by an ongoing process of political unification, culminating in the formation of a single state to begin the Early Dynastic Period. Furthermore, it is during this time that the Egyptian language was first recorded in hieroglyphs. There is also strong archaeological evidence of Egyptian settlements in southern Kanaan during the Protodynastic Period, which are regarded as colonies or trading entrepôts.
State formation began during this era and perhaps even earlier. Various small city-states arose along the Nile. Centuries of conquest then reduced Upper Egypt to three major states: Thinis, Naqada, and Nekhen. Sandwiched between Thinis and Nekhen, Naqada was the first to fall. Thinis then conquered Lower Egypt. Nekhen's relationship with Thinis is uncertain, but these two states may have merged peacefully, with the Thinite royal family ruling all of Egypt. The Thinite kings are buried at Abydos in the Umm el-Qa'ab cemetery.
Most Egyptologists consider Narmer to be the last king of this period (although some place him in the First Dynasty). He was preceded by the so-called "Scorpion King(s)", whose name may refer to, or be derived from, the goddess Serket, a special early protector of other deities and the rulers.
Wilkinson (1999) lists these early Kings as the un-named owner of Abydos tomb B1/2 whom some interpret as Iry-Hor, King A, King B, Scorpion and/or Crocodile, and Ka. Others favour a slightly different listing.
Naqada III extends all over Egypt and is characterized by some sensational firsts:
- The first hieroglyphs
- The first graphical narratives on palettes
- The first regular use of serekhs
- The first truly royal cemeteries
- Possibly, the first irrigation
Thinis or This (Egyptian: Tjenu) was the capital city of the first dynasties of ancient Egypt. Thinis is, as yet, undiscovered but well attested to by ancient writers, including the classical historian Manetho, who cites it as the centre of the Thinite Confederacy, a tribal confederation whose leader, Menes (or Narmer), united Egypt and was its first pharaoh. Thinis began a steep decline in importance from Dynasty III, when the capital was relocated to Memphis. Its location on the border of the competing Heracleopolitan and Theban dynasties of the First Intermediate Period, and its proximity to certain oases of possible military importance, ensured Thinis some continued signifance in the Old and New Kingdoms. This was a brief respite and Thinis eventually lost its position as a regional administrative centre by the Roman period.
Due to its ancient heritage, Thinis remained a siginificant religious centre, housing the tomb and mummy of the regional deity. In ancient Egyptian religious cosmology, as seen (for example) in the Book of the Dead, Thinis played a role as a mythical place in heaven.
Although the precise location of Thinis is unknown, mainstream Egyptological consensus places it in the vicinity of ancient Abydos and modern Girga.
Nearby Abydos (temple of Osiris pictured), after ceding its political rank to Thinis, remained an important religious centre.
The two major rulers from this early period are known as King Scorpion and Narmer. On the fragmented artifact known as the 'Scorpion Macehead', a king is seen in full ritual dress with the ritual bull's tail hanging from the back of his belt, wearing the tall White Crown [hedjet] of UPPER Egypt and performing a ceremony using a hoe or mattock.
The Narmer Palette, also known as the Great Hierakonpolis Palette or the Palette of Narmer, is a significant Egyptian archeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC, containing some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. It is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the king Narmer. On one side, the king is depicted with the bulbed White crown of Upper (southern) Egypt, and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Lower (northern) Egypt. Along with the Scorpion Macehead and the Narmer Maceheads, also found together in the "Main Deposit" at Hierakonopolis, the Narmer Palette provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king. The Palette shows many of the classic conventions of Egyptian art which must already have been formalized by the time of the Palette's creation. The Egyptologist Bob Brier has referred to the Narmer Palette as "the first historical document in the world".
The Palette, which has survived five millennia in almost perfect condition, was discovered by British archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green, in what they called the Main Deposit in the Temple of Horus at Hierakonpolis, during the dig season of 1897–1898. Also found at this dig were the Narmer Macehead and the Scorpion Macehead. The exact place and circumstances of these finds were not recorded very clearly by Quibell and Green. In fact, Green's report placed the Palette in a different layer one or two yards away from the deposit, which is considered to be more accurate on the basis of the original excavation notes. It has been suggested that these objects were royal donations made to the temple. Hierakonpolis was the ancient capital of Upper Egypt during the pre-dynastic Naqada III phase of Egyptian history.
This is the earliest occurence of what was to become an 'icon of majesty' throughout the rest of ancient Egyptian history, right down to Roman times.
Who was Narmer?
Narmer was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period (c. 32nd century BCE). He is thought to be the successor to the Protodynastic pharaohs Scorpion (or Selk) and/or Ka, and he is considered by some to be the unifier of Egypt and founder of the First Dynasty, and therefore the first pharaoh of unified Egypt.
The identity of Narmer is the subject of ongoing debate, although mainstream Egyptological consensus identifies Narmer with the Protodynastic pharaoh Menes (or "Merinar" reversing the 2 hieroglyphs which spell "Narmer"). Menes is also credited with the unification of Egypt, as the first pharaoh. This conclusion of joint identity is evidenced by different royal titularies in the archaeological and historical records, respectively.
Tomb and artifacts
Narmer's tomb is composed of two joined chambers (B17 and B18) found in the Umm el-Qa'ab region of Abydos. It is located near the tomb of Ka, who ruled Thinis just before him.
During the summer of 1994, excavators from the Nahal Tillah expedition, in southern Israel, discovered an incised ceramic shard (ostracon) with the serekh sign of Narmer, the same individual whose ceremonial slate palette was found by James E. Quibell in Upper Egypt. The ostracon was found on a large circular platform, possibly the foundations of a storage silo on the Halif Terrace. Dated to c.3000 BC, mineralogical studies of the shard conclude that it is a fragment of a wine jar which had been imported from the Nile valley to Canaan.
Narmer had Egyptian pottery produced in southern Canaan — with his name stamped on vessels — and then exported back to Egypt. Production sites included Tel Arad, Ein HaBesor, Rafah, and Tel Erani.
Neithhotep was the first queen of ancient Egypt, cofounder of the First dynasty, and is the earliest woman in history whose name is known. The name Neithhotep means "[The Goddess] Neith is satisfied".
Neithhotep's dynastic marriage to Narmer, which represents the start of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt, c. 3200 BCE, and the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt, may be represented on the Narmer Macehead. In this view Neithhotep was originally a princess of Lower Egypt, before marriage to Narmer (of Upper Egypt).
Neithhotep was the wife of Narmer or wife or mother of Hor-Aha and possibly the mother of Benerib.
Neithhotep's name was found in several locations:
Her titles were: ḫntỉ (Foremost of Women), sm3ỉ.t nb.tỉ (Consort of the Two Ladies). Both were titles given to queens during the First dynasty.
- Clay sealing in the tomb at Naqada with the name of Hor-Aha and Neithhotep.
- Clay sealing with the name of Neithhotep alone, also from the royal tomb in Naqada. Some of these are now in the Cairo Museum.
- Two inscribed vases were found in the tomb of Djer, Neithhotep's grandson.
- Ivory fragments with the name of Neithhotep were discovered in the subsidiary tombs near Djer's funerary complex.
- A fragment of an alabaster vase with the name of Neithhotep was found in the general vicinity of the royal tombs in Umm el-Qaab.
- On labels from Helwan.
Neithhotep: Foreigner or Indigenous Queen-Mother?
According to the following:
Neith had a powerful link with queenship and many of Egypt's Early Dynastic queens bore names compounded with 'Neith'. Indeed, the fact that she was buried at Naqada indicates that Neithhotep is more likely to have been a daughter of the long line of local Naqada chiefs or kings. An alternative, more acceptable interpretation of the macehead scene suggests that Narmer is celebrating his heb-sed, or jubilee, before a shrouded divinity.
The Great Tomb (Where Neithhotep is buried)
Excavating some 2 miles (3 km) outside the modern Naqada village in1897, Jacques de Morgan uncovered a 1st Dynasty tomb so splendid it was immediately labelled the Great Tomb and assigned to the legendary King Menes. Seen from the outside the tomb was a typical mastaba rectangular mud-brick superstructure built above a burial pit and name after the Arabic word mastaba, meaning low bench). But this mastaba lacked a burial pit; instead, the superstructure had been converted into a ground-level burial chamber surrounded by storage chambers. The super structure, measuring an impressive 177 by 88 ft (54 x 27 m), had recessed or niched 'palace facade'-style mud-brick walls, and the whole complex was protected by a thick enclosure wall. The tomb, already looted in antiquity, yielded a series of cosmetic items, stone vessels, ivory labels and clay sealings giving the names of Narmer, his son and successor Aha, and Neithhotep herself. The Naqada tomb was re-excavated by John Garstang in 1904. By then it was suffer
ing badly from post-excavation erosion and it vanished soon after.
Additional references to Neithhotep have been found at Abydos and Helwan. Neithhotep is nowhere describe as either a King's Wife or a King's Mother - these kingship titles are not found before the 2nd Dynasty. However, on an ivory lid recovered from the tomb of Djer at Abydos she is described as Consort of the Two Ladies, an epithet which may be the ancient equivalent of 'consort'. On just one seal (represented by several impressions) recovered from Naqada her name is presented in a serekh, the rectangular box representing the entrance to an Early Dynastic palace in which Egypt's earliest kings
wrote their names. On top of the traditional king's serekh perched Horus the falcon, symbol of the living Horus kings. But on top of Neithhotep's serekh were the pair of crossed arrows that symbolized the goddess Neith. On the basis of this evidence it is generally agreed that Neithhotep was a queen who outlived her husband, Narmer, and was buried by her son Aha in the Great Tomb. Some scholars would take this further, citing the use of the serekh and the exceptionally large tomb as evidence that Neithhotep actually ruled Egypt on behalf of the infant Aha.
Ancient 'Egypt' became a UNIFIED CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC DOMAIN long before her first king and queen ascended to the throne. Political unification developed gradually as local districts created "integrated trading networks" and the administrators of the region were able to organize agriculture and labour on an ever-increasing scale. As early as a century before the 1st Dynasty, well-planned and fortified towns existed in southern Egypt at Naqada, Hierakonpolis and Elephantine. At the first of these two sites a ruling class was buried in elaborate tombs. However, the kings of the 1st Dynasty were buried at Abydos.
It has been suggested by some Egyptologists that the tombs of Naqada and Hierakonpolis are those of pre-dynastic kings, in which case kingship may have developed in more than one region, therefore the 1st Dynasty can be seen as the victors in a power struggle for supremacy in the Nile Valley involving at least three proto-kingdoms.
This argument and perspective is lacking evidence concerning the northern regions at this period of time giving the prominance of the southern towns, but it can be compared to the Second Intermediate Period when the Theban administration, along with the office of the High Priest of Amun, grew to dominate the Nile Valley, before annexing a relatively impotent delta regions divided into several smaller kingdoms.
Nekhen (Greek: Ἱεράκων πόλις 'city of hawks', Strabo xvii. p. 817, transliterated as Hierakonpolis, Hieraconpolis, or Hieracompolis; Arabic: الكوم الأحمر Al-Kom Al-Aħmar) was the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of the Predynastic period (c. 3200–3100 BC) and probably, also during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC). Some authors suggest occupation dates that should begin thousands of years earlier.
Horus cult center
Nekhen was the center of the cult of a hawk deity Horus of Nekhen, which raised in this city one of the most ancient temples in Egypt, and it retained its importance as the cult center of this divine patron of the kings long after it had otherwise declined.
The original settlement on the Nekhen site dates from the culture known as Naqada I of 4400 BC or the late Badarian culture that may date from 5000 BC. At its height from about 3400 BC Nekhen had at least 5,000 and possibly as many as 10,000 inhabitants.
The ruins of the city originally were excavated toward the end of the nineteenth century by the English archaeologists James E. Quibell and F. W. Green. In the "principal deposit" of the temple of Nekhen they found important ceremonial Protodynastic artifacts such as the Narmer Palette and the famous macehead bearing the name of King Scorpion. More recently, the concession was excavated further by a multinational team of archaeologists, Egyptologists, geologists, and members of other sciences, which was coordinated by Michael Hoffman until his death in 1990, then by Barbara Adams of University College London and Dr. Renee Friedman representing the University of California, Berkeley and the British Museum until Barbara Adams's death in 2001, and by Renee Friedman thereafter.
The structure at Nekhen with the misnomer, "fort", is a massive mud-brick enclosure, built by King Khasekhemwy of the Second Dynasty. It appears to be similar in structure and purpose as the 'forts' constructed at Abydos, and has no apparent military function. The true function of these structures is unknown, but they seem to be related to the rituals of kingship and the culture.
The ritual structure was built on a Predynastic cemetery. The excavations there, as well as the work of later brick robbers, have seriously undermined the walls and led to the near collapse of the structure. For two years, during 2005 and 2006, the team led by Renee Friedman was attempting to stabilize the existing structure and support the endangered areas of the structure with new mud-bricks.
Elephantine (Arabic: جزيرة الفنتين) is an island in the River Nile, located just downstream of the First Cataract at the southern border of Ancient Egypt. This region is referred to as Upper Egypt because the land is higher than that near the Mediterranean coast. The island may have received its name because it was a trading place for ivory. Other theories claim that the island is named after its shape. It is easily verifiable that the island's shape is similar to that of an elephant's tusk. This is the meaning of the Greek word elephas (ελέφας). The layout of islands in the area can be seen from hillsides along the Nile.
The island measures some 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) from north to south and is about 400 metres (1,300 ft) across at its widest point. It is a part of the modern Egyptian city of Aswan.
Known to the Ancient Egyptians as Abu or Yebu, the island of Elephantine stood at the border between Egypt and Nubia. It was an excellent defensive site for a city and its location made it a natural cargo transfer point for river trade. This border is near the Tropic of Cancer, the most northerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead at noon and from which it appears to reverse direction or "turn back" at the solstices.
Elephantine was a fort that stood just before the first cataract of the Nile. During the Second Intermediate Period (1650 - 1550 BCE), the fort marked the southern border of Egypt.
According to Egyptian mythology, here was the dwelling place of Khnum, the ram-headed god of the cataracts, who guarded and controlled the waters of the Nile from caves beneath the island. He was worshipped here as part of a late triad among the Egyptian pantheon of deities. The Elephantine Triad included Satis and Anuket. Satis was worshipped from very early times as a war goddess and protector of this strategic region of Egypt. When seen as a fertility goddess, she personified the bountiful annual flooding of the Nile, which was identified as her daughter, Anuket. The cult of Satis originated in the ancient city of Swenet. Later, when the triad was formed, Khnum became identified as her consort and, thereby, was thought of as the father of Anuket. His role in myths changed later and another deity was assigned his duties with the river. At that time his role as a potter enabled him to be assigned a duty in the creation of human bodies.
Ta-Seti (Land of the bow, also Ta Khentit, Borderland) was one of 42 nomoi (administrative division) in Ancient Egypt. Ta-Seti also marked the border area towards Nubia.
Ta-Seti was the earliest Nubian Kingdom, dated 3,700 BCE. Bruce Williams, a curator at the University of Chicago, was instrumental in discovering numerous artifacts related to the material culture that had been found there by a previous archeologist.
The area of the district was about 2 cha-ta (about 5,5 hectare / 4,8 acres, 1 cha-ta equals roughly 2,75 hectare / 2.4 acres) and about 10,5 iteru (about 112 km / 69,6 miles, 1 iteru equals roughly 10,5 km / 6.2 miles) in length.
The Niwt (main city) was Abu / Elephantine (part of modern Aswan) and among other cities were P'aaleq / Philae (modern Philae), Sunet / Syene (modern Aswan) and Pa-Sebek / Omboi (modern Kom Ombo).
Every nome was ruled by a nomarch (provincial governor) who answered directly to the pharaoh.
Every niwt had a Het net (temple) dedicated to the chief deity and a Heqa het (nomarchs residence).
The district's main deity was Horus and among others major deities were Anuket, Arensnuphis, Hathor, Isis, Khnum, Mandulis, Satet and Sobek.
Today the area is part of the Aswan Governorate.
The Ta-Seti people and their identity is still trying to be deciphered. Today from what is know they are believed to have spoken a Nilo-Saharan language.
Philae is mentioned by numerous ancient writers, including Strabo, Diodorus, Ptolemy, Seneca, Pliny the Elder. It was, as the plural name indicates, the appellation of two small islands situated in latitude 24° north, just above the First Cataract near Aswan (Ancient Egyptian: Swenet, "Trade;" Ancient Greek: Syene). Groskurd computes the distance between these islands and Aswan at about 61.5 miles (99 km).
Philae proper, although the smaller island, is, from the numerous and picturesque ruins formerly there, the more interesting of the two. Prior to the inundation, it was not more than 1,250 feet (380 m) long and about 400 feet (120 m) broad. It is composed of Syenite stone: its sides are steep and on their summits a lofty wall was built encompassing the island.
Philae, being accounted one of the burying-places of Osiris, was held in high reverence both by the Egyptians to the north and the Nubians (often referred to as Ethiopians in Greek) to the south. It was deemed profane for any but priests to dwell there and was accordingly sequestered and denominated "the Unapproachable" (Ancient Greek: ̓́αβατος). It was reported too that neither birds flew over it nor fish approached its shores. These indeed were the traditions of a remote period; since in the time of the Ptolemies of Egypt, Philae was so much resorted to, partly by pilgrims to the tomb of Osiris, partly by persons on secular errands, that the priests petitioned Ptolemy Physcon (170-117 BC) to prohibit public functionaries at least from coming thither and living at their expense. In the 19th century AD, William John Bankes brought the Philae obelisk on which this petition was engraved to England. When its Egyptian hieroglyphs were compared with those of the Rosetta stone, it threw great light upon the Egyptian consonantal alphabet.
The islands of Philae were not, however, merely sacerdotal abodes; they were the centres of commerce also between Meroë and Memphis. For the rapids of the cataracts were at most seasons impracticable, and the commodities exchanged between Egypt and Nubia were reciprocally landed and re-embarked at Syene and Philae.
The neighbouring granite quarries attracted hither also a numerous population of miners and stonemasons; and, for the convenience of this traffic, a gallery or road was formed in the rocks along the east bank of the Nile, portions of which are still extant.
Philae also was remarkable for the singular effects of light and shade resulting from its position near the Tropic of Cancer. As the sun approached its northern limit the shadows from the projecting cornices and moldings of the temples sink lower and lower down the plain surfaces of the walls, until, the sun having reached its highest altitude, the vertical walls are overspread with dark shadows, forming a striking contrast with the fierce light which illuminates all surrounding objects.
Aswan is the ancient city of Swenet, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. Swenet is supposed to have derived its name from an Egyptian goddess with the same name. This goddess later was identified as Eileithyia by the Greeks and Lucina by the Romans during their occupation of Ancient Egypt because of the similar association of their goddesses with childbirth, and of which the import is "the opener". The ancient name of the city also is said to be derived from the Egyptian symbol for trade.
Because the Ancient Egyptians oriented toward the origin of the life-giving waters of the Nile in the south, Swenet was the first town in the country, and Egypt always was conceived to "open" or begin at Swenet. The city stood upon a peninsula on the right (east) bank of the Nile, immediately below (and north of) the first cataract of the flowing waters, which extend to it from Philae. Navigation to the delta was possible from this location without encountering a barrier.
The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granitic rock called Syenite. They furnished the colossal statues, obelisks, and monolithal shrines that are found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids; and the traces of the quarrymen who wrought in these 3,000 years ago are still visible in the native rock. They lie on either bank of the Nile, and a road, four miles (6 km) in length, was cut beside them from Syene to Philae.
Swenet was equally important as a military station as that of a place of traffic. Under every dynasty it was a garrison town; and here tolls and customs were levied on all boats passing southwards and northwards. Around AD 330, the legion stationed here received a bishop from Alexandria; this later became the Coptic Diocese of Syene. The city is mentioned by numerous ancient writers, including Herodotus, Strabo, Stephanus of Byzantium, Ptolemy, Pliny the Elder, De architectura, and it appears on the Antonine Itinerary. It also is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Isaiah.