The Prehistory of Egypt spans the period of earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt in ca. 3100 BC, starting with King Menes/Narmer.
The Predynastic Period is traditionally equivalent to the Neolithic period, beginning ca. 6000 BC and including the Protodynastic Period (Naqada III).
The dates of the Predynastic period were first defined before widespread archaeological excavation of Egypt took place, and recent finds indicating very gradual Predynastic development have led to controversy over when exactly the Predynastic period ended. Thus, the term "Protodynastic period," sometimes called "Dynasty 0," has been used by scholars to name the part of the period which might be characterized as Predynastic by some and Early Dynastic by others.
The Predynastic period is generally divided into cultural periods, each named after the place where a certain type of Egyptian settlement was first discovered. However, the same gradual development that characterizes the Protodynastic period is present throughout the entire Predynastic period, and individual "cultures" must not be interpreted as separate entities but as largely subjective divisions used to facilitate study of the entire period.
The vast majority of Predynastic archaeological finds have been in Upper Egypt, because the silt of the Nile River was more heavily deposited at the Delta region, completely burying most Delta sites long before modern times.
Late PaleolithicThe Late Paleolithic in Egypt started around 30,000 BC. The Nazlet Khater skeleton was found in 1980 and dated in 1982 from nine samples ranging between 35,100 to 30,360 years. This specimen is the only complete modern human skeleton from the earliest Late Stone Age in Africa.
Some of the oldest known buildings were discovered in Egypt by archaeologist Waldemar Chmielewski along the southern border near Wadi Halfa. They were mobile structures — easily disassembled, moved, and reassembled — providing hunter-gatherers with semi-permanent habitation.
Main article: Aterian
Aterian tool-making reached Egypt c. 40,000 BC.
The Khormusan culture in Egypt began between 40,000 and 30,000 BC. Khormusans developed advanced tools not only from stone but also from animal bones and hematite. They also developed small arrow heads resembling those of Native Americans, but no bows have been found. The end of the Khormusan came around 16,000 B.C. with the appearance of other cultures in the region, including the Gemaian.
For more info read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistoric_Egypt
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Nazlet Khater is an archeological site in Upper Egypt. The skeletal remains of an individual were found at the site. The remains were dated to about 33,000 years ago
- Leplongeon, Alice; Pleurdeau, David (2011). "The Upper Palaeolithic Lithic Industry of Nazlet Khater 4 (Egypt): Implications for the Stone Age/Palaeolithic of Northeastern Africa". African Archaeological Review 28 (3): 213–36. doi:10.1007/s10437-011-9100-x.
- Pinhasi, Ron; Semal, Patrick (2000). "The position of the Nazlet Khater specimen among prehistoric and modern African and Levantine populations". Journal of Human Evolution 39 (3): 269–88. doi:10.1006/jhev.2000.0421. PMID 10964529.
- Vermeersch, P.M.; Gijselings, G.; Paulissen, E. (1984). "Discovery of the Nazlet Khater man, Upper Egypt". Journal of Human Evolution 13 (3): 281–6. doi:10.1016/S0047-2484(84)80013-5.
The Aterian industry is a name given by archaeologists to a type of stone tool manufacturing dating to the Middle Stone Age (or Middle Palaeolithic) in the region around the Atlas Mountains and the northern Sahara, it refers the site of Bir el Ater, south of Annaba.
The industry was probably created by modern humans (Homo sapiens), albeit of an early type, as shown by the few skeletal remains known so far from sites on the Moroccan Atlantic coast extending to Egypt.
Bifacially-worked leaf shaped and tanged projectile points are a common artefact type and so are racloirs and Levallois flakes. Items of personal adornment (pierced and ochred Nassarius shell beads) are known from at least one Aterian site, with an age of 82,000 years.
The Halfan people, of Egypt and Nubia flourished between 18,000 and 15,000 BC in Nubia and Egypt. One Halfan site dates to before 24,000 BC. They lived on a diet of large herd animals and the Khormusan tradition of fishing. Although there are only a few Halfan sites and they are small in size, there is a greater concentration of artifacts, indicating that this was not a people bound to seasonal wandering, but one that had settled, at least for a time.
The Halfan is seen as the parent culture of the Ibero-Maurusian industry which spread across the Sahara and into Spain. Sometimes seen as a proto-Afro-Asiatic culture, this group is derived from the Nile River valley culture known as Halfan, dating to about 17,000 BC. The Halfan culture was derived in turn from the Khormusan, which depended on specialized hunting, fishing, and collecting techniques for survival. The material remains of this culture are primarily stone tools, flakes, and a multitude of rock paintings. The end of the Khormusan came around 16,000 BC and was concurrent with the development of other cultures in the region, including the Gemaian.
The Iberomaurusian culture is a backed bladelet industry found throughout the Maghreb. The industry was originally described in 1909 by the French scholar Pallary, at the site of Abri Mouillah. Other names for the industry have included "Mouillian" and "Oranian".
Recent fieldwork indicates that the culture existed in the region from around the timing of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), at 20,000 BP, until the Younger Dryas. The culture is succeeded by the Capsian, which was originally thought to have expanded into the Maghreb from the Near East, although later studies have indicated that the Iberomaurusian were the progenitors of the Capsian.
The Qadan culture was a culture that, archaeological evidence suggests, originated in Northeast Africa approximately 15,000 years ago. This way of life is estimated to have persisted for approximately 4,000 years, and was characterized by hunting, as well as a unique approach to food gathering that incorporated the preparation and consumption of wild grasses and grains..
In archaeological terms, this culture is generally viewed as a cluster of Mesolithic Stage communities living in Nubia in the upper Nile Valley prior to 9000 bc, at a time of relatively high water levels in the Nile, characterized by a diverse stone tool industry that is taken to represent increasing degrees of specialization and locally differentiated regional groupings. There is some evidence of conflict between the groups. The Qadan economy was based on fishing, hunting, and, as mentioned, the extensive use of wild grain.
The Mushabian culture (alternately, Mushabi or Mushabaean) is suggested to have originated along the Nile Valley prior to migrating to the Levant, due to similar industries demonstrated among archaeological sites in both regions but with the Nile valley sites predating those found in the Sinai regions of the Levant.
Accordingly Bar-Yosef posits, "The population overflow from Northeast Africa played a definite role in the establishment of the Natufian adaptation, which in turn led to the emergence of agriculture as a new subsistence system."
The migration of farmers from the Middle East into Europe is believed to have significantly influenced the genetic profile of contemporary Europeans. The Natufian culture which existed about 12,000 years ago in the Levant, has been the subject of various archeological investigations as the Natufian culture is generally believed to be the source of the European and North African Neolithic.
The Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert were formidable barriers to gene flow between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. But Europe was periodically accessible to Africans due to fluctuations in the size and climate of the Sahara. At the Strait of Gibraltar, Africa and Europe are separated by only 15 km of water. At the Suez, Eurasia is connected to Africa forming a single land mass. The Nile river valley, which runs from East Africa to the Mediterranean Sea served as a bidirectional corridor in the Sahara desert, that frequently connected people from Sub-Saharan Africa with the peoples of Eurasia.
According to Bar-Yosef the Natufian culture emerged from the mixing of the Kebaran (already indigenous to the Levant) and the Mushabian (migrants into the Levant from North Africa). Modern analyses comparing 24 craniofacial measurements reveal a predominantly cosmopolitan population within the pre-Neolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age Fertile Crescent, supporting the view that a diverse population of peoples occupied this region during these time periods. In particular, evidence demonstrates a strong Sub-Saharan African presence within the region, especially among the Epipalaeolithic Natufians of Israel. These studies further argue that over time the Sub-Saharan influences would have been "diluted" out of the genetic picture due to interbreeding between Neolithic migrants from the Near East and indigenous hunter-gatherers whom they came in contact with.
Ricaut et al. (2008) associate the Sub-Saharan influences detected in the Natufian samples with the migration of E1b1b lineages from East Africa to the Levant and then into Europe. Entering the late mesolithic Natufian culture, the E1b1b1a2 (E-V13) sub-clade has been associated with the spread of farming from the Middle East into Europe either during or just before the Neolithic transition. E1b1b1 lineages are found throughout Europe but are distributed along a South-to-North cline, with a E1b1b1a mode in the Balkans. "Recently, it has been proposed that E3b originated in sub-Saharan Africa and expanded into the Near East and northern Africa at the end of the Pleistocene. E3b lineages would have then been introduced from the Near East into southern Europe by immigrant farmers, during the Neolithic expansion." Also, "a Mesolithic population carrying Group III lineages with the M35/M215 mutation expanded northwards from sub-Saharan to North Africa and the Levant. The Levantine population of farmers that dispersed into Europe during and after the Neolithic carried these African Group III M35/M215 lineages, together with a cluster of Group VI lineages characterized by M172 and M201 mutations."
The Harifian is a specialized regional cultural development of the Epipalaeolithic of the Negev Desert. It corresponds to the latest stages of the Natufian culture. Like the Natufian, it is characterized by semi-subterranean houses. These are often more elaborate than those found at Natufian sites. For the first time arrowheads are found among the stone tool kit.
Andy Burns states "The Harifian dates to between approximately 10,800/10,500bp and 10,000/10,200bp. It is restricted to the Sinai and Negev, and is probably broadly contemporary with the Late Natufian or Pre-Pottery Neolithic A.
Microlithic points are a characteristic feature of the industry, with the Harif point being both new and particularly diagnostic – Bar-Yosef (1998) suggests that it is an indication of improved hunting techniques. Lunates, isosceles and other triangular forms were backed with retouch, and some Helwan lunates are found. This industry contrasts with the Desert Natufian which did not have the roughly triangular points in its assemblage.
There are two main groups within the Harifian. One group consists of ephemeral base camps in the north of Sinai and western Negev, where stone points comprise up to 88% of all microliths, accompanied by only a few lunates and triangles. The other group consists of base camps and smaller campsites in the Negev and features a greater number of lunates and triangles than points. These sites probably represent functional rather than chronological differences. The presence of Khiam points in some sites indicates that there was communication with other areas in the Levant at this time."
Harifian has close connections with the late Mesolitic cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Deserts of Egypt, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian. Fusion with animal domestication elements of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) culture is hypothesised by Juris Zarins, to have led to the Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism, and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout the region.
Faiyum A culture
Continued desiccation forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle.
The period from 9000 to 6000 BC has left very little in the way of archaeological evidence. Around 6000 BC, Neolithic settlements appear all over Egypt. Some studies based on genetic, and archaeological data have attributed these settlements to migrants from the Fertile Crescent returning during the Egyptian and North African Neolithic. However, morphological and post-cranial data has linked the earliest farming populations at Fayum, Merimde, and El-Badari, to local Nilotic African populations. The archaeological data suggests that Near Eastern domesticates were incorporated into a pre-existing foraging strategy and only slowly developed into a full-blown lifestyle, contrary to what would be expected from settler colonists from the Near East. Finally, the names for the Near Eastern domesticates imported into Egypt were not Sumerian or Proto-Semitic loan words, which further diminishes the likely hood of a mass immigrant colonization of lower Egypt during the transition to agriculture.
Weaving is evidenced for the first time during the Faiyum A Period. People of this period, unlike later Egyptians, buried their dead very close to, and sometimes inside, their settlements.
Although archaeological sites reveal very little about this time, an examination of the many Egyptian words for "city" provide a hypothetical list of reasons why the Egyptians settled. In Upper Egypt, terminology indicates trade, protection of livestock, high ground for flood refuge, and sacred sites for deities.