November 20, 2012

Cultural Regionalisation in Ancient Egypt

Cultural Regionalisation
Gradually the small, isolated, hitherto self-sufficient communities came into contact with one another. They exchanged items produced for items required and a process of assimilation took place. Small groups gravitated towards larger ones or were absorbed by them, and villages coalesced. The sturdy, rectangular brick houses in Upper Egypt were grouped into settlements sometimes covering an area of 121 square yards, surrounded by walls, the grain being placed in large pots within the enclosure. The number of graves in the different cemeteries clearly shows that the Egyptian people of the Nile valley were fusing into larger social units. These were, in fact, the origin of the various provinces which formed the basis of the political structure of Egypt in historic times.

Ancient Egyptian People
Late pre-dynastic pottery, like the earlier stone artifacts, indicate that the two cultures of Upper and Lower Egypt continued to exist side by side. The characteristic pottery vessels of Upper Egypt displayed no great change from the Badarian culture from which they developed. They were still largely black-topped and burnished, but new forms had also emerged: some vessels were fashioned like birds and animals; others were decorated with designs of animals, humans and stars; the incised geometric designs were often filled with a white paste, a technique common with other African areas. In Lower Egypt, on the other hand, the characteristic pottery ancient Egyptians vessels were either wide-lipped and buff-coloured, with handles in wavy forms that suggest contact with Asia, or decorated with scenes of ritual dances or hunting depicted in red lines painted on the pale pottery.

Some of the Lower Egyptian pottery was decorated with scenes of many-oared ships each bearing a standard surmounted by a totem or emblem. These representations of totem clans are the first evidence of the cultural identity of the various social units. Many of the totems were later established as local deities in the various provinces: two crossed arrows and a shield became symbols of the huntress-goddess Neith of Sais, the emblem like a thunderbolt was the symbol of Min, the fertility god of Coptos near Nagada. There were also standards bearing the emblems of the jackal (Anubis God), the scorpion (Selket), the Horus hawk and the Set animal (a dog-like creature with pointed ears and long, upright tail). The latter, Horus and Set, provide the earliest evidence of the mythological rivals, traditionally chief Egyptian deities of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian People Stages
Gutural regionalisation resulted in the emergence of men who were natural leaders. Their settlements gradually became the central estate, with the accumulations of the others tied to it. That is to say increased trade between the different regions of the Delta led to less and less isolation until the affairs of all gradually became tied to a major estate which represented the richest and most powerful of the settlements. Its leader was regarded as king of the Egyptian Delta Kingdom and the totem of his area became chief deity. There was a similar tendency towards political unity in Upper Egypt. Whether such leadership evolved without force we do not know. The addition to the weaponry of maces with disc-shaped heads in hard stone, alongside an unusually large number of broken bones among the bodies of the dead, may indicate some intimidation.

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