February 9, 2012

The Early Dynastic in Ancient Egypt 3150-2686 BC

The First Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt
The Early Dynastic Period 3150-2686 BC
The emergence of civilization in the Nile Valley at the end of the 4th millennium BC was to affect, in one way or another, not only the following 3000 years of Egyptian history but also many of the subsequent civilizations of the ancient Near East. Prior to that date, prehistoric people had roamed the river swamps and the high desert gebel, but why, suddenly, should Egyptian civilization erupt almost like the lotus flower from the primeval waters in one of the old creation legends, and where did it come from? The full answers to these questions have yet to be found. Arguments still rage as to the origins of the first kings - were they from Central Africa or what was later to be known as the Fertile Crescent? What historical, though later, sources there are all seem agreed that the first kings came from This, an area somewhere near Abydos in middle Egypt, and were called the Thinite kings. Whatever their origins, they had the foresight, and the power to match it, to mould the first two dynasties. Such is the gap in time, that we can only speculate, in many instances, on the political and economic situations and high level of technology, artistic achievement and religious awareness which, within about 500 years, laid down many of the concepts that were to govern later thought in ancient Egypt.

The First Pharaoh

Dynasty  : 0
Period    : 3150-3050
Kings      : Scorpion and  Narmer

Dynasty  : 1
Period    : 3050-2890
Kings      : Djer, Hor-Aha, Semerkhet, Anedjib, Djet, Den and  Qa'a

Egyptian civilization begins, according to Manetho, with the Unification of the Two Lands, namely Upper and Lower Egypt, under one king. A date often used is c. 3100 BC, largely arrived at by working backwards from known astronomical dates, tied in with such early regnal dates, or sequences, that are known (see above, p. 13). The essential question is, who was this first king who unified the two kingdoms? Tradition ascribes this feat variously to Narmer or Menes, who may well have been one and the same person. There is also a king 'Scorpion' who appears on the scene. Some would place him and Narmer sequentially in a 'Dynasty O', from c. 3150 to 3050 BC.

The physical evidence for this comes from the discoveries of J.E. Quibell, excavating at Hierakonpolis in Upper Egypt, in 1897-98. Hierakonpolis was the ancient city of Nekhen on the west bank of the Nile north of Aswan and dedicated to the falcon-headed god Horus. The site of the Early Dynastic town is known as Kom el-Ahmar, literally the 'red mound'. Excavations here produced some remarkable finds, including a gold-headed hawk representing the town deity Horus, and an almost life-size, hollow-cast copper statue of Pepi I and his son Merenre of the 6th Dynasty (p. 66). The major find in relation to the Early Dynastic Period was made in a pit, labelled the 'Main Deposit', located between the walls of an Old Kingdom and a later Middle Kingdom temple. In the pit, Quibell found objects which have since proved to be the most important 'documents' of the Early Dynastic Period. The principal objects consisted of sculpted palettes and maceheads, although it is not totally clear from the excavator's accounts whether the major piece, the Narmer Palette, was found here or in a level nearby. Representations on the pieces, and also early-style hieroglyphs, identified 'Scorpion' and Narmer. The objects had been deposited long after the period in which they were made, possibly over 1000 years later towards the end of the Old Kingdom.

The Predynastic Period

At the end of the 4th millennium BC, Egyptian civilization entered the historical record. Prior to this there had been the so-called Predynastic Period, from around 5000 until c. 3150 BC. Its divisions are generally named, in archaeological fashion, after their eponymous sites, that is, where they were first recognized, and the essential framework is that of Upper Egyptian sites. In broad dates, the Badarian (named after el Badari) began around 5000 BC, the Amratian (el Amra) about 4000 BC (its chronology having now been refined as Naqada I), Early Gerzean (Gerzah) c. 3500 and Late Gerzean c. 3300 BC (the last two periods falling into the Naqada II).


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