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Author Topic: Egyptian prehistory  (Read 15737 times)
trehinp
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« on: March 13, 2009, 08:00:30 AM »



The theme was discussed in the more narrow domain of prehistoric art (Click here for more) however, I would like to generalize the discussion to the overall subject of prehistory from mid Paleolithic to the Neolithic.

It would seem to me that since the Nile valley was probably one of the trails followed by human being in their journey out of Africa, this part of the world should be rich in prehistoric sites of the various periods.

In addition, since the Egyptian civilization was one of the oldest to reach the level of written documents, it would be fascinating to find some research that would have explored the transition between the Neolithic culture and the first Egyptian dynasties who used hieroglyphic system to memorize various events and transactions.


Is anyone here specializing in Egypt's prehistory? Or at least who knows specialists who do?

Thanks.

Paul
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Paul Trehin
Mikey Brass
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2009, 08:25:20 AM »

It would seem to me that since the Nile valley was probably one of the trails followed by human being in their journey out of Africa, this part of the world should be rich in prehistoric sites of the various periods.

It is, most of them open-air surface sites. There are many publications by van Peer, Athony Marks, Veermesch, Wendorf (and Schild) and others analysing the Acheulian and MSA from the Nile Valley and surrounding deserts.

There was a session at last year's SAfA conference in Frankfurt on this. I have notes at home.

Quote
In addition, since the Egyptian civilization was one of the oldest to reach the level of written documents, it would be fascinating to find some research that would have explored the transition between the Neolithic culture and the first Egyptian dynasties who used hieroglyphic system to memorize various events and transactions.

A good introductory text is Midant-Reynes'. More detailed examinations of the Predynastic are in the Memoirs to Barbara Adams.

(Saharan archaeology is my particular area of expertise)
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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
trehinp
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2009, 12:38:45 PM »

Thanks a lot Mikey,

This is very useful. I will scan the internet with Google to get some precise references and perhaps buy a few books if they aren't too expensive...

I had made the same request on a discussion forum on Egyptian archaeology but most participants there were primarily concerned by later periods of Egyptian history.

Thanks again.

Paul
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Paul Trehin
Mikey Brass
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2009, 01:11:15 PM »

Paul, I'll supply references over the weekend. At work.

Mike
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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
Mikey Brass
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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2009, 12:01:19 PM »

Thanks a lot Mikey,

This is very useful. I will scan the internet with Google to get some precise references and perhaps buy a few books if they aren't too expensive...

VAN PEER, P. 1998. The River Nile corridor and Out of Africa: an examination of the archaeological record. Current Anthropology 39: 115-40
[I have a copy. Feel free to mail me offlist if you don't have access to CA]

Also see the references at
http://www.predynastic.historians.co.uk/html/bibliography.html
particularly the articles co-authored by Vermeersch.

Midant-Reynes, B. 1992. The Prehistory of Egypt: From the First Egyptians to the First Pharaohs. Oxford: Blackwell.

Friedman, R., et al. 2004. Egypt at its Origins. Studies in Memory of Barbara Adams

There are also many more publications which are highly interesting.

Shannon McPherron made a presentation to the 2008 conference of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists entitled "Revisiting the Nile Corridor":

-----------------

Abstract

One of the major routes out of Africa for early modern humans was along the Nile Valley corridor. Previous investigations of Middle Palaeolithic settlement systems focused on a small number of sites in the terraces of the Nile Valley, the desert oases and the Red Sea Mountains. Research suggested the presence of two groups of early modern humans – the Lower Nile Valley Complex and the Nubian Complex. The Nubian Complex, in particular, was interpreted as a radiating settlement system that incorporated specialised point production. Recently, systematic survey by the Abydos Survey for Palaeolithic Sites project has recorded Middle Pleistocene artefact density, distribution, typology and technology across the desert landscape west of the Nile Valley in Middle Egypt. High desert data reflects a circulating, rather than a radiating, settlement system. Moreover, extensive lithic artefact refitting and technological analysis call into question interpretations of specialised point production, the notion that Nubian Type 1 and 2 and radial Levallois techniques represent distinct technologies, and the existence of the Lower Nile Valley Complex.

My notes

Paper in Current Anthropology, under review
Title plays in van Peer’s paper
Land adjacent to Nile Valley near Abydos, up to 15km out
Data from the high desert, 36 000 stone tools
Nubian cores
Low frequencies of Acheulian
Workshops
Most materials on desert pavement surface. No sub-surface deposits found
Work is ongoing
Techno-typological comparisons. No direct dating
MIS 5 – end of stage sees onset of aridity
Van Peer argues Nubian Complex sees modern behavioural spatial activities with specialised activity sites
Methodology: pedestrian survey, took a sample every 100 metres and tagged with GPS to standardise the data set
High density localities had more than 5 tools per square metre
Objects moving across the landscape in their finished form, or at least close to it
Transport of Nubian cores and points
No distance effect on transportation

----------------

Philip van Peer also gave an interesting presentation:

----------------

Abstract

This paper examines the late Middle Stone Age archaeological record in northern Africa from a demographic perspective. It is argued that population dynamics in the context of changing environmental conditions during MIS 5 have laid out the conditions for technological and social change in sequent MIS 4. One particular trajectory of change has led to the emergence of an Upper Palaeolithic lifestyle in the Lower Nile Valley. Consequently, this area is proposed as a core area for the long-term historic processes reflected in the MIS 3 archaeological records of western Eurasia.

My notes

1.   Long-term MSA perspective
2.   Life histories and forces of change
3.   A historical interpretation
Hypothetical scenario
Nubian Complex derived from early MSA around 200 kya
The Last Interglacial – eastern Sahara, central Sahara and Mediterranean coast (Haua Fteah, El Guettar)
Nilotic palaeoenvironment? No occupations associated with interglacial pedogenesis
Early – blade production, Lupemban foliates
Late – Levallois points, T/F pieces
MIS 5a – emergence of the late Nubian Complex, re-occupation of the Nile Valley
MIS 5b – North Africa demographic crisis?
Taramsa 1 – transitional industries, workshop (6 phases. Extraction of chert pebbles. OSL dates), Sector 91/03 ca 60 kya, Sector 91/04 ca 56 – 40 kya, a Levallois production system?

----------------

Quote
I had made the same request on a discussion forum on Egyptian archaeology but most participants there were primarily concerned by later periods of Egyptian history.

May I ask which list? EEF?
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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
trehinp
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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2009, 06:12:39 PM »

Thanks Mikey,

These are very useful references.

I have used this morning the names you mentionned and I have ordered the book of Beatrix  Midant-Reynes. I had ordered it in English through Amazon, but found out that she had written it in French so I cancelled the first order and got the French version: "Aux origines de l'Egypte - Du Néolithique à l'émergence de l'Etat".

Concerning the discussion forum on Egyptology it is "L'Egypte de ddchampo" a very active discussion on various topics about Egypt's fabulous history, but in French. I had registered to try to get more information about the "Lascaux on the Nile" story.

Thats where I realized that the predynastic Egypt was not much a subject of interest to this group, although the palaeolithic engraving raized some interest on the moment.

Thanks again for the references.

Paul
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Paul Trehin
trehinp
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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2009, 06:56:06 PM »

(Saharan archaeology is my particular area of expertise)

Ooops, I missed that when I was first reading your post... I have a precise question about Saharan rock art. In his excellent book "The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art", on Page 145 of the Cambridge University Press, 1998 edition, Paul Bahn has a great illustration of a Giraffe scratching her shin with her back hoof. A very realistic representation, showing a tremendous sense of observation by the artist. Unfortunately, Bahn doesn't provide a date estimate nor a precise location. I have searches the internet several times but could never find any more information. I can provide the picture if you can't find it.

Would you have any idea of where I might find more about that picture?

On a more general issue, do you know of other realistic rock art in the Sahara? The Qurta engraving belong also to that realistic style while most Saharan Rock art seems to be more in the Mesolithic or Neolithic style.

Any info will be well appreciated...

On my side I will be glad to help with anything about French Prehistory... I'm lucky enough to live near Nice where two moddle Palaeolithic sites have been discovered "Terra Amatta" and the Lazaret site. Up on th hills there is the famous "Vallee des Merveilles" with fabulous Chalcolithic engravings of the Mont Bego and those of Fontanalba...
There is more to the French Riviera than the beaches... :-)

Also, my sister lives in Dordogne near Lascaux, Rouffignac, Les Combarelles, etc. and she has connections with several specialists of cave art. I visit her often and try not to miss an occasion to visit a new cave... I could get more technical info if you would need some.

Yours.

Paul
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Paul Trehin
Mikey Brass
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« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2009, 06:21:36 AM »

I have used this morning the names you mentionned and I have ordered the book of Beatrix  Midant-Reynes. I had ordered it in English through Amazon, but found out that she had written it in French so I cancelled the first order and got the French version: "Aux origines de l'Egypte - Du Néolithique à l'émergence de l'Etat".

The French version is her own. The English version was translated by an English Egyptologist who was at the British Museum at the time.

Quote
Thats where I realized that the predynastic Egypt was not much a subject of interest to this group

Keep in mind there is a big difference of opinion amongst Egyptologists on how much value to place on the Predynastic. Egyptology as a discipline still doesn't encompass much of the Predynastic which is left to prehistorians and archaeologists.
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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
Mikey Brass
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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2009, 06:34:04 AM »

Quote
Ooops, I missed that when I was first reading your post... I have a precise question about Saharan rock art. In his excellent book "The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art", on Page 145 of the Cambridge University Press, 1998 edition, Paul Bahn has a great illustration of a Giraffe scratching her shin with her back hoof. A very realistic representation, showing a tremendous sense of observation by the artist. Unfortunately, Bahn doesn't provide a date estimate nor a precise location.

I don't have the publication to view but I will e-mail Bahn and ask.

Quote
On a more general issue, do you know of other realistic rock art in the Sahara?

See Henry Lhote's work on central Saharan rock art (in particular those relating to the pre-Pastoral from the Acacus mountains) and Holl's (late Pastoral also from the Central Sahara but not the Acacus).

(Btw. We don't use Mesolithic and Neolithic anymore for large regions of the Sahara)

Thanks for your offer of help on the French rock art. We haven't visited southern France want to at some point in the future.
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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
Mikey Brass
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« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2009, 02:16:12 PM »

Quote
Ooops, I missed that when I was first reading your post... I have a precise question about Saharan rock art. In his excellent book "The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art", on Page 145 of the Cambridge University Press, 1998 edition, Paul Bahn has a great illustration of a Giraffe scratching her shin with her back hoof. A very realistic representation, showing a tremendous sense of observation by the artist. Unfortunately, Bahn doesn't provide a date estimate nor a precise location.

I don't have the publication to view but I will e-mail Bahn and ask.

Dr Joerg Hansen took the photograph and replied to your question via Paul Bahn as follows:
"The giraffe is in Tassili Admer, ca 5°28' E and 20° 10' N."

Bahn added:
"It will appear in a major book he has produced on all the rock art of that region, now in print and to be published late April/.early May."
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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
trehinp
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« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2009, 03:41:56 AM »

Thanks a lot Mikey,

It is really nice of you to have asked that question to real specialists.

I have tried to find additional images of this specific Giraffe representation on the web, using the references that you provided. I have found several other giraffe's images but not this specific one. The other representations, even though beautiful, don't have the realistic character of this one.

Apparently, the date of this representation is not known, in his book, the comment Paul Bahn provides on this picture is: "Date unknown, but certainly prehistoric."

I know dating petroglyph is quite difficult especially in desert areas. For my analysis, even a rough dating would be very useful: Palaeolithic? Neolithic?

We now know, after the discovery of Chauvet Cave paintings, that "style" is no indication of a particular prehistoric period.

This giraffe representation nevertheless look more like Palaeolithic than Neolithic by its realism...  Any clue?

Yours very friendly.

Paul
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Paul Trehin
Mikey Brass
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« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2009, 05:26:31 AM »

Hi Paul,

There are no known Palaeolithic rock art in the Sahara. All the art is post-9000 uncalibrated bp.

The best time-frame I can place, given that it features a giraffe is between 9000-5000 uncalibrated bp.

Mike
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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2009, 03:59:09 PM »

(Saharan archaeology is my particular area of expertise)

Hi Mike -

I wonder, what do you make of the finds from Pedra Furada in Brazil?

(It looks to me like those people then moved to the north, bringing Clovis with them.
In eastern North America the Savanah River peoples were ethnically and culturally very distinct from other Native American populations, though we have no y mt DNA data for them yet.)

What do you know of early man in the African coastal regions, in particular the west coastal areas just south of the
Atlas Mountains?

Given early HSS boat use, I would expect early HSS on the east coast of Africa as well, with an advanced technology then possibly moving overland to the Nile Valley similar to what occurred later in the mesolithic, say around 12,000 BCE.

So many questions, so little data. Is anybody funding any work in the key African coastal regions at all?

Thanks,
E.P. Grondine
Man and Impact in the Americas


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Mikey Brass
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2009, 06:09:36 PM »

What do you know of early man in the African coastal regions, in particular the west coastal areas just south of the
Atlas Mountains?

There is very little known of the occupational sequences in Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritannia. Acheulian materials have been found but it is not contextualised.

Quote
Given early HSS boat use, I would expect early HSS on the east coast of Africa as well, with an advanced technology then possibly moving overland to the Nile Valley similar to what occurred later in the mesolithic, say around 12,000 BCE.

Please clarify what you mean in the latter half of your sentence because it is non-sensical, non-factual as it stands.

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Best, Mikey Brass
Ph.D. student, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Website: http://www.antiquityofman.com

- !ke e: /xarra //ke
("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
E.P. Grondine
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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2009, 08:02:42 PM »

What do you know of early man in the African coastal regions, in particular the west coastal areas just south of the
Atlas Mountains?

There is very little known of the occupational sequences in Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritannia. Acheulian materials have been found but it is not contextualised.

If anyone ever looks for field workers for coastal surveys there, I would love to go, it sound like great fun.

There appears there was a thriving trade in artifacts from NWA, along with fossils and meteorites.

Quote
Given early HSS boat use, I would expect early HSS on the east coast of Africa as well, with an advanced technology then possibly moving overland to the Nile Valley similar to what occurred later in the mesolithic, say around 12,000 BCE.

Please clarify what you mean in the latter half of your sentence because it is non-sensical, non-factual as it stands.

HSS in Australia say 40,000 BCE, and according to one report I referred to here on Okinawa  ca 30,000 BCE.
Given that, I would expect a spread along the SE asian coasts back to Africa, showing up on Africa's east coast with
a marine tool kit.

The dates I had for Nile mesolithic, which were via Andrew Collins citing reputable sources, was around 12,000 BCE, with microlith technologies and harvested grass type plants, a stage which came to an end and did not develop further.

The Libyan Desert Glass microliths are given this date. Is it wrong?



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