Bard_2008_Stone_Age (1) - Introduction Pharaonic...

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Unformatted text preview: Introduction Pharaonic civilization is a relatively recent phenomenon when com- pared to Egypt’s long prehistory. Evidence of human cultures in Egypt is perhaps half a million or more years old, not only in the Nile Valley but also in the deserts to either side of the river — dating to periods when less arid climatic conditions prevailed there than today. Most of the prehistory of Egypt is Paleolithic, meaning “Old Stone Age," when hunter—gatherers lived in temporary camps of small migrau tory groups. The major cultural change, the development of a Neolithic economy, did not occur in Egypt — in the Nile Valley and Delta — until after ca. 6000 no, when domesticated species of wheat and barley, and sheep and goat were introduced into Egypt from southwest Asia. The Neolithic economy was the major cultural and technological change that made possible the pharaonic state, with an economy based on cereal agriculture. Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic 69 Paleolithic 4.1 Paleolithic Cultures in Egypt - Ancient Egyptian civilization is a very recent phenomenon compared to the prehistoric cultures which preceded it for hundreds of thousands of years. For most of the pre- historic past in Egypt hunter-gatherers lived in small groups generally called bands. The oldest evidence in Egypt of the Paleolithic, which means “Old Stone Age,” is from perhaps as early as 500,000 or more years ago, although the dating of very early remains cannot be precise (see Box 4-B). Paleolithic groups, in Egypt and elsewhere in the Old World (Africa, Asia, and Europe), subsisted in part by hunting, but gathering edible wild plants (and sometimes mollusks) was probably more important for daily subsistence than hunting (and fishing), which depended on opportunity, technology (of the tools used), and some degree of cooperation among the hunters, at least to hunt large mammals. Farming and animal husbandry, which provide most of our food today, were not known during Paleolithic times, and Paleolithic hunter~gatherers lived in tem- porary camps, not permanent villages. Paleolithic peoples used stone tools, although it is likely that tools of organic materials, such as wood, bone, and animal horn, were used throughout the Paleolithic. Such tools have not been preserved in Egypt until the Late Paleolithic and later, and stone tools provide most of the archaeological evidence for the Paleolithic. Pottery was not invented until Neolithic times. Since most of what is known about Paleolithic cultures is from the remains of stone tools, a typology of stone tools is used to deScribe the different cultures, from the earliest to the latest. The earliest Paleolithic cultures are called Lower Paleolithic, and are characterized by large stone tools known as handaxes (see Figure 4.1). Although smaller flake-tools were also made in the Lower Paleolithic about 250,000»« 200,000 years ago, flakes became the characteristic tool of the Middle Paleolithic in Egypt, ca. 250,000—50,000 years ago. Following a transitional period, Upper Paleolithic cultures are knde from about 33,000 years ago onward and are characterized by long, thin stone tools known as blades. By ca. 21,000 years ago, during the Late Paleolithic, a new type of stone too] had developed, bladelcts, which are a type of microlith, less than 5 centimeters long. The last Paleolithic hunter-gatherers in Egypt belonged to Epipaleolithic cultures (also known as Final Paleolithic), after ca. 10,000 years ago. i There are many gaps in what is known about Paleolithic cultures in Egypt, especially in the sequence of archaeological evidence, as well as where the evidence has been found. Problematic for investigations of Paleolithic cultures in the Valley have been changes in the Nile’s course, volume, alluviation, and other geological and hydrological factors that have caused evidence to be buried or destroyed. In the Eastern and Western Deserts, areas outside of the oases were only Occupied by hunter-gatherers where there were edible plants and animals a and water, all of which were present only during less arid Climatic episodes. Because of their isolation, Paleolithic sites in the desert are much better preserved than those in the Valley, but archaeological exploration of the deserts 7O Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic Western & Desert %s Dalthla Oasis Bil 'J'srfawi D u . . . - ‘1 . OBirKIsclha LOR um Nshls Playa o a ebcl Sahu'ha _ ' Wadi Haifa t) [50 km 0 100 miles ———-bZ Map 4.] Paieoithic sites in Egypt. Nubia. and the Western Desert has also been limited. This is in part clue to the very inhospitable conditions and difficult logistics for fieldwork. Much more investigation is needed in the desert regions. The Paleolithic stone tools that have been found in Egypt were not all produced by the same species of early man. Although there is no fossil evidence of who made Lower Paleolithic handaxes in Egypt, it is presumed that these tools are associated with Home erectus, which evolved in East Africa about 2 million years ago. Home erectus literally means “erect man,” although it is now known that bipedal locomotion developed much earlier than 2 million years ago. H. erectus eventually migrated out of Africa sometime Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic 7| Figure 4.| Handax. Drawing by Angela Close. Reprinted by permission after its evolution there and populated many parts of the Old World. An important route of migration was the Nile Valley, which also provided a rich environment for the bands of Homo erectus that remained there. As a species, we (biologically modern man) are classified as Home sopiem sapicns, which means “wise man." About half a million years ago an archaic form of Homo sapiens evolved in East Africa, possibly from Homo cractus. although some scientists believe that H. sapiens evolved independently from H. remains. The Middle Paleolithic in Egypt is associated with early H. sapiem and H. sapicns sapiens, whose origins seem to have been in southern Africa over 120,000 years ago. Although Homo sapiens Neander- thaienis is known. inEurope and southwest Asia, evidence of Neanderthals has not been found in Egypt or other parts of Africa. By Upper/Late Paleolithic times H. sapiens sepiens was the only species of H. sepiens in Africa and elsewhere in the Old World. 4.2 Lower Paleolithic A major problem with dating the Lower Paleolithic in Egypt is that many stone tools of this period have been found in eroded deposits along the rocky terraces to either side of the Nile Valley, or scattered across the surface of the low desert. Without the geolo- gical contexts in which the tools were deposited, they have to be dated according to their typology, from early to late types as established by specialists who study stone tools. The Lower Paleolithic tools that have been found in Egypt, on the margins of the Nile Valley and in the Western Desert, are of a lithics industry known elsewhere in the Old World as Acheulean. the most characteristic tool of which is the handax. Formed 72 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic by chipping off flakes from a block of stone, handaxes were worked along the edge or, I both sides (bifacial flaking). It is not known what handaxes were used for. They were too large and heavy to be points for spears or arrows. They might have been used for - multi~purposes, including cutting, sawing, chopping, and hammering. Fred Wendorf, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University (see 1.4), began excavating Paleolithic sites in the i960s, first in Nubia and later in the Western Desert and Upper Egypt. From his extensive investigations, and research in Kharga and Dakhla Oases, it is now known that during less arid periods in Lower Paleolithic times people lived in the Western Desert next to pools of water fed by oasis springs, as well as next to seasonal ponds and lakes to the south of these oases which formed when there was some rainfall. Typologically, the handaxes at these sites are late Achculean, - possibly 500,000 years old. Earlier Acheulean tools were recorded in Lower Nubia in . the 1960s, and handaxes may also be associated with ancient east—west river channels now buried under the southern part of the Western Desert. These channels were located by grOund—penetrating radar images taken from a satellite, but extensive excavation is needed to demonstrate their age(s). 4.3 Middle Paleolithic The Middle Paleolithic began in Egypt ca. 250,000u220,000 years ago. Handaxes became rare and then were no longer made, while smaller flake-tools became characteristic of this long period (up to 50,000 “45,000 years ago). Flakes were made by the Levallois method, in which a core was specially prepared from a chert nodule from which flakes of a predetermined shape could then be struck (see Figure 4.2). Middle Paleolithic tools have been found in the Nile Valley, in Egypt and Nubia, but the best preserved sites are in the Western Desert. Two sites excavated by Wendorf, Bir Sahara East (about 350 km west of Abu Simbel) and nearby Bir Tarfawi, had permanent lakes during wet intervals between 175,000 and 70,000 years ago. The savanna and savanna~woodland environment there supported large mammals such as rhinoceros, giant buffalos and camels, giraffes, and various antelopes and gazelles, but also small animals such as hares and wild cats. There were also fish in the lakes. The stone tools are of the (Saharan) Mousterian industry, which is the Middle Paleolithic stone tool industry known in other parts of Africa, Europe, and western Asia. In the ' Nile Valley, in Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia, there is evidence of Middle Paleolithic quarries and workshops, where cobbles from escarpment terraces were obtained for stone tool production. After ca. 70,000 years ago the Western Desert was dry and cool, and human habita— tion was no longer possible except in the oases. In Upper Egypt near Qena, evidence ofa late Middle Paleolithic culture dating to ca. 70,000fi50,000 years ago has been identified by Pierre Vermeersch, an archaeologist at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). Blades, which become the characteristic tool of the Upper Paleolithic, appear in the stdne tool assemblage for the first time, suggesting a transitional phase. At the site of Taramsa—l, near the Ptolemaic temple of Hathor at Dendera, the oldest known skeleton Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic 73 Figure 4.2 Levaliois method of core production, httpzflpech.museumupenneduf in Egypt has been excavated. Dating to ca. 55,000 years ago, it is the burial of an anatom- ically modern child. Although many factors could have led to the destruction of early burials such as this one, burials are uncommon until the Neolithic and later. A burial this old is unusual in any part of the Old World, not only in Egypt. The intentional act of burial, even a simple one which did not require much energy expenditure, suggests some form of commemoration of the dead by living members of the child‘s family or social group that was of some social and/or symbolic significance to them. I Box 4-A Lithic analysis Stone tools were used in Egypt from Paleolithic times through the Dynastic period, when metal tools remained costly and chart was readily available. Whereas stone tools from Dynastic sites have fre- quently been ignored, lithics at Paleolithic sites far outn number any other artifacts, and are a major focus of prehistoric investigations. Tools of organic materials were certainly used in both prehistoric and Dynastic times, but stone tools have survived much better than organic ones. ' Materials used for stone tools must first be identified. Petrological analysis of specially prepared stone thin sections, examined under a microscope by a geologist, is usually necessary to identify the exact source of a rock used for tools. Chcrt was the most common material for making lithic tools in Egypt because it fractured with a sharp edge, but other materials such as quartz and sandstone were also used. Sources of the type of rock used for tools must also be determined. Chert could often be obtained 74 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic as nodules on the desert surface, but from Middle Paleolithic times there is evidence of surface mines and even an underground one. How far the stone tools were taken away from the source (and discarded) is also useful information, which can indicate widespread movements of people, raw materials, or finished tools. In the Lower Paleolithic stone tools were usu~ ally made and discarded near where the stone was obtained, whereas in the Middle Paleolithic there is evidence of stone quarries some distance from where they were used. Obsidian tools, which have an even sharper edge than chert ones, have been found in some Predynastic (Naqada culture) burials. Obsidian came from the southern Red Sea region, which india cates long-distance trade. The context of where the stone tools were found is important. The best information about manufactur- ing and use of stone tools can probably be obtained when they are excavated in settlements. Sometimes there is evidence of specialized areas for lithic workshops. Information about tool use can also be obtained from hunting or fishing camps. When stone tools are found in burials they probably had a symbolic meaning. Paleolithic industrial sites include iithic workshops and quarries, whereas Dynastic sites with stone tools are industrial locations such as mines (for gold and other minerals), and quarries, where stone u5ed for architecture and artifacts was obtained. in Predynastic and Dynastic times stone tools were used in much craft production, including the making of beads, cosmetic palettes, and stone vessels, but relevant sites are rare in Egypt. ' _ When stone tools are excavated they are classified in a typology, as are other types of artifacts (especially potshcrds), which makes it possible to compare toois from different sites. Classification of stone tools takes account of chronological, description, and functional attributes. After classification, percentages of the dif- ferent tool types from a site or locality are calculated. - When prehistoric stone tools have no stratigraphic context and are found on the desert surface, a broad typologieal classification is usually the onlyway to place them in a time frame. In general, there is a reduction in the size of stone tools during the Paleolithic, from the large handaxes of the Lower Paleolithic to the Late Paleolithic micro— iiths that would have been batted to use as compound tools. Tools also become more specialized, in a wide variety of types for tasks from hide preparation to points for spears and arrows. The appearance of new tool types, such as grinding stones and sickle blades, may indicate a shift in subsistence strategies, such as the increasing importance of plants in the diet. The percentages of different tool types may give an indication of the amount of hunting that was done, which is particuv larly useful for the analysis of Neolithic sites. Technology of stone tool production is also import- ant to analyze. The technology of stone tools can be as simple as cobbles, which were picked up and used as harnmerstOnes or throw stones, but most tools were the result of a reductive technique. Flaking, to shape a stone tool, is found in all Paleolithic periods, but ground and peeked stone tools do not appear until sometime in the Middle Paleolithic. The long chert knives of the late Predynastic, with regular ripple patterns of flakes removed on one side, were made by pressure flaking, a technique that would have required a great deal of skill so that the very thin blade (as little as 3 mm) would not break in the process (see Figures 4.3 and 4.4). At lithic workshops all materials are collected, not only tools, but also the cores and debris from too] pro— duction. Sometimes stone is found in intermediate stages of production, from blanks to finished tools, and materials from all stages of production can be analyzed to determine the manufacturing process. Technological investigations also include lithic experimentation, where archaeologists try to replicate the process of ancient stone tool production. Use of stone tools for specific tasks is analyzed microswpically, by examining areas of use on stone tools. The results of experiments with replicated stone tools that have been used on known materials can also be compared to what is found on ancient tools. Edge wear analysis can distinguish how a tool was used (for example, for cutting or punching) and on what types of materials, from cutting reeds to cutting bones. Harvesting grasses usually leaves a coat of silica on the Surface of a sickle blade, which can often be seen by the unaided eye, but the presence of sickle sheen cannot determine whether the harvested urasses were wild or domesticated. s. ‘, Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic Figure 4.3 Figure 4.4 Late Predynastic rippie—flaked knife produced by pressure flaking. Source; D, L. Holmes, The Predynostrc Lithic Industries of Upper Egypt, Port ii Oxford: EAR International Series. I989. p. 409 75 76 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic Box 4~B Absolute dating For dating 'sites radiocarbon analysis of organic samples (charcoal, wood, bones, seeds, charred food remains, etc.) is the most frequently used method, giving the most probable range of dates for a sample in radiocarbon years BP (before present, where presant is taken to be an 1950). Radiocarbon dating can be used on samples dating from ca. 50,000i40,000 years ago, but not ones from earlier sites. Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites and climatic episodes have been dated using relative dating methods, such as thermo— luminescence (TL), optical-stimulated luminescence, electron—spin resonance (ESR), amino-acid racemiza— tion, or absolute methods such as uranium series dating techniques. Radiocarbon dating methods work by measuring the carbon 14 (a heavy carbon isotope with an unstable nucleus) content of a sample. When an organism is living it absorbs atmospheric carbon—dioxide 0r absorbs carbon compounds (carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids) from plants or animals, which are derived from atmospheric carbon—dioxide with about one part per trillion carbon 14. This process stops when that organism dies and the absorbed radiocarbon in the dead organism then begins to decay at a fixed rate. This rate is now measured by the carbon 14 half life of 5,730 years, which is the amount of timein which half of the carbon 14 nuclei decay. Samples for radiocarbon dating from archaeolo- gical sites need to be taken and dried very carefully, so that they are not contaminated with more recent organic material. The sample needs to be removed from the ground with a metal trowel (not human fingers), and wrapped in plastic foil or placed in a plastic bag immediately (without any preservatives). Samples should be submitted to a radiocarbon laboratory for processing relatiVEly quickly after collection so that they do not pick up contamination in storage. " Large samples can be dated by conventional methods, first developed by W. F. Libby in the 1940s. This method measures the carbon 14 content indirectly by measuring its radioactive beta decay. Small samples need to be dated by the more recent direct atom counting technique, developed at the Uni- versity of Toronto, called Accelerator Mass Spectro— nomy (AMS).-In this technique the carbon 14 atoms are counted directly with a special mass spectrometer. Directly counting the carbon l4 atoms in a sample is much more efficient than waiting for a very small portion of these atoms to decay and this method uses 10 to 100 times smaller sample sizes than the decay counting method. As a result, AMS dating is particu- larly effective for small samples or samples which produce only small amounts of datable material, such as collagen in bone samples. As AMS is not affected by cosmic radiation background, samples of some materials as old as 75,000 years can be dated. When radiocarbon dates are obtained from samples they are in radiocarbon years BP, not in calendar years BC or AD. The radiocarbon in the atmosphere is produced by cosmic radiation interactions with the nitrogen molecules in the upper atmosphere. This cosmic radiation intensity has not been entirely con- stant in time, as Libby assumed. Thus, radiocarbon dates must be calibrated using radiocarbon dated tree rings ofknown age obtained by dendrochronologists. When calibrated, the calibrated age BC or AD (cal no .Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic 77 or cal AD) is given with a standard deviation in years. This calibration curve is not a straight line and some— times two or more possible solutions exist, which, from a radiocarbon point of view, are equally probable. It is up to the archaeologist to decide which of these solutions is acceptable in an archaeological context. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, car- bon 14 free carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning has diluted the carbon E4 in the atmosphere. As a result, the periods from around AD 1600 to AD 1950 will produce many possible solutions, often spanning the whole range. This often makes it difficult to interpret radiocarbon dates from this period. An example of a radiocarbon date from the Predyiiastic site of I-Ialfiah Giin (HG) in Upper Egypt, excavated by Kathryn Bard in 1989 is: [-161 Oral-2182 (charcoal sample number from the site, and Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator, Research Laboratory for Archaeology number) Radiocarbon age BP 4590i80 Calibrated age so 3353 4.5 Late Paleolithic 4.4 Upper Paleolithic In southern Europe during the Upper Paleolithic there is evidence of cave paintings of great beauty, as well as sculpture and Jiewelry, but there is no such evidence from the Upper Paleolithic in Egypt. Blades, which are flakes that are at least twice as long as they are wide, are the characteristic stone tool of this period. The Egyptian examples I are long and narrow, with a greater standardization in the finished tools, which were ' retouched along the edges, than is evident in earlier stone tools. The Western Desert remained uninhabitable until after ca. 10,000 years ago, creating a gap in the archaeological evidence of human cultures until after the Upper and Late Paleolithic. Upper Paleolithic sites in the Nile Valley are also rare. The oldest known under- ground mine in the world (ca. 35,000—30,000 years ago), a source of stone for tools, _ is located at the site of Nazlet Khaterrtl in Middle Egypt. Also excavated at this site Was _ the grave of a robust Home snpiens sapiens — with a stone ax placed next to his head. Many more sites are known for-the 'Late Paleolithic, which dates from ca. 21,000— 12,000 years ago, than for the Upper Paleolithic. Late Paleolithic sites are found in Lower Nubia and Upper Egypt, but not farther north, where contemporary sites are probably buried under later river alluvium. From Late Paleolithic times onward the archaeolo- gical evidence points to more rapid technological and cultural development than had occurred during the several hundred thousand years of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic (with major gaps of information for the Upper Paleolithic). Bladelets which appeared at this time are so small that they must have been hafted to make compound tools with sharp cutting edges or points, possibly suggesting the invention of the bow and arrow. Mortars and pestles are another new type of stone tool associated with the Late Paleolithic. According to Wendorf, the sequence of Late Paleolithic stone tool industries points to more regional variation than earlier, between Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia, and within each region, which may represent local innovation and exploitation of a wider range of resources. " o- ._- I Egyptian Prehistory: The Paieolithic and Neolithic 79 78 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic Late Paleolithic sites are located in different environmental settings, which w occupied, often repeatedly, at different times of the year. Archaeological cyidencga' so suggests greater variation in subsistence strategies than earlier, with more diversifi hunting and gathering practices. Although large mammals such as Wild Cattle a hartebeest (as well as the small dorcas gazelle) were still hunted, waterfowl, Shellfi- and fish (including tilapia and catfish) were also consumed. At Wadi Kubbaniya near Aswan, Wendorf has excavated Late Paleolithic Sift; dating to ca. 21,000—17,000 up in which the diversity of hunting and fishing is deal—1" demonstrated. Behind a dune at the mouth of the Wadi, a seasonal lake formed age the yearly flooding. Eventually the wadi was blocked off entirely from the Nile and fed by ground water. Catfish were harvested in large quantities, probably when they wag spawning, and then smoked in pits to preserve them for future consumption,- several sites there are also the first remains of (wild) plants that had been gathered for consumption: tubers, especially nut—grass, and seeds of wetland plants. The tube“ contained toxins that could only be removed by grinding, and the grinding stones found there and at other Late Paleolithic sites in the Nile Valley Were probably used for this purpose. That significant effort was made to process these plants to make them edible demonstrates the increasing importance of plants in the diet, perhaps as a seasoned supplement to animal protein. Around l3,000—l2,000 years, ago the last Ice Age came to an end, followed by the early” Holocene, the present geological epoch in which we live. In highland Ethiopia there was increased rainfall and river discharge, and the White Nile, which had previously been chy, began to flow again. As a result of this significantly more moist climate in East Africa, there were very high Nile floods in Egypt. Because of what has been termed the “Wild Nile" of this time, there are many gaps in the archaeological record. Three Late Paleolithic cemeteries in Nubia, however, date to the time of the Wild Nile, and belong to a culture with microlithic flakes, known in Lower Nubia and Upper Egypt as the Qadan industry. The earliest known Qadan cemeteries in the Nile Valley (ca. BLOOD—12,000 Hp) are in Lower Nubia. At the site of Iebel Sahaba, near Wadi Haifa on the east bank of the Nile, 59 burials of men, women, and children were found. They had been buried in pits covered with sandstone slabs; About 40 percent of the burials show evidence of violent deaths, with stone points still embedded in their bones or deep cut marks on their bones. This may be the earliest evidence of human conflict in Egypt. As the numbers of hunter—gatherer-fishers grew in the Late Paleolithic in the Upper Nile Valley, perhaps there was increasing competition for resources, especially since there were major ' changes in the volume ofthe Nile at the time of the )ebel Sahaba burials (ca. 12,300 BF). Although there are other possible explanations (including social ones) for the violent deaths in the Iebel Sahaba cemetery, some river locations may have been more resource rich than others, and competition between different groups may have resulted in conflict. In another Late Paleolithic cemetery, at Wadi Tushka north of Abu Simbel in Lower Nubia, 19 burials were excavated. Several of these burials were marked with the skulls of wild cattle. Much later in Nubia, in the late 3'd and early 2"" millennia 13c, remains pipaleolithic (Final Paleolithic) E . £1. 5,- weather globally in the early Holocene, glaciers in the northern rmbe an to melt and sea levels rose worldwide. In the Nile Valley many - ' re sitfs of the last Paleolithic hunter-gatherers are probably deeply buried 'upanon ‘ 1 Consequently, little evidence of the Epipaleolithic has been recovr derauuwftlfiin the Nile Valley. Only two Epipaleolithic cultures have been found, I froll‘li‘gmto ca. 7000 no: the Qarunian culture with sites in the Faiyum region, 9th? much larger lake existed than the present one, and the Elkabian, in southern rhere a t‘ I o 'Pffrsfyiy: Epipaleolithic sites in the Middle East, such as Abu l-Iureyra in Syria - N mfian sites in Israel, there is evidence of transitional cultures which led to 'nd3 a tant inventions of the Neolithic (see Box 44C), But such evidence, espe- [1-16 1mimrtransition from harvesting wild cereals to cultivating domesticated ones, I imam, t'16 in Egypt because the innovations of a Neolithic economy were intro- :13 iaCkl'ngto Egypt and not invented there. While Epipaleolithic hunter—gatherers at éuificfialii sites (ca. 10,000—8,000 BC) were living in permanent villages occupied I'INar round, such evidence is missing in Egypt until much later, in the Predynastic I I iglod and even then the evidence of permanent villages and towns 15 ephemeral {sail-31:11,; in the Faiyum, Gertrude Caton Thompson (see 1.4) identifigd “:10 Neolithic cultures, which she termed Faiyum A and Faiyum B. The latter was taoug- t '10 be a degenerated culture that followed Faiyum A. More recent 1nvestigat101ps 13 the Faiy'um in the 1960s, by Fred Wendorf and Romuald Schrld (ofvthe Com inc '- Prehistoric Expedition), have identified Faiyum B as the Epipaleohtlnc Qarunian - culture, ca. 1,000 years before the Neolithic Faiyum A. The Qarunian people were hunter- I gatherer-fishers who lived near the shore of the lake. There is no eyldence to sugges; that they were experimenting with the domestication of plants and animals:Theyfhunfifleh large mammals such as gazelle, hartebeest, and hippopotamus, and fishmg‘o lcat sh 3 and other species provided'a'major source of protein. The tool kit was microlithic, wrt with W . .5phe D.- many small chert blades. I I Fishing was also important for the Epipaleohthic peoples at Elkab, and they may have I used (reed?) boats for deep—water fishing in the main Nile. Originally these sites were located next to a channel of the Nile. The evidence has been relatively well preserved because the sites were later accidentally protected by a huge enclosure built at Elkab 1n the Late Period, long after the Nile channel had silted up. . . . I H Like the Qarunian, the tools at these Elkab sites are microlithic, With many sma burins (chisel-like stone tools). Grinding stones are also present. These were probalply used to grind pigment, still in evidence on the stone, not to process cereals or or er wild plants for consumption. Mammals, such as dorcas gazelle and barberylsheep, were also hunted. The sites were camps with no evidence of permanent occupation, and the hunters may have gone out of the Valley for seasonal hunting in the desert, whlch 1n the early Holocene had become a less arid environment. of domesticated cattle are significant in burials of the C-Group and Kerma cultures, demonstrating the symbolic importance of cattle there. 80 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic - Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic 8| Neolithic 4.7 Saharan Neolithic Although there is evidence in southwest Asia of early Neolithic villages practicing _ some agriculture and herding of domesticated animals by ca. 8000 no, contemporary Neolithic sites in Egypt are found only in the Western Desert, where the evidence for subsistence practices is. quite different from that in southwest Asia. Occupation of the Western Desert sites was only possible during periods when there was rain, asa result of northward shifts in the monsoon belt. In the early Holocene there was not . enough rainfall in the desert for agriculture, which in any event had not yet been invented or introduced into Egypt. Permanent villages are unknown in the earliest phasc and the sites are like the seasonal camps of hunter-gatherers. While there may have been permanent settlements later, these were not villages increasing in size and popu- lation, and after abOnt 5000 BC they were gradually abandoned, as the Western Desert became more and more arid. The Saharan Neolithic sites do not represent a true Neolithic economy (see Box 4eC). They have been classified as Neolithic because of the possible domestication of cattle, which seem to have been herded, and the pres» ence of pottery. Three periods of the Saharan Neolithic have been identified in the Western Desert: Early (ca. 8800~6800 13c), Middle (ca. 6500—5100 BC), and Late (ca. 5100—4700 Bc). Excavated by Fred Wendorf, Neolithic sites in the Western Desert have been found in I a number of localities, especially Bir Kiseiba (more than 250 km west of the Nile in Lower Nubia) and Nabta Playa (ca. 90 km southeast of Bir Kiseiba). Neolithic sites are also found farther north in Dakhla and Kharga Oases. At Early Neolithic sites Wendorf has evidence of small amounts-of cattle bones and argues that cattle could not have survived in the desert without human intervention, . that is, herding and watering. Whether these herded cattle were fully domesticated, Mctimde Beni—saiarne ‘r Dcir Tasa o cliBfldmAi ilalnmamiya or were still morphologically wild, is problematic. By ca. 7500 BC. there is evidence of 3 excavated Wells, which may have provided water for people and cattle, thus making longer stays in the desert possible. But hare and gazelle were also hunted, and cattle may have 0 1501"" been kept for milk and blood, rather than primarily for meat, as is still practiced by u 100mlles many cattle pastoralists in East Africa. Early Neolithic tools include backed bladelets (with one side intentionally blunted), some of which are pointed and were probably used for hunting. Grinding stones were used to process wild grass seeds and wild sorghum, which have been preserved at one Nabta Playa site. Later evidence at the same site includes the remains of several rows of stone huts, probably associated with temporary lake levels, as well as underground storage pits and wells. Early Neolithic pottery is decorated with patterns of lines and points, often made by impressing combs or cords. The pottery (and that of the following Middle Neolithic) is related to ceramics of the “Khartoum” or “Saharo-Sudanese” tradition farther south in northern Sudan. Since potsherds are few at Earl}r Neolithic sites, water was probably Map 4.2 Neolithic sites in Egypt 82 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic also stored in ostrich egg shells, of which more have been found (or possibly also in‘ I animal skins that have not been preserved). I Middle and Late Neolithic Occupation sites in the Western Desert are more numerous. There are more living structures and wells, as well as the'earlicst evidence of wattle—and—daub houses, made of plants plastered with mud. Some of these sites may ' have been occupied year round, While the smaller ones may still represent temporary ‘, camps of pastoralists. Sheep and goat, originally domesticated in southwest Asia, are found for the first time in the Western Desert, but hunting wild animals still provided -_ most of the animal protein. I Bifacially worked stone tools called foliates and points (arrowheads) with concave bases become more frequent. There are also grinding stones, smaller ground stone tools (palettes and ungrooved ax~like tools called celts), and beads. In the Late Neolithic at Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba a new ceramic ware appears that is smoothed on the surface. Some of this pottery is blacketopped, which becomes ' a characteristic ware of the early Predynastic in the Nile Valley. The appearance of this - new pottery in the Western Desert, and later in Upper Egypt, may be evidence for move- ments of people, but other forms of contact and exchange (of pottery, technology,‘ ideas, etc.) are also possible. After ca. 4900 Be more arid conditions prevailed in the Western Desert, making life for pastoraiists there increasingly difficult except in the oases, _ where Neolithic cultures continued into Dynastic times. Some very unusual Late Neolithic evidence has been excavated by Wendorf at . Nabta Playa, including two tumuli covered by stone slabs, one of which had a pit containing the burial of a bull. Also found there were an alignment of text large stones, ca. 2 meters x 3 meters, which had been brought from 1.5 kilometers or more away, Figure 45 Late Neolithic stone alignment at Nabta Playa. Photo: Fred Wendort Copyright © The Trustees of The British Museum Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic _ _ and a circular arrangement of smaller stone slabs, ca. 4 meters in diameter (see I .- Figure 4.5). It has been suggested that the stone alignments had calendrical significance 3_ based on astronomical/celestial movements (as is known for more complex stone ‘ ' - alignments, the most famous of which is Stonehenge in southern England). Such a specific explanation for the Nabta Plays stone alignments is difficult to demonstrate, but they appear to have had no utilitarian purpose. They should probably be understood as related .to the belief system of these Neolithic pastoralists. Box 4-C Neolithic economy Although the term “Neolithic” means “New Stone Age,” the technological and social changes that occurred during the Neolithic were some of the most funda- mental ones in the evolution of human culture and society. Archaeologist V. Gordon Childc termed this development the “Neolithic revolution.” The techno- logical changes included many more tools used by farmers, which had originally developed in late Paleolithic cultures to collect and process wild plants, including sickle blades as well as axes, to clear areas for farming. More importantly, the Neolithic was the period of transition from a subsistence based on hunting, gathering, and fishing, with people living in small temporary camps, to an economy based on farming and herding domesticated plants and animals, as well as the beginning of village life, which could properly be called the "Neolithic economy." Pottery, which was useful for cooking and storage of cultivated cereals, was invented in the Neolithic, although it is also associated with sedentary villages of some earlier (Mesolithic)'cultures that did not practice agriculture. Village life would forever change human societies, laying the social and economic foundations for the sub- sequent rise of towns and cities, which Childe termed the “urban revolution.” Some of the changes the Neolithic brought were beneficial: the potential for a permanent supply of food provided by farming and herding, and permanent shelter. Hunting and gathering is physically difficult for child-bearing women, and there was a rise in popu- lation associated with fire Neolithic. More women 0f child-bearing years survived to bear more Children, and more children were useful for farming activities, ' especially harvesting. But with the Neolithic came new problems e many of which have been discussed by Jared Diamond in his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel. As agriculture and herd- ing spread, large numbers of wild species (and their environments) were replaced by domesticated ones. With a decrease in biodiversity, there was a greater pos~ sibility of crop failure and famine, as a result of low floods (in Egypt) and droughts, as well as insect pests and diseases that prey on cultivated plants. Domesticated animals carry diseases that are contagious to humans, especially anthrax and tuberculosis. In denseihuman populations living in permanent villages infectious diseases also increase: smallpox, cholera, chicken pox, influenza, polio, et cetera. Unsanitary conditions of more people living together can also create an environment that encourages parasites (bacilli and streptococci). Human waste and animals that are attracted to villages (rodents, cockroaches, etc.) can carry the bacteria of bubonic plague, leprosy, dysentery, et cetera. Without socially acceptable outlets, the psychological effect of more people living together inpermanent settlements can also lead to increased tension and violence. The advantages of the Neolithic economy and vii- lage life in Egypt laid the foundations for pharaonic civilization. The Egyptian Nile Valley was an almost ideal environment for cereal agriculture, with the potential of large surpluses, which were the economic base of pharaonic society. The population increased greatly during pharaonic times. Fishing remained an important source of protein in the pharaonic diet, while fowling and hunting also continued, mainly as an elite pastime. As the habitats of wild birds and mammals decreased through time, older subsistence strategies acquired new meanings. 83 84 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic 4.8 Neolithic in the Nile Valley: Faiyum A and Lower Egypt In the Egyptian Nile Valley farming and herding were just beginning to be established - in the later 6‘h millennium BC. Since this major cultural transition had occurred much ’- earlier in southwest Asia, with permanent villages in existence in the Epipaleolithic suggested: (1) None of the species ofwild plants or animals that later became domesticated, with: the possible exception of cattle, were present in Egypt. (2) Some of these species (ti-row barley, sheep) did not appear in the souther Levant until close to 6000 no, so they could not have appeared in Egypt until: after that time. In addition, the Sinai Peninsula, which was too dry for farmin provided an effective barrier for the flow of farming technology between Egypr' and the southern Levant. (3) The Nile Valley was such a resourcesrich environment for hunterugatherer-fishers that the need to supplement this subsistence with farming and herding did not develop until much later than in southwest Asia. (4) Much archaeological information from the Epipaleolithic, when technological developments were taking place which led to the invention of agriculture and- herding of domesticated animals in some parts of the Old World, is missing forE geological reasons in the Egyptian Nile Valley — especially if such settlements Wet n located next to the river. Although none of these is a satisfactory explanation by itself, in combination they help to clarify some of the problems surrounding the lack of evidence for the transition to . a Neolithic economy in Egypt. In the Faiyurn region there is a gap of about 1,000 years between the Epipaleolithic' Qarunian culture and the Faiyuin A Neolithic sites first excavated by Caton Thompson. ' These sites are the earliest known Neolithic ones in (or near) the Nile Valley, dating I to ca. 5500—4500 BC. The sites contain evidence of domesticated cereals (emmer wheat I. and 6—row barley) and domesticated sheep/goat, all of which were first domesticated in different parts of southwest Asia. Cattle bones were also found, only some of which are domesticated. But there is no evidence of houses or permanent villages, and the' Faiyum A sites resemble camps of hunter—gatherers with scatters of lithics and potsherds. The only permanent features are a great number of hearths and granaries — ca. 350 hearths at the site of Korn W, and 56 granaries, some lined with baskets, at nearby Kom K. Another 109 granaries were also excavated near Kom W, one of which con tained a wooden sickle (for harvesting cereals) with chert blades still hafted to it. Although the domesticated cereals and sheep/goat at the Faiyum A sites were not . indigenous to Egypt, the stone tools there argue for an Egyptian origin of this culture. ' , : it seems strange that the Neolithic economy (see Box 4-C) appeared much later Egypt, and of a very different type there — without permanent villages. Several expla" nations for the late development of the Neolithic in the Egyptian Nile Valley have been I Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic ithics include grinding stones for prDCessing cereals, but also concaveabase arrowheads ,— hunting, which are found earlier in the Western Desert. Faiyum A ceramics ar'e simple open pots of a crude, chaff-tempered clay. But there is also evidence of woven 'Il'inen cloth (made from domesticated flax}, and imported materials for jewelry, includ- i ing seashells and beads of green feldspar (from the Eastern Desert), obtained by long ' ‘ distance trade or exchange. As elsewhere at early Neolithic sites in the ancient Near East, farming and herding ‘ .111 the Faiyum Were in addition to hunting, gathering, and fishing, and cereals were H probably stored for consumption in the drier months, when wild resources became scarce. : ,Unlike Neolithic evidence in the Nile Valley, the Fayium A culture did not become ' tfansforIned into asociety with full-time farming villages. In the 4m millennium BC when ' social complexity was developing in the Nile Valley, the Faiyuin remained a cultural . backwater. From around 4000 no there are the remains of a few fishing! hunting camps in the Faiyum, but the region was probably deserted by farmers who took advantage of the much greater potential of floodplain agriculture in the Nile Valley. Somewhat later Neolithic sites have been excavated in Lower Egypt, at Merimde Bani-Salome near the apex of' the Delta, and at el-Omari, a suburb south of Cairo. Radiocarbon dates for Merimde range from ca. 475074250 BC. The site was excavated from l929—37 by Hermann Junker, but many of the field notes were lost in Berlin during World War II. Iunker thought that the large area covered by the site (ca. 24 ha) represented a large village/town. It has since been demonstrated that the village was never that large at any one time, but that occupation shifted horizontally through time. Beginning in 1977, new excavations were conducted at Merimde by Iosef Eiwanger, I who identified five strata of occupation. In the earliest stratum (I) there was evidence of pOstholes for small round houses, with shallow pits and hearths, and pottery with out temper. In the middle phase (stratum II) a new type of chaff—tempered ceramics appeared, which is also found at the site of eI-Omari. Concave-based arrowheads were also new. In the later Merimde strata (IIl~V) a new and more substantial type of structure appeared that was semi—subterranean, about 1.5—3.0 meters in diameter, with mud walls (pisé) above. The later ceramics occur in a variety of shapes, many '_ '_ with applied, impressed, or engraved decorations, and a dark, black burnished pottery ' is first seen. Granaries from this phase were associated with individual houses, suggest _ _ ing less communal control of stored cereals, as was probably the case at the Faiyum A sites with granaries. Merimcle represents a frilly developed Neolithic economy. From the beginning there is evidence of ceramics, as well as farming and the herding of domesticated species, supplemented by hunting, gathering, and especially fishing. While Merimde subsistence practices are similar to the Faiyum A Neolithic, the Merimde remains also include the earliest house structures. The Neolithic site at el-Omari, which was occupied ca. 4600~4400 BC, is contem- poraneous with the latest phase at Merimde. el—Omari was excavated for only two weeks in 1925 and then briefly in 1943 by Portland Debono. It is now covered by a highway. Although re~excavation of the site is impossible, more recent interpretation of the earlier evidence points to a Neolithic economy similar to that at Merimde, except 85 86 Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic arid Neolithic that storage'pits and postholes for wattle-and-daub houses are the only evidence of structures. In addition to tools that were used for farming and fishing (but very little hunting), there is evidence of stone and bone tools for craft activities, including th- production of animal skins, textiles, baskets, beads, and simple stone vessels. ‘ Although contracted burials (in a fetal position) are known at both Meritnde and eI-Oinari, they were within the settlements. Burials at Merirnde were usually without” grave goods; at el~0mari they frequently included only a small pot. Specific cemetery areas for these sites may not have been found (or recognized) in the earlier eXcavations, but a lack of symbolic behavior concerning disposal of the dead is in great contrast to the type of burial symbolism that began to develop in the Neolithic Badarian culture in Middle Egypt, and which became much more elaborate in the later Predynastic Naqada culture of Upper Egypt. 4.9 Neolithic in the Nile Valley: Middle and Upper Egypt In Upper Egypt there is evidence of a transitional culture contemporaneous with the. Faiyum A. In western Thebes scatters of lithics with some organic—tempered ceramics have been found by Polish archaeologists at the site of elsTarif, hence the name Tarifian culture. Another Tarifian site has been excavated at Armant to the south. The Iithics, which are mainly flake tools with a few microliths, seem to be intermediate in typology between Epipaleolithic and Neolithic ones. There is no evidence of food pro-' duction or domesticated animals. In the New Kingdom this region of western Thebes was greatly disturbed by excavation of tombs for high status officials, so most of the evidence of this prehistoric culture has probably been destroyed. What is known about '_ the Tarifian culture suggests that a Neolithic economy was to be found farther north _ in the Faiyum at this time, and not yet frilly developed in the Nile Valley of Upper Egypt, where hunter-gatherers were making very small numbers of ceramics. South of the Faiyurn, clear evidence of a Neolithic culture is first found at sites in the eI~Badari district, located on desert spurs on the east bank in Middle Egypt. Over ' 50 sites were excavated in the 19205 and 19305 by Guy Brunton, who identified a previously unknown type of pottery associated with these sites, which he thought was typologically earlier than the ceramics from Predynastic sites farther south. Made of red Nile clay, frequently with a blackened rim and thin walls in bowl and cup shapes, '_ these vessels had a rippled surface achieved by combing and then polishing. Brunton’s hypothesis was demonstrated to be correct by Gertrude Caton Thompson’s stratigraphic I; excavations at another el-Badari district site, Hammamiya, where she found rippled Badarian potsherds in the lowest stratum, beneath strata with Predynastic wares. ' Later investigations of el-Badari district sites were conducted in the 1980s and 19905 by Diane Holmes (Institute of Archaeology, University College London). Holmes' obtained radiocarbon dates of ca. 4500—4000 so, also verifying the early date of the- Badarian. Aside from cemeteries, Brunton excavated mainly storage pits and associated artifacts, which were the only remains of Badarian settlements. At one site he found Egyptian Prehistory: The Paleolithic and Neolithic 87 . ‘Postflholes of some kind of light organic structure, but evidence of permanent houses . a'nd sedentism was lacking. Possibly the sites that Brunton excavated were outlying 3.6mm, once associated with larger and more permanent villages being sited within the . floodplain and now destroyed. . Near Deir Tasa, Brunton identified some artifacts as coming from an earlier culture I that he called Tasian. It is now thought that the black beakers with incised decoration _ that Brunton classified as Tasian are imports, probably from northern Sudan — hundreds of kilometers to the south. Thus there was no Tasian culture, but the so-called Tasian f 5355 are Badarian ones, with imported beakers and mainly Badarian artifacts. , Badarian peoples practiced farming and animal husbandry, of cattle. sheep, and goat. 'They cultivated Emmer wheat, 6~row barley, lentils, and flax, and collected tubers. Fishing i. was definitely important, but hunting much less so. Bifacially worked tools include axes and sickle blades, which would have been used by farmers, but also concaveubased ' _ arrowheads for hunting. The stone tools made from side-blow flakes suggest origins in ; _ the Western Desert, and the rippled pottery may have developed from the burnished Neolithic pottery known in the Western Desert and Nile Valley, from Merimde to northern Sudan. . True Badarian sites are not found in southern Egypt, where the subsequent Naqada culture began after ca. 4000 13c, i.e., at the end of the known dates for the I . Badarian in Middle Egypt. According to Holmes’s investigations, there is a lack of Naqada I type artifacts at Badari district sites, although later Naqada II artifacts (beginning ca. 3500 11c) are definitely found there. Possibly in Middle Egypt after ca. 4000 no there was a transitional Badarian/Naqada i phase. Since Badarian artifacts are also found in Upper Egypt, but in small numbers, these artifacts could represent Badarian II trade with Upper Egypt. Another possible interpretation is that the Badarian culture stretched from Middle to Upper Egypt, but the artifacts farther south represent regional variation. What may be seen at the Badarian sites is the earliest evidence in Egypt of pronounced ceremonialisrn surrounding burials, which become much more elaborate in the 4‘“— millennium 11c Naqada culture. Brunton excavated about 750 Badarian burials, most 'of which we're Contracted ones in'shallow oval pits; Most burials were placed on the left side, facing west with the head to the south. This later became the standard orien- ' tation of Naqacla culture burials. Although the Badarian burials had few grave goods, ' there was usually one pot in a grave. Some burials also had jewelry, made of beads of seashell, stone, bone, and ivory. A few burials contained stone cosmetic palettes or __ chert tools. Burials such as the Badarian ones represent the material expression of important beliefs - and practices in a society concerning the transition from life to death (see Box 5-8}. ' Burial evidence may symbolize roles and social status of the dead and commemora— tion of this by the living, expressions of grief by the living, and possibly also concepts of an afterlife. The elaborate process of burial, which would become profoundly important in pharaonic society for 3,000 years, is much more pronounced in the Neolithic Badarian culture of Middle Egypt than in the earlier Saharan Neolithic or the Neolithic ' in northern Egypt. ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/28/2011 for the course NES 2668 taught by Professor Monroe, c during the Spring '09 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Bard_2008_Stone_Age (1) - Introduction Pharaonic...

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