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Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times
Donald Redford -- Princeton University (1992)

Winner of the 1993 Best Scholarly Book in Archae-
ology Award of the Biblical Archaeological Society

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums

In the Nile Valley shortly before 3000 BC appeared the first nation-state in the world, adorned with all the sophisticated trappings of civilization. Permanence and changelessness were the hallmarks of the ancient Egyptian way of life: language, script, religion, and iconography of this Nilotic civilization during the time of Christ had changed rather less than might have been expected from the period of its inception three thousand years earlier. The Kingdom of the Two Lands seemed immutable ......

Unlike the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, where human society over millennia of prehistory displays a linear evolution at a constant rate and where the temples at Uruk presage the glories of Sumer centuries in advance, Egypt bounced overnight, as it were, out of the Stone Age and into urban culture. A catalyst or combination of factors catapulted the Neolithic village into history ......

...... Excavation in the Nile Valley has revealed campsites of the period 16000 to about 9000 BC (Epi-Paleolithic) of a community subsisting on intensive hunting and fishing. This culture (known as Sebilian), although semi-sedentary and later knowledgeable about animal domestication, remained squarely within the tradition of the hunter-gatherers of the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) ......

When Neolithic sites appear in Egypt by the fifth millennium BC, the source from which they derived their knowledge of agriculture must be sought in the south and the west rather than elsewhere ......

[The Fertile Crescent: more specifically the Zagros flanks of north and northeastern Iraq (See the Mesolithic Karim Shahir Culture and Neolithic Jarmo) and the Anatolian Neolithic Catal Hoyuk or, closer in proximity to Egypt, the Levant (See the Mesolithic Natufian Culture and Mesolithic-Neolithic Jericho)].

Indeed, the general demographic flow that seems to be charted in the distribution and sequence over time of Neolithic sites in the Nile Valley would seem to be south to north. Consonant with this pattern is the apparent African connection of so many of the early traits of Neolithic culture in Egypt --- for example, the dolichocephalic crania (long heads), the familiarity with ivory working, and the decoration of the pottery ......

Throughout most of the period covered by the Neolithic the general level of culture remained that of a fairly primitive farming community, still wedded to the hunting economy of the past. For man resists change, innovation, and the advent of new ideas until forced to accept them by dire necessity; and in the Nile Valley the climate was so healthful and fish and game so plentiful that the prehistoric residents felt little need to transform their economy to a rigorous agricultural one ......

For Neolithic Egypt had reached a plateau that was to provide a foundation for Egyptian society for all time, in the form of the farming village, the home, and native habitat of the Egyptian peasant from 5000 BC to the present ......

In Egypt, with the first traces of the Neolithic in the Faiyum about 4500 BC - a sequence may be established that leads us without interruption through the so-called Chalcolithic Age (Copper-Stone) and into history ......

The Gerzean period covers the three centuries fom about 3400 to 3050 BC, on the basis of carbon-14 tests, and shows a far more sophisiticated society and economy than what went before. The culture is thought to have affinities with Lower Egypt where it perhaps originated. It rapidly moved south and Gerzean settlements are found in the valley from the Faiyum to Hierakonpolis, although further south in Nubia it failed to dislodge the older more primitive Amratian culture ......

In the economy hunting now definitely occupies a less important position, as farming based on limited irrigation provides most of the communities food. The cultural assemblage of the Gerzean shows an advanced lithics industry in which bifacial knives recede in popularity in the face of beautiful, thin, ripple flaked knives, mace heads, axheads, and chsel-shaped arrow-heads. Copper, known from the end of the fifth millennium, is now worked with some skill and cast into adzes, chisels, daggers, hoes, harpoons, and axheads inspired by the stone forms; while silver, gold, lapis, and faience are used in small quantities for toile articles. Most charming is the Gerzean pottery made of desert marl and adorned in dark red paint ......

Clearly major changes were taking place in Egypt during the Gerzean period, and we would not be wrong in construing them as the dynamics associated with the rise of monarchy ......

A decline of rainfall from the Neolithic subpluvial has been invoked to explain the increased concentration of population during the Gerzean, and it may be that the population increase had something to do with necessitating the development of new irrigation techniques ......

The Gerzean displays numerous cultural features that are not the products of autochthonous development, but which have all the earmarks of having been intoduced from the outside suddenly. Cylinder seals of wood or stone make their appearance and, as we have seen, the craft of the copper-smith advances dramatically in technique. Mud brick is used in much more elaborate types of building, which can truly be called monumental, and towers, battlements, and elaborate recessed paneling in the form of vertical niches are all within the capacity of the architect. New pottery forms, with no antecedents in the Nile Valley, dominate the Gerzean repertoire. The art of the stonecutter now extends to the manufacture of vessels of the hardest stones, and pear-shaped mace-heads also emerge from his atelier. An array of new and strange art motifs appear in the repertoire of the graphic artist ......

Thanks to the German excavations at Warka in Iraq and the French excavations in Iran, convincing parallels to most of these new features can be found in that region of western Asia dominated by the late Uruk culture of Mesopotamia (circa 3300 - 3100 BC). Moreover, in the Tigris-Euphrates valley and southwest Iran the cultural evolution that produced these forms and motifs can be traced back over centuries of indigenous development, whereas in Egypt there are no antecedents. Few would dispute, therefore, the obvious conclusion that we are dealing with the comparitively sudden importation into Egypt of ideas and products native to Mesopotamia ......

The Egyptians, no matter how the Asian prototypes became known to them, did not slavishly reproduce them, but adapted them to their own environment. The first attempts at writing in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, while possibly providing the Nile with a concept, had no influence at all on the developing hieroglyphic script ......

The political turmoil and cultural ferment we dimly sense in Egypt as the Gerzean draws to a close were to spin off and exalt a political phenomenom of permanence and longevity. This had its embodiment in a human being filling a role that translated him into the realm of the divine. The new phenomenom was, of course, the divine monarchy, the rule by a god. As it appears first to view -- and its rise and crystallization in visible memorials were rapid -- it is found on a broad and unmistakably African soubassement, with equally prominent borrowings from elsewhere ...

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